Archive for November, 2018


2017 was the first summer in 15 years that I didn’t ride my bike. My spouse and I were busy hiking, and September came and our bikes were still in storage.

2018 was almost the same, but we made an effort and managed to ride twice before Labor Day. I am still quite fearful on my bike. Getting rolling is hard for me. I think the trouble comes from looking straight down at the pedals to get my feet set and then looking up at the road before I begin to move, sometimes also swinging my head left and right to check for traffic. If I move my head too quickly, my balance feels scrambled. My solution is to wait a few beats after I look up and then start pedaling. Even so, my “takeoff” is still wobbly and nerve wracking.

Our first ride was in the small town/suburb were we live. We decided to bike a mile to a nearby park. The route required two right turns and had a sizable shoulder (ersatz bike lane), so it seemed like something I could easily do. It is still hard for me to check for traffic while riding and I can barely signal turns, so my spouse rides ahead of me to do these tasks for us both. (Same as in this 2014 post.) Even though this ride was short, I asked my spouse to ride slowly and stay with me. That made me feel a lot safer.

Our little jaunt around the corner to the park was terrifying for me. I actually talk out loud to myself as I ride in an attempt to calm myself down. I remind myself to breathe, to relax the muscles in my legs, to not deathgrip the handlebars. I repeat over and over, “You’re OK. Relax. You’re safe. There is plenty of room to ride here. You can always put your feet down and stop. Relax.” Yes, I say this out loud! Thankfully, the wind carries my voice away, and I don’t think my spouse notices.

Our second ride this summer was on a bike path that we know well. I feel safest cycling on bike paths, especially the ones that are flat and straight. (This one was hilly and curvy, but beautiful.) My spouse loves pedaling fast and picking up speed on the downhills (which scare me), while I prefer to go slow (even slower downhill) and ride my brakes. Our solution is for my spouse to bike as fast as they want and leave me in the dust, then wait at the major intersections so we can meet up and turn together. (Sometimes they bike back and join me.) This allows me to go at a slow pace that is comfortable and enjoyable.

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Bifocals

After about a year of “getting by” with deteriorating near vision, I finally went to the eye doctor and was not surprised to walk out with my first prescription for bifocals. I went to a local, privately-owned optical shop (i.e. not one of the big chains) so that I would have a maximum number of options and bells and whistles available to me.

Once I determined that my new prescription would work in my old frames, I spent thirty minutes discussing the lenses with the optician. I explained my past trouble with vertigo and my lazy eye (still somewhat lazy despite surgical correction) as well as current troubles with maintaining a turned position with my neck (long story; it’s better now than it used to be!). I was willing to order lenses with a visible straight line across them if that would be best for my body. Nowadays the line between the top and bottom of the lens can be made invisible, but this means that the areas where you can see clearly are circumscribed and do not extend from edge to edge across the lens. I was afraid that using the clear areas would have me holding my neck in an uncomfortable position.

The optician listened carefully and described my options. They placed opaque tape over the bottom part of my current pair of glasses to mimic the bifocal and then had me walk up and down a short set of stairs in the office. That was when I realized that vertigo would not be a problem for me. Having bad vertigo for so long made me more tolerant of not seeing and having mixed information come into my vestibular system, so having the stairs be a bit blurry was no big deal.

I opted for the lenses without the obvious line. Based on the work I do and my hobbies, as well as concerns I expressed about using bifocal lenses, the optician decided to increase the upper part of the lens by 1mm. This particular optical has a 90-day return policy, and the optician promised that if I hated the bifocals (or if they caused me pain in my neck), I could bring them back and they’d make me a pair with the visible line for free.

I’m happy to say that the glasses are working out fine. I adapted very quickly to them and have had no problems with my balance because of them.