The Lightness of Becoming 55

55 equals 2 open hands for happy high-fives!
55 equals 2 open hands for happy high-fives! Photo by J. Becker 2014.

It’s a special age of symmetry for anyone:  it’s 2 open hands that are smacking double high “fives” with hands of other birthday well-wishers.

55 means I’ll just hopefully go for a bike ride  around my birthday. No, it won’t be a 55 km. ride since my birthday falls on a winter work day this month.  Our evenings are still dark early and there may be icy pavements. We’ve had several winter days that have plunged below -31 degrees C. with a howling snowstorm.

Still,  it’s a strange feeling …55.  A friend who is 56, wrote  a letter in which she can barely believe her eldest sister is 70 yrs. old.

Jan. 2014 winter cycling.
Jan. 2014 winter cycling.

It happens:  the years appear suddenly like a breadcrumb trail behind you or a fading comet trail.

In recognition of this double high five birthday, I’ll share a post I recently submitted to a popular blog, Fit, Feminist and (Almost) Fifty:

Lifestyle Cyclist- When It’s No Longer Exercise, No Longer a Chore
I’ve been car-free for over the last 3 decades.  I gave up my driver’s license in my early 20’s, when I realized my discomfort with driving would endanger others.  So I traded a car for active transportation and good health –cycling, walking and transit.

I have consciously chosen to live and invest in walkable and cycleable neighbourhoods in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, where it’s close to a bike route or two, public transit and within a 15-min. walk of some shops and services. I haven’t known the cost of gasoline for last 30 years. I’ve saved a ton of money for other stuff.

In 2014, I will be bicycling into my  55th year. I returned to  bicycling 23 years ago. I have 3 hybrids and 1 folding bike in Vancouver and Calgary. There’s even a 4th well-used bike, I gave away to a sister in Toronto. I borrow it whenever I visit my extended family in Toronto.

Bright winter day cycling by the Bow River. Calgary, AB Jan. 2014.
Bright winter day cycling by the Bow River. Calgary, AB Jan. 2014.

Cycling is integrated into my daily lifestyle by cycle-commuting to work, shopping, for fitness and on our self-made bike trips.  I’ve never had an indoor bike nor bike rollers.  In 2010, I started winter cycling with some snow when I relocated to Calgary.  Since dry prairie air and warm chinook winds that sweep from the mountains, suck up melting snow, I’ve been able to cycle at least 70% of winter days on clearer pavements.  Since our winter days are much colder, I learned to bike down to -24 degrees C  (-11F).  Maybe I’ll get studded tires one day.

With a rented bike, a tad too small for me. River Valley area, Edmonton AB. Fall 2013.
With a rented bike, a tad too small for me. River Valley area, Edmonton AB. Fall 2013.

I range from 2,500 to 7,000 km. of cycling annually.  Our bike trips with my packed bike panniers, each cover from 100 km. to over 1,000 km.  Every year, we cycle at least 1 trip or more, at least over several days.  Since my partner is consummate cyclist himself, and local cycling advocate where we’ve lived, I’ve learned  bike routes and how to string together multiple routes so that I can ride on my own or with friends. One can bike 60-100 km. in 1 day, by cycling within the borders in each of these 3 Canadian cities!   I love exploring locally by bike. So “exercise” by bike is so much more psychologically effortless.

So find your favourite daily exercise for life. Then it’s no longer a chore.

65 Comments Add yours

  1. Tracy I says:

    Happy Birthday, Jean!! What a great way to think of 55– as double high fives! Enjoy.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thank you Tracy for your blog post invitation to your blog’s readers. You and Sam are just ferociously busy bloggers, plus other things in life.

      Like

  2. Happy Birthday! 55 is just the beginning of fun!
    I miss the biking- at least you have real winter weather– we’ve had cold, some snow that melts, then warm. Too cold to bike, too warm to do winter sports! ugh!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Hope you dip your toes, er, bike wheel for a wee bit of winter cycling. We get that too –cold, snow melts, ice, dry pavement, then snow again…it’s coming again in the next 12 hrs. as of today.

      Like

  3. Happy birthday, dear Jean. Wow, I need to follow your good example and cycle my way into my 52nd year in a few months. You’re awesome!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I know that you will celebrate in an awesome, creative way, Kathryn.

