After a day spent exploring and settling in, it was time to get serious. It was time to get on the bike (my new best friend) and make the 5.5 mile journey across town to the primary care practice that would be my base for the next month.
Happily ensconced on a sofa back in the UK, the google map- produced route had looked straightforward enough; it would be fun, care-free I’d thought and hey I’d always wanted better thighs. However, as I stood in the 8 degree morning air looking at the small seat, my rather large rucksack and the busy road ahead my heart sank and my calves quivered. As I reflected on my cycling career thus far, few comforting thoughts came to mind, but banishing all images of childhood falls over handlebars into Yorkshire moor bogs I set off hoping this experience would be a little different.
I think most Americans would agree that the States is a country of car-lovers. The roads are wide and sweeping, perfect for the largest and shiniest pick-up truck or vintage convertible. On this particular morning, cars there were aplenty but with a sigh of relief I noted also on most roads a deliberate effort to accommodate bikes and to make it safe. This mirrored perhaps what I’d noted already about health and fitness promotion in the area; with a gym open 24 hours a day and cycle routes throughout the town you really could, if you so chose, be on the move constantly. I wondered, as I rode, if I would see this reflected in the people I met. Would I find a more active population here and would that bring with it a greater sense of well-being in patients?
The first leg of my journey took me through Lower Bidwell Park; a mass of trees and foliage that envelops you in fall colour as soon as you enter.
Cars in Chico are, for the most part, kind. Squirrels are not. Yes, they look innocent from distance but are inexplicably large across the pond and dominate any outdoor scene. Watch out for them crossing the road just as you approach, an adrenaline rush for them and an opportunity for me to forget where the breaks are and scream like a girl…
Over the bridge and into the small streets of Chico. Look out for hiding spiders and severed hands…(Halloween is coming!)
Fancy a snack? Plenty of temptation along the way…
Over a ford, dry with the heat. The pale grasses and dry riverbeds are a common site in Chico; the rain I experienced over the weekend was only the second fall in 5 months.
Passing remnants of overnight stays. Homelessness is a significant issue in Chico with a survey in 2015 recording feedback from 1127 people living without a home in the Butte county area. 38% of those who completed the survey identified themselves as suffering from mental illness. (1)
The practice is situated in a quiet cul-de-sac, sheltered from the busy freeway close by. I had arrived and whilst I was glad to reach my destination I was also glad for the journey. Friends in London have, for a long time, talked about the benefits both mentally and physically of commuting by bike. Whilst I might have cowered away from the busy lanes of Cromwell road and the madness of Hammersmith, cycling in Chico has thus far been a joy and an insight into the many faces of the place. I hope the benefits will include more than toned thighs but I’ll let you know…
1. Butte county homeless census 2015, http://buttehomelesscoc.com/reports/pit/butte_coc_2015_homeless_cencus_survey_report.pdf)