Keeping fit on a small island (oh deer, oh deer)

My island bike, with tires suited to gravel roads, at the base of our rocky knoll behind The Nuthatch.

IMG_7955FOR YEARS I RODE MY BIKE to work at The Seattle Times about nine months out of the year (during the less-rainy-and-dark season); a 14-mile round-trip that kept me from becoming too much of a fatty, though my personal physician (Dr. Bendova, we’ll call him) still wanted me to lose more weight. When I couldn’t ride, I worked out mornings at a Ballard gym.

Now I have no gym and I live on a 176-acre island. Riding 14 miles a day would involve many circuits of our rock, and I’m just not up for getting that dizzy. Besides which there’s a place appropriately called Cardiac Hill where the perimeter road suddenly decides to make like Everest’s South Col.

But I’m making an effort to take a morning ride every day or two, and I’ve worked out a circuit that roughly circles the island’s 1,600-foot grass airfield, with some pleasant detours into the woods and some up-and-down bits that add some fun as well as a workout. When I do my average 3 circuits, it’s about 2 miles of rapid riding, just enough to work up a sweat.

And while it is the same scenery repeated each lap, I’ve added a factor to add interest: I count deer.

Our island has a small population of black-tailed deer, just enough to ensure that nobody can grow a vegetable garden without putting up a deer fence. The deer also make sure to keep the swordferns, one of my favorite Northwest native plants, closely cropped (it’s like swordfish to them, I think).

Each day I come back from my ride and record on my Sierra Club calendar how many laps I rode and how many deer I saw along the way.

This, however, brings up a question of scientific protocol. Because I can’t tell the deer apart (maybe in a few more months I’ll distinguish Comet from Donder, but for now give me a break) I count every deer I see. And since I’m riding in circles, I freely admit that I might be — no, probably am — seeing the same deer more than once.

Hello, deer: One of our island friends outside our kitchen window.

So while my daily deer record to date is “3 laps, 45 deer” on June 14, I’m sure the Gallup people would make noises about a sampling error. I may have been counting the same seven deer six times (once in each direction). Such are the perils of census taking. You never know if you’re getting the right number of blue-collar workers of Hungarian descent, or if the same family just keeps moving across town.

The good news is that despite my reduction in bike miles, I’m also not sitting idly at a computer five days a week. Because we live on the far side of the island from the boat dock, where I’ve been spending a lot of time tinkering on the WeLike, I’ve been walking a good bit. Even getting the mail is more than a half-mile trek. I’ve lost more than 5 pounds since we moved here in May. So ha, I say, Dr. Bendova.

My next goal is to do more cycling around Lopez Island, where I keep a bike stashed inside the canopy of our pickup truck parked at the public dock.

Then, instead of counting deer, maybe I’ll count how many drivers give me “the wave.” On Lopez, “the wave” usually involves just lifting a finger off the steering wheel as you pass someone. In summer, when the island can be mobbed by dayglo-spandex-clad two-wheelers from afar, who sometimes ride three abreast and cause significant delays on a Lopezian’s morning drive to Holly B’s Bakery, a cyclist must heed whether it’s the index finger that is lifted, making it “the wave,” or the middle finger that is lifted, which just makes it “the finger.”

Oh, dear. 1-anchor

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