      Like

  4. You are amazing. No car? Really? That’s impressive Jean. Happy Birthday to you – I like the double high five illustration!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I know for Calgary that’s probably downright weird. Yes, that double high five was a sudden eureka inspiration!

      Like

      1. I don’t think it’s weird at all. I’m 50 and I’m hoping that I remember the double high five visual when I turn 55. You should copyright it!

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Well, it’s nice to make 55 a status symbol because of the double hand metaphor/pun. I’m glad you love the idea.

          Like

  5. sueslaght says:

    Happy Birthday Jean. Inspiring post. Here’s to cycling on and on!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thanks Sue. Yes, hope will cycle for long while. I have other non-cycling passions as this blog shows

      Like

    1. Jean says:

      Good to hear from you mimi! I was in the Anacortes Island area in Washington, a better place…during the flood that engulfed part of Calgary last year.

      Like

  6. Jane Thorne says:

    Happy Birthday Jean and what a lovely post. A heart warming glimpse into your life. Have a great day and an even better year.🙂

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx so much from the U.K., Jane.

      Like

  7. Jiawei says:

    Happy birthday Jean! Best wishes for many more years of health and cycling.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thanks for your good wishes Jiawei. Happy new year of the horse!

      Like

  8. Double Nickels! Congrats on being so very fit at 55.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I never thought of the nickel metaphor! I just like cycling, Jann and I know you do also. By the way, my partner was down in Austin and liked the historic downtown area.

      Like

      1. The historic area of downtown Austin is being rapidly encroached by the dreaded urban growth—a fact I chronicle in my blog, What’s Vanishing Next? and photography in my Vanishing Austin series. Wonder whether your partner observed any of this: http://VanishingAustin.me ?? And if you ever get to Austin, let’s ride! Look me up.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          I sure will contact you if I head over to your neck of the woods, oops city.

          Like

  9. timethief says:

    Dear Jean,
    A heart-felt belated Happy 55 to you and many happy returns.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Actually b-day will be later next wk. Thanks for the good wishes, timethief!

      Like

  10. Jessica says:

    Car-free? Good for you! And -31 degrees C? That’s cold! It’s been close to that here in Chattanooga lately. (I’m here visiting my boyfriend for his birthday right now. He just turned 40. I got him a trainer for his birthday!) And 55? Goodness. I thought you were 36.😉

    Like

    1. Jessica says:

      Happy Birthday!!!

      Like

    2. Jean says:

      Hopefully your bf will make good use of the gift. Turning 40 gets people thinking about changes. You know sunglasses do hide stuff. Up to a certain point. I’m sure car-free wasn’t too strange when you lived in Asia.

      Like

      1. Jessica says:

        Yeah, I think it has made him think about changes. Everyone keeps telling him “Welcome to the club!” Haha. He’s spent a lot of his life in the sun, too, so yeah, sunglasses help — up to a point. And you’re definitely right. I was very used to being car-free in Asia, but there things were a lot different because everything was closer together and there was public transportation! In the countryside in California, I’d be lost without my car.

        Like

  11. marymtf says:

    31 degrees minus where you are and mid to late thirties plus, all next week where I am. Not sure I like the extremes. A happy birthday to you when it comes around next week.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Well, experiencing some climatic extremes, sometimes might make one more acclimatized when travelling abroad. However I have to say high humid summers (like I used to experience when I lived in southern Ontario), are becoming less bearable –especially after living in fairly frigid winters here.

      Like

  12. Happy Birthday! I love the double high-5’s. I think it’s awesome you are car-free. Have an amazing 55th birthday celebration.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Well one can claim the double high-5’s age-wise, only once in a lifetime!

      Like

  13. jbw0123 says:

    -24C??? I am impressed! Is your birthday on the 24th? Mine is on the 23rd (58!)

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Happy belated birthday! Time has treated you well so far, jb! Lookin’ good. Maybe it’s being down in Oregon.🙂 One thing for certain, abit more moisture in the air where you live, unlike the drier prairies means wrinkles don’t show up as quickly. I’m half-serious –it’s something noticeable after I moved from the balmier west coast. One definitely has to use more lotions and moisturizers more often where I live.

