Gary Horton | Keep Pedaling, Because the Alternative Is…

Gary Horton

Most mornings I get out for a 5- to 8-mile bike ride along the Santa Clarita Valley’s wonderful paths and paseo system. It’s a near-daily ritual in my yet unsuccessful effort to lose the 20-25 pounds my doctor has mandated, lest I become another early age death statistic. Luckily, my particular 25 pounds doesn’t hang over my belly like an exhausted Pillsbury Dough Boy. My overage is kind of spread all over, a “thick” look. Still, my expandabelt pants are more tight than comfortable, and so most mornings I hope on my bike and head out through our suburban oasis pathways.

There’s more time to bike these days. COVID-19 remains a disrupter, with many at our company – indeed most companies – still working from home. Time itself feels stretched, as what matters is not having your butt in your seat at prescribed times, but rather, completing the work is what’s important. Those who’ve been furloughed or laid off have all the time in the world — but no particular place to go. That’s changing; still, you’re not heading to the Edwards; certainly not ice skating, and forget the Dodgers, Rams, and all your other sports favorites. Some cherished stores and activities remain closed – and may be gone for good. We are burning our days. Waiting it out.

I’m using my wait to lose the weight: don the helmet, attach the mask, pull on my gloves and start pedaling…

We’ve lived in the same house now for 32 years. Bought it from Newhall Land, back when they built the houses themselves. We loved the location, settled down and raised our three kids all while watching the town grow up from a sleepy little thing to a bustling well-governed mid-sized city with long, landscaped boulevards, cars everywhere, office parks, malls, hospital and medical centers – a real city. Little of all this was here 32 years back. Indeed, sheep grazed on our bucolic hillsides. Sheep and shepherds instead of cars and trucks transversed our hillsides. Picture that.

Yesterday was our 41st wedding anniversary. Carrie and I have seen it this far through lots of ups and downs and earthquakes and fires and recessions and now pandemics and – we’re still here working hard, trying to stay vital and relevant. But wow, how the pace of change can feel like the wind in a dog’s face out the car window at freeway speed. Just yesterday, Neil Gorsuch ruled in favor of LBGTQ rights – few saw that coming. Check the box for another “whoosh!”

Heading down Arroyo Park Drive, I wait for the endless McBean stop light, pass by Granary Square with its still “take-out only” Starbucks, past Valencia Valley Elementary, make a left on the river trail, continue behind the auto mall, across back through the mall, take the bridge over to the YMCA, dare the sidewalk along the McBean Freeway, and head back up the hill to my home.

Disney’s “Carousel of Progress” has little on my daily ride through memory lane. Where our city stands now were onion fields. Carrot patches. Farmland and a Kmart at the intersection of Magic Mountain Parkway and San Fernando Road. Progress, literally from the ground, up. 

May we of all political stripes fare better than our Kmart.

Riding up my street these days is like riding into Suburban Twilight Zone. Dozens of homes, but seldom-seen residents. Many are original buyers, most are older retired couples, and few are out and about. COVID-19 has exacerbated this; older folks have “sheltered at home” far more diligently than most.

The pandemic has many considering retirement. For me, this is a retirement dress rehearsal, and I’m not ready for it. What to do with the time? What will we do with all the unstructured time ahead?

“What to do?” is indeed the key COVID-19 question. Our prior assumptions about the quality of life, the pace of life, the rules of the game, and what we should or should not be doing have been overturned. Social unrest, the likes we’ve not seen in decades, has been unleashed. A national reconsidering of policing and race relations. An exposure of structural inequities. A coming together to make great change. Many are excited, some are fearful. America, its jobs, industries, politics and justice, is mutating at light speed before our eyes. 

More than anything, COVID-19 is a change catalyst. Yes, it’s overturned health care. But it’s also chaotically moving governments, industries, careers and life plans.

For now, I’ll keep pedaling. Keep a good lookout ahead, watch what’s coming my way and what’s flying by. Duck and swerve where necessary. Sometimes hit the brakes. But keep pedaling. 

Here’s good advice: Life is like a bicycle. You’ve got to keep pedaling or you fall over. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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