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Don’t be alarmed – it’s not Smokey come back to life

I'm Just Sayin'

By DuWayne Paul, Echo Press columnist

If you have been a long time resident of Alexandria, you may remember Smokey. I never did know his real name, but we all knew him as Smokey. He was an elderly gentleman who rode his bike around town collecting pop cans to sell for recycling. He would ride his bike year around, no matter what the weather. You could see him on 80 degree summer days and 20 below winter days. Sometimes, in the winter, if there was too much ice and snow on the roads and sidewalks, he would walk his bike (he hung bags on his bike to carry the empty cans). I always marveled at him in the winter time. No matter how cold it was, he would be out there and usually in a flimsy coat, thin gloves, and a hat that was not warm enough for the weather.

I don’t know when Smokey passed away, but it has been quite a few years now. He came to mind recently when I was going about another “adventure.”

My wife and I bought new Trek bikes a few months ago and I got into the habit of riding it to the coffee shop early in the morning to get my morning java and do some reading. From there I would usually bike to the YMCA to work out, and then bike back home. As I was leaving the house this morning at 5:30, I thought, “It’s clear and 27 degrees this morning so I should ride today.” That’s when the adventure started.

I put on two sweatshirts, gloves and hood, and thought that should be enough. By the time I got about a mile down the road I realized that was not enough. Man, was I getting cold! But, I kept pedaling and warmed up a bit just from the exercise and body heat. When I got to the coffee shop my nose was running and I could barely see because my eyes were watering so badly. I texted my wife that “it was sure a cold ride this morning” and she texted back to be careful, “some folks might think it was Smokey come back to life.” That’s when my thoughts went to him and years gone by.

After lots of caffeine and an hour or so of reading, it was time to head to the YMCA. I got on the bike trail and went straight into a west wind, which made it much colder. I thought: What should I do? Head back home or trudge on? I kept going. When I got to the YMCA, folks looked at me with the strange look of, “What in the world is he doing biking in this cold? He must be a bit crazy!” Actually, I get the “He must be crazy” look a lot just by going through my normal activities (and if you read my last column, I get that from my wife when I’m watching three or four football games at once on various devices).

So, when it was time to head home from the YMCA, I thought I would have some wind at my back and an easier ride. Well, by then the wind had shifted to the northeast and I was straight into it for the four-mile ride home.

I plan to keep riding until it is too cold. So, if you see me around town on my bike, don’t be alarmed. It’s not Smokey come back to life. It’s just me still riding, and I’m still just sayin’.

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“What I love most about this crazy life is the adventure of it.” - Juliette Binoche

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DuWayne Paul of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist for the Echo Press.