By Dan Levitz
We’ve all seen that guy. He’s of a certain age, past his chronological physical peak and trying just a bit too hard to look cool. Sure, the lines of the Porsche convertible are enviable and it must be just fantastic to drive that purring, powerful machine just a little too fast. Yet, it’s easy, as he speeds by, to knowingly snicker that guy must be having a serious Mid-Life Crisis.
The Mid-Life Crisis (MLC) has become something of a cliche. Fair or not, a young man (or woman) driving that very same car might be viewed as successful go-getter. However, change the driver back to the guy with a receding hairline wearing aviator sunglasses, and admiration is instantly replaced by amateur psycho-analysis with a certain diagnosis of MLC. And, perhaps, a mildly sad feeling that the driver isn’t the slightest bit aware of his transparent attempt to cling to his fleeting youth.
When Chappaqua resident Ken Fuirst began his amazing cross country bike ride (something he’d wanted to accomplish before he reached the age of fifty) it’s quite possible that people might have seen him on the road and thought to themselves, MLC. It might have surprised and even disarmed these folks to learn that he had entitled his BLOG documenting his journey as “Ken’s Bike Ride, My Mid-life Crisis” (www.kensbikeride.com). In talking to Ken though, the feeling that came through was that this adventure was not a reaction to the inevitable aging process, but a culmination of a lifetime of impressive physical and, in the case of this Bike Ride, also emotional challenges.
On June 16th, 2014, after flying to Seattle and ceremoniously dipping his bicycle tire in the Pacific Ocean, Ken began his bike ride in the town of Anacortes, Washington with the intention of biking the Northern Tier Route across the United States. After about two months, on schedule, Ken dipped the same tire in the Atlantic Ocean as he was reunited with his family and friends after not a small amount of peddling.
Ken’s BLOG really documents the trip quite nicely with lots of photos, insights and reporting. It’s a good read and highlights include a perfect wind-aided day where he cycled 170 miles (normal days goal about 70 miles), a surprisingly meaningful visit to Mount Rushmore, scarily avoiding tragic consequences as truckers aggressively hogged the road and, most significantly, an emotional visit to a Memorial site for his late close friend Captain David J. Sielewicz in Montana.
In reflecting upon the trip, Ken notes that “meeting people along the way was most definitely the highlight.” While biking 8 to 10 hours a day is a severely solitary endeavor, Ken enjoyed knowing that he wasn’t completely off the grid; he worked on his BLOG every evening and, interestingly, people he’d met on the trip began reading the BLOG and following along with the almost 1000 others who were tuned in. This aspect of the journey was something of a pleasant surprise and, most definitely, Ken experienced a somewhat unique slice of life of America.
I was interested in the logistics of arranging the trip, especially as my vision of MLCs almost always has someone exclaiming “Please do not do this!” However, Ken clearly had the support of his family and, with the BLOG, they were able to follow along closely. As for work, Ken is a partner at Levitt-Fuirst Associates Insurance and his supportive partner and talented staff allowed him to bike away with no real worries professionally.
Although it doesn’t conform with my pre-conceived notions, I really do admire Ken’s MLC. As a fellow man of that certain age, I’ve been considering, in a very preliminary manner, a variety of MLC options myself. Rejected contenders include a piercing (I’m way too self-conscious and infection-phobic), a tattoo (sadly, this is not even slightly rebellious anymore), baseball fantasy camp (depressing to see former pro players in worse shape than I am) and surgically enhanced calves (can’t deal with vanity and, believe me, my calves are the least of my problems). Ken was smart and fortunate; his MLC seemed to involve very little actual crisis other than trying not to get knocked off the road by an 18 wheeler. For better or worse, mine is still TBD.
Through pledges, Ken’s Bike Ride was able to raise a healthy donation for Habitat For Humanity. However, Ken explained that “it would be disingenuous to make the bike ride just about charity as this trip was for me.” Maybe that’s what a MLC really is about in whatever form it may take. Something solely for oneself–which really doesn’t sound crisis-like at all.
Dan Levitz has lived in Chappaqua for ten years and is an art dealer and writer with a blog on The Huffington Post.