“Keep Moving” is a Lifetime Challenge

My reason for writing these blogs is to encourage people in or near retirement to “Keep Moving”.  Even those who are years away from the traditional retirement age should follow this advice or the advice of some retirement expert.  Most of us hope to have a full and active retirement, but just like preparing financially for retirement we also need to take steps to maintain good overall health and healthy habits in order to achieve that goal.

A recent article by Kelli B. Grant for CNBC follows along with my thinking (or visa vera) that “not all investments for retirement are financial.”  She cited an Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey from early 2017 that polled 14,000 workers and 1,600 retirees in 15 countries.  This survey found that few were taking steps to stay healthy to achieve their retirement goals.  The survey looked at behaviors such as:

  • avoiding harmful behaviors (alcohol, tobacco use, etc.)
  • eating healthy
  • regular exercise
  • thinking about long term health when making lifestyle choices
  • taking their health seriously (regular medical check-ups)
  • practicing mindfulness (i.e., meditation)

The study found that globally, half of the workers got regular exercise and 57% ate healthy.  Almost half engaged in 2 or fewer healthy behaviors, while 8% did not do any of these.  Only 5% said they engaged in all healthy behaviors.

The report also concluded that poor health in retirement could have a severe impact on a retiree’s financial well-being because of increased medical costs.  Incorporating healthy lifestyle behaviors early in life doesn’t guarantee a happy and healthy retirement but it does give you a better chance to meet your retirement goals and “Keep Moving”.


Staying Active in Durham, NC

My wife and I spent this summer in Durham, North Carolina.  Being a college town, Durham has much to offer in the way of cultural activities, trendy restaurants, numerous shopping opportunities, and sporting events along with venues to “Keep Moving”.  For example, Duke University has a cross country trail that circles the Duke University Golf Club.   Called the Al Buehler Cross Country Trail, named for the long time track and field coach, it is a little over 3 miles long and runs through a beautiful wooded area with just enough hills to make it challenging.  I took advantage of this trail several times throughout the summer.

The University track and field facility was open to the public for use except when the school was holding summer track and cross country camps.  I mostly used this facility in the evenings and there always seemed to be adults coaching young children and high school aged kids on various running techniques such as how to properly use starting blocks, arm motion, body posture, etc.

But to me the best amenity the City of Durham and the adjoining counties of Durham, Chatham, and Wake offers its citizens is the American Tobacco Trail.  I like riding on rail trails and I have ridden on many over the past 20 years.  Some include the North Bend Rail Trail, the Greenbrier River Trail, and the Panhandle Trail in West Virginia, the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Montour Trail near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to name a few.  I was glad for the opportunity to add the American Tobacco Trail to that list.Att4ATT beginning

The American Tobacco Trail is a 22.6 mile rail trail that begins in downtown Durham near the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the Durham Bulls Triple A baseball team. This abandoned rail bed was originally built for the American Tobacco Company as the New Hope Valley Railroad.  It later became the Durham and SC Railroad (but never reached into South Carolina), then finally part of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad.  This rail corridor was preserved in the 1980’s by the Triangle Rail-Trail Conservancy and is a wonderful multi-use trail.  Starting from Durham the first 14.5 miles is a paved 10 foot wide path and the remaining portion is a hard packed crushed limestone base.  This trail is now part of the East Coast Greenway which will eventually become a 3,000 mile route from northern Maine to Key West, Florida.  Presently, approximately 900 miles of off-road pathways are designated as East Coast Greenway.ATT 2

If you have a rail trail in your community or your community is planning for such a trail I encourage you to avail yourself of the opportunity to use an existing trail or support any planning activities.  These trails offer citizens a place to ride bicycles, walk, roller blade, push strollers, even horseback riding if permitted.  Rail trails can take you to areas in your community that you have never been before unless you passed through on a train.  Many communities use rail trails to interpret their history and help locals and visitors understand the purpose the railroad served.  In some rural communities rail trails often serve as an economic stimulus for small businesses to serve trail users. Businesses like bicycle rentals, restaurants, outfitters, and campgrounds are a few small businesses I have seen along rail trails.  The economic benefits of rail trails can spread to outlying areas from trail users who stay an extra day or two to visit other nearby sites and attractions.  I have been in small communities that have old train depots that have been restored to their former glory and the surrounding area transformed into a small park that hosted community celebrations and holiday events.  These are little things that bring pride to a small community and it is all because of the restoration of the rail trail.