      My birthday is towards the end of this month. So maybe you are also an Aquarian? I don’t know the horoscope dates at all, so need to check…

      Like

  14. Rita Azar says:

    Happy birthday Jean! Best wishes!
    I’m so impressed by the fact that you have been car free for 30 years! Especially when we know what are the conditions in Canada…
    My parents are now back to Canada and I’m just getting back into the blogging world today and catching up on your blog.
    I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year 2014 filled with everything you want and love. All the best! And, looking forward to follow your blog this year too!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Happy new year of the horse, Rita! Thanks for the good wishes. We’re enjoying Banff in celebration of the day.

      Like

  15. rommel says:

    That is incredible for you to give up driving. I don’t think I can do that. I love driving, that’s why. It’s a stress reliever for me. Well kudos! Your story is remarkable, really amenable. I can hardly imagine doing it myself.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Maybe you’ll take more photos by cycling along soon.

      Like

  16. We share January birthdays, along with a love of cycling and writing. Welcome to your near-60s!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Uh, yes.🙂 I wanted to make 55 a jazzier milestone to celebrate. I can only guess you are a younger January baby than I. Aquarius is my sign –water-bearer, sign of the future.

      Like

      1. Jan 31 with a few more miles than you. But it’s all good, when you’re Aquarian, isn’t it? We’re the luckiest.

        Like

  17. Wow, you are 55?!!! Seriously, you don’t look like 1. Keep it up!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Ah, I don’t have a lot of close-up photos.:) Cycling is just part of my lifestyle.

      Like

  18. Funny intro. =) Inspirational. And you most definitely do not look your age. I’ve been meaning to tell you that the last two weeks my son’s been singing off and on a song he learned when he was about 4 in a geography audio book, something about rodeo in Calgary. I smacked my forehead. Oh yeah! That’s right, I had learned it WAS a prairie city.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Wonder what that song would have been to name Calgary. The Calgary Stampede is revving up annually..next month. Over 1 million people join in the festivities. Thanks for the gracious compliment. I do think a lot of those of Asian descent who stay reasonably or even just half healthy, do tend to look younger. My theory is the skin texture is different, less papery-delicate, yaddyaddada.🙂

      Like

      1. “My theory is the skin texture”
        Add to that the cycling. =)

        Yes, you’re right! The song does mention stampede. Ah! With good reason, I see. Google Wee Bee Tunes for any young nieces/nephews. Great use of car time. My son loved following the audio with the small book.

        Like

  19. livelytwist says:

    Wow! When I grow up, I want to be like you!🙂
    In The Netherlands, cycling is practical and popular, but for me, it’s only for great weather days. Something you said resonated, and I’ll be thinking about it for some time to come,
    “So find your favourite daily exercise for life. Then it’s no longer a chore.” I’m on the prowl.
    Happy birthday in arrears.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Yes, I think that’s the secret –finding that likeable exercise for life. That’s good that you at least enjoy your area on bike. It would be strange to live in the Netherlands and many years later, tell others you never tried cycling in that country. North Americans would be interested in hearing experiences from an ex-pat or are you a citizen there?

      Like

  20. livelytwist says:

    I’m a citizen, but I didn’t grow up in The Netherlands. Sometimes, I live like an expat because for many years, I was one. I wrote a post about living in “The Third World” It’s about marrying to cultures to make your own culture as a foreigner.

    Cycling for me is a leisure activity, not a lifestyle or even exercise. Will that change? I don’t know yet.🙂

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Love to get the link to that post you mentioned. By the way, it appears there’s no search box on your blog.

      Like

      1. livelytwist says:

        You can search with tags, but in this case that wouldn’t be effective. Thanks for the feedback. Here’s the link: http://livelytwist.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/the-third-world-where-culture-meets-culture/

        Like

  21. Mabel Kwong says:

    Happy Birthday, Jean! Never knew you were 55…55. You do not look 55, but much, much, much younger than that and I can’t stress that enough. Maybe it’s cycling and all this exercise that makes you look young. Or maybe it’s because you seem to be always smiling and cheerful.

