What Failure Doesn't Mean by Kellie Morris

 From left Kellie, Ed and Pat.

From left Kellie, Ed and Pat.

Pat gently held my arms and forced me to look at her. I dreaded the words she was going to say.  I stood there shaking.  Then she said, in a calm but firm voice “Kellie, we are not far from the campground. Ed is going to set up camp and you and I are going to get a taxi to the nearest urgent care center.  You don’t have a choice in this.  You need medical attention.”  I burst into tears.  Those tears that opened a floodgate of emotions.   I was standing there with the right side of my face so swollen from two mosquito bites that I could not see out of my right eye.  My left thigh had an infection from a spider bite that I had gotten while riding my bicycle the previous day.  I knew I needed medical attention. I also knew that I would not be able to finish the ninety day adventure of a lifetime: a bicycle trek across the northern border of the United States.   Those were tears of failure

We had started our ride three weeks earlier in Bar Harbor Maine. Now were in upstate New York and had traversed three mountain ranges spread over four states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.   But we had really started our trip a few years before the actual physical start of the ride.  Pat and I have been friends for over seven years. We met during a 2006 7-day bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.   I knew right then we were going to be friends forever.  Pat began to share her dream to ride across the United States, camping along the way.  I told her that I hoped she would be able to find someone to join her because I don’t do camping and I couldn’t take off work three months for a bike ride.

God however, (insert the universe, fate, or whatever works for you here) has a funny way of working in my life and apparently he wanted me to learn to camp.  But first I would have to answer my very seriously ill Mother’s call for help in the final few years of her life, then I was laid off from a lucrative IT contract in 2010, and next I fell with what was ultimately diagnosed as mixed connective tissue disease: an autoimmune disease that left me very weak and wracked with chronic pain in my joints and soft tissue. 

The pain was so debilitating I was unable to work. My husband and I moved to a much smaller house.   We had to learn to live off of one check, and that meant giving up one of our cars as well and learning to use our bikes as transportation.  The wonderful irony of this was that riding my bike gave me relief from the pain and helped me learn to better manage this challenging condition. Pat has Rheumatoid Arthritis and has helped me by immeasurably by implanting a vision of health and hope within the confines of my diagnoses.   

Pat was so talented with this vision implanting that she talked me into a short trip from Los Angeles to San Diego to try out bicycle camping and to see if we were compatible travelers. Even with my new health challenges (or perhaps even more so because of them) she was determined she and I would someday ride across the U.S. together. Everything that could go wrong went wrong during that short trip but we always worked together to solve our situations (not problems!). At the end of that trip, I knew I could make the much longer trip and be okay with self-contained bicycle camping.  We chose 2012 to make our trek because in 2013 we would both turn 60.  Happy birthday to us!

Let’s go back to upstate New York. After seeing a doctor in the urgent care center, I convalesced for a week than flew home.   I also shipped my bike and camping equipment home.  I had a hard time swallowing my failure but I changed my heart and mind when I considered one of my favorite quotes from the Bible in Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

Good things came into my life because I was home early from that trip to receive them.   I met Melissa Balmer, who introduced me to the bicycle advocacy community and recruited me to be a part of Women on Bikes California and PedalLove.org.  She was instrumental in getting me a scholarship to become licensed by the League of American Bicyclists to teach bicycle safety classes.  I realized quickly that my years of experience as a trainer in the IT realm were skills I needed both in teaching bike safety classes and engaging more of the community in bike advocacy. Since then, my new vocation and how it helps me successfully manage a chronic disease have been featured in American Bicycling. Momentum Magazine and several local newspapers.  I now teach bicycle safety classes for adults and children. I have even been able to earn income from my love of all things bicycling, and this fresh new career is just getting started.

My risk paid off in teaching me that not finishing what I started does not mean I am a failure.  It only means that I didn’t finish. I also learned to listen to God and trust that his plan for my life is ultimately much better than the plan that I had in mind. Pat and I will be getting together this September for our annual California coastal bike camping trip. Stay tuned and I’ll share next how city girls can learn to love camping by bike. Questions? I'd love to hear from you! Write to me at Kellie_Morris (at) hotmail.com.

The Glowing Bicyclist by Kellie Morris

The gym uniforms we wore in Middle and High school just reinforced the old saying: men sweat and women glow. When you are wearing a starched, white, 100% cotton, cap-sleeve blouse closed my snaps, you’re going to do everything you can to NOT sweat in PE class. I’ve dated myself! There were two reasons for that aversion to sweat;

1)  You had to wash, starch and iron that blouse into submission so it was stiff enough to stand on its own.  I remember the crunching sound my blouse made whenever I moved.  Crunching was a good thing: you had penetrated that cotton with the recommended amount of starch.  

