For about ten years, I have ridden around Adelaide with my long-time friend, Trevor. He’s a few years older than me, and we started riding together when his tricky knee made running impossible. I’m only recently retired, but Trevor has had several years to explore routes thoroughly, and acts as navigator most of the time. In fact, we just got back from a very pleasurable 40 kilometre jaunt, mostly along the metropolitan beaches, which look spectacular this sunny morning. White sand, emerald water, joggers, swimmers, kids building sandcastles, people walking their dogs (is a dog on a beach ever not deliriously happy?)
Of course it’s great being with a close friend while we wend our way through parks, along bike paths near rivers and the coast, and stop for coffee and buns at the half-way point. Like most places these days, we are not alone—bike-riding is a world-wide trend for all age groups it seems—but is easy to have heart-to-heart conversations much of the time, except when traffic makes it dangerous and noisy. Today we made good progress on a family problem that I’m trying to think through, and I think I helped a bit with a similar issue for Trevor. We are both fairly good listeners, which underpins most satisfactory conversations.
The only downside is Trevor’s poor eyesight. He is a statistical outlier—one of the 1% to 2% who get a really bad outcome from laser surgery. An irreversible situation he describes as ‘like looking through a smear of vaseline’. As a car driver he has alarmed us all for the last few years, and we are mightily relieved that he has decided to stop. And he has just sold his boat, for the same reasons. I know that hurt. As a bike rider, he has gradually become slow and careful, in contrast to earlier gung-ho denial of a problem. That’s good, but I don’t get quite the workout I need to keep fit. To compensate I career flat-out to his house, and just as hard coming home, so I get about half an hour of the heavy breathing, heart-pounding action I crave.
Even at this stately pace, he is prone to errors of judgement that can be terrifying; going ‘off his line’ into the path of cars, crossing an intersection when cars are speeding into them, doing battle with vegetation at the side of a bike-path. On one occasion he rode straight into a metal post, and needed plastic surgery on his face for the resulting gravel rash. Silver lining—he looks younger now—but it went so close to much more serious injuries. Riding alongside a tram-line, Trevor was trying to go fast enough to get to the crossing at the same time as the tram, so he didn’t have to wait for the traffic lights. Looking at the tram, not the post. His eyes don’t multi-task these days.
He will go out early in the day with me, but not alone, because the morning sun effectively blinds him. At those times he rides close behind me, watching my flickering rear light, and obeys my instructions. This has worked well so far, but I’m not sure other road users or the traffic police would approve if they knew what was going on. I’m happy to help; feels like loving friendship to me. I hope for many more years of this.