    Seems like the wild winter elements or any kind of weather elements can’t stop you from cycling. No car but do you often go for public transport? Cycling around so much, I suppose you need to eat quite a bit and eat well so you can cycle for long periods. Best cycling wishes for the rest of the year.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Sure, Mabel I use transit on lousy, icy days. But where I’ve lived, I’ve ensured I’m within a 15 min. walk to a grocery story for food and stuff. Yes, one does need to eat abit more for long cycles but not that much unless I’m cycling 100 km. Most people over-estimate what they need to eat. And cyclists can fall into the bad habit of justifying their food intake because of their cycling. The body adjusts.

      Ah, I haven’t given up close face pics of myself yet. Oh well. I’m not going to worry about it a lot. But realize I haven’t worn make-up on the job for the past 6 years or so. I just haven’t bothered. Not sure if I’ve made a career-limiting move on that.

      Like

  22. diahannreyes says:

    Age 55 as a double high five. I love that. Sounds like a wonderful age to be.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Yes, something worth living the high 5’s for a year, but only once in your life.

      Like

  23. uju says:

    This is great stuff. Years from now, I want to be able to write about running into my 60’s.
    Thanks for the inspiration Jean🙂

    P.S Livelytwist sent me your way.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Great to meet you uju. A jogger, eh? For certain I am not a jogger. Never, say never. So forge on ahead and happy, safe running. Have you been jogging for long?

      Like

      1. uju says:

        I’ve been on and off for 4 years now and for 6 years before a 4yrs break(does that make sense?).

        Like

  24. Girl Gone Expat says:

    I just came across this blog. Credo for biking almost all winter here in Calgary! It can be freezing. I don’t feel comfortable biking when it’s winter with the snow and ice, but walked to work last winter and enjoyed it! I loved that 30 minutes of clearing your thoughts and getting some fresh air before getting to work:)

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Calgary’s dry cold winter air does allow us to walk around longer ..until it hits -25 degrees C or lower! With more humidity in winter air in Toronto, it feels colder @-15 degrees C compared to -15 degrees C in Calgary. We all know that this latter temperature is “mild” to Calgarians! Hope your winter remains, safe Inger.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Gail Rehbein says:

    I’ll soon be cycling into 55th year🙂 This is a very inspiring post Jean. Riding my bicycle is integrated into my life and I do most things by bicycle or a combination of bicycle and public transport. Over the past 11 months of experimenting with using my bicycle more, I’ve learnt though that we still have some use for our car. It’s a camper van that takes us on weekend trips away. Plus I haven’t yet found a good solution for carrying my 9ft surfboard to the beach. But we have definitely saved money by not having to buy fuel as often and I love how my fitness has improved over this time simply by changing the way I travel. 55 is looking better and better🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I don’t drive so transportation by foot, transit and bike locally is reality. When I do get a car ride, I appreciate it. Yes, 9 ft. is long for a bike. I’ve seen side racks on bikes occasionally for shorter surf board (is it a boogie board?). 55 can look a lot a better if one makes incremental changes in lifestyle. Then it’s not so “traumatic”.

      Did a rough calculation of redirected money to other stuff without paying car gas, ownership, etc.: https://thirdwavecyclingblog.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/30-car-free-years-cycling-pumps-money-into-my-wallet/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gail Rehbein says:

        There are side-racks but I’ve only found them for smaller surfboards. I have found a trailer that carries longboards but it is quite an expensive purchase so I need to put some more of my fuel savings away before I can buy that. Your rough calculation of your savings over 30 years is definitely a compelling argument to ride more. Thanks for the link Jean.

        Gold Coast city, where I live, is a strip city of about 50km in length. Infrastructure for active travel is well behind many northern hemisphere cycling cities. It is a tourist destination and much of the public transport is focused on transporting tourists rather than local residents. We have much to improve but there are changes happening so I’m pleased about that. Meanwhile, I’ll keep integrating my bike into my life as much as I can – yes, incrementally works well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          50 km. is long enough for city that makes non-car travel a challenge if there isn’t at least good transit. Sounds as if you surf often enough. When we were in Maui, Hawai’i, we were intimidated by the surf there a few years ago. Just jaw-dropping.

          Like

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