In my opinion, rail trails offer communities unique opportunities for citizens to improve their health in ways they would not do otherwise.   Many people would not ride bicycles, roller blade, or jog on city streets because of vehicle traffic, but rail trails provide a safe place to exercise where the only traffic is other trail users.  So if you have a rail trail near your community give it a try and “Keep Moving”.


Heard of Broccoli Sprouts?

If you followed my early blog posts I chronicled my bicycling trip along the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.  This was a long term planned event to get me out of my comfort zone and do something I had never attempted.  Before beginning those trips in May 2016 I was having some issues with my PSA numbers (prostate specific antigen).  My numbers had been bouncing around for several months and my urologist scheduled me for a biopsy in September.  The results showed there was cancer in two of the samples taken, but further test results reveled the cancer to be slow growing.   My urologist suggest we just watch it for the time being (active surveillance or watchful waiting) and do another biopsy in 5 to 6 months.  Another biopsy was performed in late January 2017 and the results indicated the cancer from this sample was more aggressive than the sample taken earlier.  We discussed treatment options and there were 3 available to me.  One was to continue active surveillance.  The second option was 60 days of radiation, which I did not want to do and my urologist would not recommend because of my age and good physical condition.  The third option was to have the prostate removed, and if the cancer is encapsulated within the prostate this is a cure. So I chose option number 3.  My recovery went well but kept me off my bicycle for a couple of months.

The reason I mention this medical condition was to segue into the point of this blog. Between the two biopsy’s my son sent me a link to a Youtube video about broccoli sprouts and their beneficial effect on cancer cells.  The Youtube video is by Dr. Rhonda Patrick and is entitled “Sulforaphane and its Effects on Cancer, Mortality, Aging, Brain and Behavior, Heart Disease, and more.”  The video is approximately 47 minutes long and is very technical in some spots but overall is very informative.

There are many articles on the Internet from many sources highlighting the benefits of broccoli sprouts.  If you are interested,  I encourage you to do more research.  In the meantime, you can begin to grow your own sprouts.  Here is where I purchase my broccoli sprout kit and seeds.

Briefly, broccoli sprouts are 3 – 5 day old broccoli plants that look like afalfa sprouts but taste like radishes.  They contain high levels of glucosaphane, a cancer fighting phytochemical isolated in 1992 by Johns Hopkins scientists.  When chewed, broccoli sprouts release glucoraphanin that combines with myrosinase, an enzyme found in another part of the plant cell, which work together to produce sulforaphane.  A 1997 study found that 3 – 5 day old broccoli sprouts contain at least 20 times (some researchers say 10 – 100 times) the concentration of glucoraphanin than full grown broccoli.  Which means that broccoli sprouts are rich in sulforaphane and offers promising anti-cancer protection.


Broccoli seeds soaking in jar and sprouts on the right

Sulforaphanes combat cancer through the removal of carcinogens, prevention of cancer cell production, destruction of breast cancer cells, and tumor reduction.  Other benefits include promoting detoxification, lowers cholestrol, improves diabetes, has antioxidant properties, anti-microbial properties, and anti-inflammatory properties to name a few.


