Everyday is a winding road

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It’s been too long. I know it’s been too long but this last month has been an absolute whirlwind.

First it’s important that you know I haven’t turned into some athletic badass or muscled goddess (yet) – and for the record, just because I work for a fitness company doesn’t mean I’m a personal trainer.

But I do cycle to work everyday. Well, almost everyday. When there’s a tempest I call Colin and he generally comes to my rescue. It’s 10km from our flat to my office, and it takes me roughly 35 minutes. Most of my route there’s a cycle path, which is a rarity in Auckland. It’s such a rarity that it’s peppered with super fit-types out for their morning run. There’s also a running club of some sort on Wednesday nights. Then there are hoards of people casually jogging in a giant gaggle with about as much grace as a goose. This makes me feel strangely aggressive, and I have to fight the urge to gesture wildly at the bike stenciled on my half of the path.

There’s also a stout man who looks to be of Chinese descent who protests with a posterboard everyday. He wears a SARS mask and he has many signs. Some read, Murdered Alive; I had a job for 40 years; and most disturbingly, Secret Executions in NZ. He also has a little hand-held air horn he occasionally squeaks at me when I pass.

Colin has encouraged me to stop and talk to him. I haven’t had a chance yet.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wish I could toss my gym bag in the back seat and laze behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Then I get on my bike and take the turnoff toward the ocean. The breeze kicks up and rustles the palms. It’s spring, and the sun has just risen. It tentatively sends its rays out, grasping at the waves and the rigging of all the sailboats in the harbor.

Rangitoto also rises to meet me. For a fleeting moment, before I round the bend and speed toward the shore, I can see the entire island. It’s the youngest of all Auckland’s volcanic islands and most Kiwis will tell you it’s only recently started to look this lush and green. The cone is clearly visible – jagged and somewhat menacing – like the icing on top of a massive cake.

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But it’s not all spectacular sweeping scenery. The bike path seems to have a penchant for retaining water, and after it’s rained there are enormous puddles the size of small lakes. The first couple of times I literally rode through with my feet in the air, in a vain attempt to keep my shoes dry. I’m over it now. And I have mud-guards. On more than one occasion I’ve arrived to work looking like a wet dog with mud splattered up my butt and back. One day I forgot a spare pair of underwear. My wet pair promptly soaked through my clean dry pants, making it look like I’d had another sort of accident.

Auckland drivers are maniacs; the roads are narrow and often double as parking lanes. The city has made little-to-no effort to be bike friendly. The roads are made solely for cars, and that means defensive biking and a constant state of high alert. Commuting at night, I wear a neon vest and I have FOUR blinking lights. In addition to that, we’ve put reflective stickers all over my bike.

My bike just before it's makeover: new tires, mud guards, additional lights and a new saddle.
My bike just before it’s makeover: new tires, mud guards, additional lights and a new saddle.

For me, living in Mission Bay is worth the traffic hassle. Our apartment has a sweet little yard and garage. I’ve been able to do some planting, and Colin’s been able to do some building. We have a picnic table made from pallets Colin harvested from work, and a beautiful flowering rhododendron. We’ve got several species of succulents, basil and veggies. Our backyard gets a nice amount of sun – a revelation, after our last flat – and I can sit out there and read a book with an iced tea after I’ve hung my clothes out (we still don’t have a dryer, and haven’t had one for years now).

So far, working at Les Mills has been a welcome change in my life. The hardest part – in my opinion – is that you forget how difficult it is to start a new job. Especially one in a new field. It’s an enormous learning curve for me at the moment. There are some days when I feel like I’m getting the hang of it and I’ve made good progress. There are other days when I feel overwhelmed by all the things I don’t yet know how to do. There are the days I spend an afternoon putting together a report (how does Powerpoint work again?!?!) that then needs another afternoon of editing and reworking. There’s relationship building, meetings (the first time I ever said, “I need to go to bed early, I have meetings all morning.”) and plenty of good gym sessions.

Last time I stepped foot on US turf was in November of 2012. On the eve of our holiday home, I feel stressed, excited, nervous – but mostly blessed.



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