Mark Nessia

The events of July 26, 2018, were life-changing.

A downtown excursion after work resulted in me racing home with an unexpected passenger to have some fun.

I normally don’t partake in such behavior, but impulse and excitement knocked common sense right out the window. This was something I haven’t done in a while and I was looking forward to ending the streak.

As soon as I got home, I took off my work attire, threw on a T-shirt and shorts, and went on a bike ride.

Was it careless? Most definitely. I didn’t have a helmet or lights and the sun was already beginning its descent into the horizon. But I didn’t want to put off breaking in the Giant FCR3 I just received from Bike Bakersfield’s Recycle-A-Bike program.

A 12.27-mile ride cut short by fatigue and a sore bum led to an addiction.

It didn’t take long for cycling to become routine. I would rearrange my schedule to accommodate rides and would go through withdrawals if I was out of the saddle for a prolonged period of time.

This year, I celebrated daylight saving time by purchasing a new bike – making me one of the few excited about losing an hour of sleep – and plan on riding in the Tehachapi Gran Fondo in September.

I learned a lot about myself on the paved surfaces of the Kern River Parkway and the foothills that surround the city. I discovered I’m stronger than I thought – that my body is capable of pushing further and faster than my mind tells me it can – and my stubbornness can power me through even the toughest stretches. I’ve come to appreciate the value of a simple wave or head nod from passing riders, joggers and walkers as the friendly gesture seems to give me an extra boost of energy. I also realized my ego is easily bruised whenever a stronger rider blows past me at speeds I can only hope to reach. But that just gives me a goal to chase (literally), and as long as I continue to get out there and ride, I’ll inch closer and closer to where I want to be.

But people can sometimes get possessive of what I consider to be one of the city’s best assets. Other communities would kill to have over 30 miles of uninterrupted road free of motor vehicles and traffic lights, so when residents, whether by bike or by foot, want to use the trails, they should be welcomed. Just as motorists should share the road with cyclists, cyclists should share the road with joggers and walkers.

We’re all out there, on our respective journeys, working toward similar goals so we should encourage one another for getting out, being active and lapping those sitting on the couch.

For me, cycling is a source of freedom in an age where so much of life is lived behind screens and in isolation, trapped inside office walls and tons of steel, sitting in traffic on a regular basis.

Whether it’s on two wheels or two feet, get out there, take advantage of the resources available to you and be free. And know that if we cross paths on the Kern River Parkway, I’ll have a wave and a head nod waiting for you.

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