By Chris Quimby
Special to the Weekly
I have spent a good deal of my life being willingly bossed around by food.
Especially ice cream.
One of my greatest anticipations of biking more than 2,000 miles for eight weeks was earning the ability to eat anything in any amount at any time. The way I figured, I would be suffering on the bike, and this would be my reward.
For those of you who, like me, enjoy your meals and snacks with great passion, but wish to hide the physical evidence of your lack of self-control, you might be glad to learn the following. For this roughly 200-pound male, bicycling burns more than 750 calories per hour.
That’s a lot of chocolate.
However, I’m slowly learning that, although I can eat just about anything, I cannot do so without consequences.
I’ve rather brazenly posted on my blog and on Facebook some of my recent food choices, such as a Snickers Bar for breakfast, a pint of Strawberry Cheesecake Ben & Jerry’s to be burned off in 90 minutes, and entire pizzas whenever the urges came upon me.
These food choices, though, have not helped me much. I have experienced energy spikes followed by crashes and general fatigue, especially one night after doing my best boa constrictor impression on a tray of lasagna.
So, even though I can, it does not follow that I should. I must learn self-control and discernment in yet another area of my life if I wish to enjoy the years that I’ve been given.
And there’s no shortage of temptation each day. Thankfully, when I’m on the bike, I’m so focused on completing the day’s trip that it’s easier to press on than to engage in a “one-afternoon stand” at a local eatery.
Also tempering my desire to investigate the local fare is the sameness of most areas. This is something that would’ve appealed to me earlier in my life, when I sought after predictability. However, I’m learning that, with so many franchised restaurants and stores, there’s a unappealing lack of character to most towns.
In fact, on a few occasions, I’ve ridden by miles of cow pastures only to arrive at an oasis that consists of an Irving gas station and a Dunkin Donuts. At one point, I wondered if I had been traveling in circles.
It’s been interesting to observe my children’s reactions to some of the differences, though. They have not traveled much outside of Maine. For instance, last week my son asked, “What’s up with all of the Food Lions?”
Food Lions is the main grocery chain in areas of Virginia, but my son missed his familiar Hannaford. We explained that Hannaford is a regional company, like many of the other grocery stores we’d already passed, like Stop ‘n Shop, Weis, and Kroger.
It is a bizarre experience to visit another grocery chain. I’d never realized how conditioned I was to the expectation of where certain foods would be located in non-Hannaford stores. Just yesterday I stopped in a local chain, and the fruits and vegetables were on the left side of the store.
I lost my orientation, for that’s where I’m used to the cheese and ice cream being. Instead, I looked down upon the healthier foods for attempting to fool me into eating them.
This trip has reached the grind stage. Some of the excitement is gone because we’re further from our normal reference point of daily home life. It’s now little surprise to be spending the night in a different home each day. In fact, I woke up twice last week and didn’t know where I was.
I didn’t even know what state I was in.
Getting up to get on the bike feels like work. It is something I must do. I’ve committed myself to this mission, and I want to lay out my best effort to see it through to its completion. I texted my friend, Brian, whose home in Texas is my destination, and simply stated, “You live too far away.” He laughed, but was very encouraging. He stated how cool he thought it was that “y’all are in Virginia”.
He says, “Y’all”. So do the people in Virginia.
We must be getting close.
I’m also a little afraid to come home. Two years ago, my wife and I broke convention and visited the country of Ecuador for a missions trip. It really shook up our snow globes, and we returned home with a lot of foundational questions regarding what we should be doing with our lives.
I believe there’s a cultural norm of expectation with few deviations regarding how we should spend our time. Trips like this stir up imaginations and unsettle areas of consideration that sometimes go undisturbed, like old boxes in an attic.
But the most important thing is what I do with today. Will I allow myself to enjoy the opportunities around me, or merely accept them begrudgingly as any other job?
And will I resist the urge to eat a Snickers Bar for breakfast?
Chris Quimby is a standup comedian, author and graphic designer who is undertaking an eight-week adventure, Spokes and Jokes, with his family, cycling to Texas with their logistic support and performing in venues en route while staying in the homes of hosts across the nation. The family’s blogs of the mission can be viewed at spokesandjokes.com.