When Lewis Browning retired as a special education administrator at Evansville Vanderburgh Public Schools and the University of Southern Indiana, he rode off into the sunset — perched atop a bicycle and surrounded by a group of fellow bicycling enthusiasts.
An earlier group of cycling buddies disbanded around 2000. Eight years later, a conversation with a passerby sparked Browning’s interest in reviving the group. But threading his way through city streets didn’t appeal to him; he wanted an enduring and challenging route, but away from vehicles. So Browning ventured out of town, and more than 20 years later, the new bicycle club has up to a dozen members and a detailed book of its routes, “Biking the Backroads,” published by Browning this spring.
“People would say to me, ‘You should map these routes,’” Browning says. “For the cyclists riding in town, I know that if they knew they could get out to Poseyville or Elberfeld or Rockport, they’d never encounter any busy traffic. It’s just that they don’t know where to go.”
50 county routes — 32 in southern Indiana, 18 in western Kentucky — are plotted out. Each course’s ease, terrain, vehicle traffic volume, and resting points are meticulously logged. Browning personally tests each route, assessing its difficulty and safety two or three times before deciding whether to add it to the group’s list. Cyclists often gather monthly, driving to a meeting spot outside of Evansville and then beginning their ride, with a meal break slotted into each itinerary.
Browning says the camaraderie is in large part what makes each trip enjoyable, but cutting through rolling hills and forests is also tough to beat.
“One of the most fun things I do in my life is ride my bicycle. You get to see scenery, old buildings,” he says.
Browning’s book of bicycle routes can be purchased at Scheller’s Fitness & Cycling in Evansville, Cycling Solutions Bicycle Shop in Newburgh, Indiana, and the Henderson Tourist Commission in Henderson, Kentucky.
Staying a Step Ahead
Meditation gives the mind a break
By Grace Stevens
The deprivation of social outlets throughout the pandemic has shed light on the importance of human connection and its relationship to the way that people think, feel, and behave.
Connecting to others is the root of our species’ survival. It has allowed us to reproduce, share our gifts and talents within our community, and provide necessary support for others during their life span.
Not only do we collectively benefit from our connection to others, we are able to improve our own physical, emotional, and mental well-being through it. Research shows social connection boosts self-esteem, helps regulate emotions, and expands empathy and understanding, while isolation and loneliness negatively impact physical health more than smoking, high blood pressure, or obesity. A lack of social connection also increases the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and depression.
Social connection is the feeling of closeness and belonging to others. It is not achieved through a specific number of friends or likes on social platforms, but is instead found through the meaningfulness and consistency of social interaction. We experience connection when we feel heard, supported, and understood. A moment, a meal, and laughter all feel deeper and more important when shared with another person.
In psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, he explains that basic needs are primary, followed by the need of safety and security. The next level, and the root of human psychological needs, is relationships and a sense of belonging. When these needs are not met, we are unable to function at our highest potential. The perception that wealth, success, or power will give us a sense of fulfillment is actually masking a true eagerness for belonging and acceptance. Therefore, recognizing the importance of relationships and integrating more social connection into your life will support you in feeling your best and achieving your goals.
To learn more about psychotherapy and Grace Stevens, check out Growing through Grace at growingthrough