Harvested sprouts

Broccoli sprouts are easy to grow.  Place 2 – 3 teaspoons of seeds in your jar or growing container.  Rinse them thoroughly then soak the seeds for 6 – 12 hours.  Rinse again then place the container in an area out of direct sunlight.  Rinse the seeds once or twice a day even after the seeds sprout.  The seeds should begin to sprout in 2 – 3 days.  Harvest when the sprouts are 1″ to 2″ tall.  They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

You can add the sprouts to sandwiches, salads, combine with other vegetable dishes, sprinkle sprouts on top of a baked potato, add to stir-fry’s, salsa, cole slaw, or add to humus or other dips.  Use your imagination and enjoy.

The Skyline Drive, a Black Bear, and Big Meadows

After becoming disillusioned with the weather in Roanoke and not wanting to sit in a motel for two days waiting for the skies to clear and knowing I didn’t finish what I started I needed to get myself in gear and plan a ride that I knew I would complete. Planning to bicycle 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway on my first self-supported bicycle tour was a healthy goal, yet I still had a desire to do more bicycle touring in the mountains. So I set my sights on the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.


In hindsight I should have started my bicycling touring on the Skyline Drive, you know like learning to walk before you run.  I did this bicycle trip in August, 2016 and planned to complete this trip in two days.  The Skyline Drive is 105.5 miles long and runs from Front Royal, VA to Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, VA, and seamlessly continues on as the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The longest climbs are on the northern and southern entrances, but once you reach the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains the elevation varies, so don’t think you won’t have some climbing to do, but the climbs are not as long as those on the Blue Ridge Parkway.   I started at the northern entrance at Front Royal where elevation is 1,390 feet.   From there you climb 10 miles to Dickey Ridge before connecting with the Blue Ridge mountains at Compton Gap.  The climb continues to Hogback Overlook at an elevation of 3,385 feet.  So in the first 22 miles you climb nearly 1,995 feet.1024px-Blue_Ridge_Parkway_from_Ravens_Roost

The day I began this ride the weather was spectacular.  Clear blue skies and visibility from the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains was endless.  From most overlooks looking west you can see the Massanutten mountain ridge that divides the Shenandoah Valley for nearly 50 miles.  Beyond Massanutten you see mountain ridges for as far as the eye can see.


Massanutten Mountain in the distance

I enjoyed this ride more than my experience on the Blue Ridge Parkway because I understood the effort it took to climb these mountains,  I finished what I started, and I took time to enjoy the scenery and views from many of the overlooks.  The climbs were hard at times but I made sure to enjoy the experience instead of focusing on reaching the next hilltop.  I took more pictures, breathed in the fresh mountain air, and was not pulling my trailer.  My wife accompanied me by driving our van to serve as a support vehicle so I only carried a small backpack with snacks and water.

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Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Experience

At the time I decided to bicycle the Blue Ridge Parkway I had several goals I wanted to achieve.  First, was to get myself into better physical condition to handle the mountainous terrain.  Second, I have never been on but a few miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC.,  so seeing and experiencing this linear National Park and the amazing vistas was exciting.  Third, was to get me out of my cycling comfort zone.  It is one thing to go on long rides in an area that is familiar, but another where there is more wilderness surrounding you than civilization.

A person should take their time when experiencing the Blue Ridge mountains from the saddle of a bicycle.  Most of the time you are going slow enough to enjoy the miles of scenery that open up around every turn. spring As you look out across mountain ranges that stretch to the horizon 30 to 40 miles away you can’t help but be amazed at the majesty of these mountains.  They appear as different shades of color depending on the amount of light reflecting off the trees and vegetation.  Many areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway are made up of such a vast wilderness that there are probably places in these mountains that no man has ever set foot.   In early May, when I began my trip, the azaleas and other spring wild flowers were emerging from their winter hibernation as the sun warmed the forest floor. Trees in the lower elevations were breaking out in brightly colored light green leaves while trees along the ridge tops were still clothed in their wintery gray.  dogwood

Climbing mountain roads that snake through the Blue Ridge mountains was hard for this lowcountry senior.  The grades on the climbs varied from 4% to 7% with an occasional 8% grade for a short distance.  My speed varied from 5 to 8 miles per hours on climbs so I had time to notice the scenery and I would find a cadence and rhythm that was comfortable and tried to enjoy the experience.  But to be honest, there were times during some of the extended climbs my legs were screaming and I could have cared less about the view.  All I was focused on was reaching the top so I could coast.  However, reaching the crest of each hill despite my aching legs was more satisfying than the last hill.

