© Jacek Chabraszewski | Dreamstime.com
In my mind, one of the better things to happen to our city recently has been the creation of the Greenline. The path itself is inviting: a 12-mile stretch of pavement, wide and smooth and easily accessible from a variety of points along the route. Jump onboard and you’ll soon pass backyards and gardens, swamps and the I-240 spaghetti bowl; it even skirts past the penal farm, where I imagine many a prisoner has looked on with envy, yearning for such delicious freedom.
More importantly, the Greenline provides an incentive for people of all ages to get outside and exercise. If you’ve ridden the trail, then you’ve likely noticed how often people wave or just seem lighthearted, happy to be part of the passing parade. It’s an interesting phenomenon, an esprit de corps that’s shared by those who travel along together.
With the Greenline and the addition of bike lanes in Midtown, I now see more people riding bikes or even just out walking, certainly many more than I did before these were in place. I was often riding through the neighborhood, there just weren’t as many people joining me.
I like the fact that it’s changing.
When my son was little, he and I spent many an afternoon exploring the University of Memphis campus, which was practically in our backyard at the time. I couldn’t wait for him to be old enough to ride bikes with me. And the campus was the perfect setting for a beginning rider, with very little car traffic, and plenty of wide, open spaces. He rode his little bike all over campus the year he turned four. His first bike was tiny, with training wheels that helped to keep him upright, but it didn’t slow him down. When he’d begin to tucker out, he’d start yelling, “Mom, my legs aren’t working!” a sign that he needed a break.
So we’d park our bikes and wander into one of the buildings to write on a chalkboard or stop into the Tiger Den for a snack. Once he became more proficient at riding and graduated to a bigger bike, our destinations began to widen, taking in more of our surrounding neighborhood. Just blocks from the house we could make stops at the Highland Branch Library, the local bakery, even the Goodwill store near the train tracks at Southern. A toy car or superhero figurine would often come home with us as a reminder of our day.
Eventually, our explorations even grew beyond Memphis. One time, on a visit to my hometown in Florida, my son and I skated and biked several miles of the Pinellas Trail, a rail-to-trail pathway that stretches more than 40 miles across the county. On our ride, we stopped to pay a visit to Hammock Park, where, as a high school student, I went with my class for biology lessons. It was fun being able to do this together, as we watched herons fish and spied huge osprey nests built just steps from the trail.
I wanted to share those times with my son in hopes that he might gain the same love I have for exercise, and for the sense of exploration and discovery that can come with those activities, be it biking, canoeing, or playing a sport. My aim was to help him appreciate the importance of taking care of your body, and discovering the invigorating way you feel after you’ve exerted yourself, returning home sweaty but fulfilled.
If I want my son to appreciate the importance of a healthy lifestyle, it’s something I need to model as a parent. It’s making small choices everyday, like skipping fast food for something more nutritious, or taking a walk instead of logging onto the computer. I think if we can make exercise fun for kids, then embracing a healthy lifestyle won’t be far behind.
While my son is now grown and off to college, on Mother’s Day we still ride our bikes together. It’s a reminder of the good times we’ve shared and a lifestyle that continues.