2) If we sweated we would have to disrobe in front of all the other girls and take a shower! Yuk!

Fast forward a few decades and I have gotten over my aversion to sweating (and showering) when it’s appropriate for me to sweat. I usually pace my bike rides to match the type of riding I’m doing:

  • Workout = major sweat
  • Running errands = minor sweat
  • Communing = glowing 

I have discovered the perfect way to glow over longer distances: riding an electric bicycle (also known as an ebike)!  My husband and I have rented Pedego  ebikes from the Greater Long Beach Pedego dealer twice in the last 6 months (we used an Amazon Local deal).  Beth and Brian own the shop and took the time to explain how to operate the ebike safely.

We were hooked the minute we took off from the parking lot. For our first rental we rode bikes with a throttle near the right handgrip. When we needed some speed we rotated the throttle toward us. If we didn’t need assistance, we just pedaled the bike, shifting as needed.   We also tried the pedal assist, known as pedelec ebike. That was so much fun! You set the percentage of help you want and the bike gives you assistance as long as you are pedaling. Talk about Pedal Love.

I decided to check out an ebike shop that carries several brands of ebikes.  My research pointed to Electric Bikes Los Angeles  located in El Segundo.   It was hard to interview Craig Savage, the Sales and Service manager because I was rubber necking all the beautiful ebikes and folding bikes in stock.  I also was able to talk to a few ebike owners who were all very enthusiastic about their purchase. My hands were itching to try a few models. I settled on the two biggest  pedelec sellers:  Stromer and Easy-Motion (e-motion). 

So why would someone buy an ebike, especially since you will pay $2000-$4000 for a quality bike? I already own three bikes so I have to come up with solid excuses to talk my hubby into buying another bike!   So here’s my logical list (no emotion involved!) of “Why buy an ebike?”:

  • It opens up more opportunities to ride your bike for running errands, commuting and getting around town.
  • It’s a great way for someone improving their health by getting into a sport. The healthier they become the less they may use the pedal assist.
  • It will allow a slower bicyclist to keep up with faster bicyclists (note: it’s a way to get others to join you on a ride
  • It can assist in disease management – I cycle regularly to help manage the level of my chronic pain; The more I exercise the less medication I need to take.
  • Riding a bike might take too much effort if you live in hilly or windy area.
  • It will blow away all the excuses you have for NOT riding.
  • It will take less time commuting than riding a regular bike and it might take less time than driving, depending on the traffic and commuting distance.

There are some downsides to owning an ebike

  • They are heavier than a regular bike
  • You do need to charge the battery
  • It costs more than an non-electric bike

Now let’s get radical: It could replace a second car for local trips.  If you replaced a car, you would:

  • No longer buy gas
  • No longer need insurance (but probably want to purchase bike insurance)
  • No longer pay the DMV for vehicle registration
  • Be legal to ride on bike paths and streets
  • Pay less for maintenance than you would for a car
  • Always have a free parking space near the front door of your destination
  • Never get a parking ticket!

Has this overview got you curious to learn more about ebikes? Try electricbike.com for lots of information and articles about ebikes.  There is also a very informative presentation, ebikes in the United States, put together by John MacArthur, Portland State University.   To me the most surprising stats gathered from the ebike owner survey addressed ebike use:

  • 94% indicated they had rode a standard bike as an adult
  • 55% rode their standard bike weekly or daily prior to e-bike purchase --this went up to 93% after purchase
  • Of the 6% that hadn’t rode a bike as an adult, of those 89% ride their e-bike daily or weekly
  • Over 90% use their e-bikes weekly or daily

Part two of the Glowing Bicyclist will look into converting your current bike to an ebike along with other ways to glow while you go on your bike!  Have comments? Ideas? Suggestions? Please leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you!

About Kellie


Kellie did her first multiday, fund-raising bike ride in 2002 after a co-worker dared her to take up the challenge - the seven-day ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In 2010 Kellie was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease: Mixed Connective Tissue disease that left her so weak she could barely dress herself. Through medication, dietary changes and exercise she was able to recover much of her strength.  Kellie does most of her local trips on her trike including shopping, running errands, attending fitness classes, visiting friends and even riding to church. In May 2013 Kellie became a certified bicycling instructor via The League of American Bicyclists. She now teaches throughout Long Beach and Los Angeles. Image by Lisa Beth Anderson.