These mountains are beautiful but they can be cruel.  There were times I would be climbing for miles and the road ahead would appear to level off as it curved around the mountain giving the illusion I had reached the top of the climb only to discover the road continued upward and I could  see the road cut into the mountain several hundred feet above me.  So I continued to climb.

top of hill

You may or may not have reached the top of this climb

Roanoke or Bust

After a restful night at the Peaks of Otter lodge day 3 dawned with sunny skies and cool, crisp temperatures.  My goal today was to reach Roanoke, VA, 39 miles away.  The route included a detour because 15 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed for maintenance.  According to the National Park Service Blue Ridge Parkway website the detour didn’t add more miles to my route and began about 8 miles south of Peaks of Otter and took me onto Goose Creek Valley Road.  The first couple miles were downhill and steep with a road surface that had recently been repaired using the tar and chip method that left a lot of loose “chips”.  I had to control my speed down this hill that had sharp turns to keep from sliding.virginia valley

Once I reached to bottom of the hill the next 8 miles opened to a wide, beautiful valley,  I assume was named Goose Creek Valley,  which featured rolling farm land and a fairly level road.  The map I printed from the Blue Ridge Parkway website was easy to follow, except you had to follow their directions to keep on course.  I had one turn to make at the end of Goose Valley Road and when I consulted to map at the beginning of the detour I was sure the turn at the end of the road was to the right.  Did you ever have the feeling that something wasn’t right but you couldn’t put a finger on it?  After 3 miles and several climbs I had a feeling I was going the wrong way.  It just didn’t feel right so I stopped and looked at the map again and sure enough I was heading in the wrong direction.  After turning around and pedaling 3 miles back to Goose Creek Valley Road my 39 mile ride quickly became 45 miles.  Had I made the correct turn I was only 1 mile from Rt. 221 where the detour continued.  The remainder of the trip was uneventful and I got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway about 16 miles from Roanoke.Roanoke River overlook

My initial itinerary included camping at the Roanoke Mountain campground but it was closed so I checked into a small motel near the parkway in Roanoke for the night and found it to be lacking in cleanliness (I am being nice).  The bed was comfortable but the bathroom left much to be desired.  You get what you pay for.  I turned on the television in the evening to check on the weather for the next day.  The local weather the next two days called for 90% chance of rain.  It began raining later and continued into the morning.   Across the street from the motel was a Walmart and behind the Walmart was a mountain.  The next morning that mountain was blanketed in fog.  I was bummed.  I waited for two days to begin the ride and now I was going to have to wait two more days for the weather to improve.  I made the decision to end this trip and called my wife and had her pick me up.

The thought of  biking the entire 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway was a romantic notion and the 121 miles (plus my side trips) I rode from Waynesboro, VA to Roanoke, VA while hard at times stopping now was disappointing.  I was certain that with better weather I could at least finish the Virginia section in two more days.  After training for so long I felt I should have ridden farther but I wasn’t prepared to spend more time in that motel waiting for the weather to improve.  But the Blue Ridge Parkway will always be there and I will Keep Moving and would like to try to finish the Virginia portion some time in the future.

I did not finish what I started, even though one of my goals was to improve my physical conditioning, which I did.  One of my daughters lives in Asheville, NC and she and I have biked some of the parkway near Asheville, and I still have a strong desire to bike more of the Blue Ridge Parkway at some point and maybe finish the entire distance over time.  In the meantime I still had a desire to finish a route that I started.  IMG_0023Enter the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park.  I made plans and was determined to complete that 105 mile bike ride later in August, 2016.