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The Sweet Smell of Happiness


August 2016

My brothers and I would stay up north, at my grandma’s house, for a week or two every summer.  Alpena, Michigan, right on Lake Huron.  We would play with the neighborhood kids all day long, never setting foot indoors until it was dinner time.  We would swim in a neighbor’s pool, an in-ground monster with a 10′ deep end and a diving board.  Those were the days!

Fast forward ten years and I’m a teenager.  I’ve got my own car and those days are well behind me.  I’ve got things to do and places to be!  I’ve got a job so I can feed the car.  Sadly, nobody’s ever made their millions working the drive-thru at a hamburger joint.

Fast forward five more years and those childhood days aren’t even a memory, they’re gone.  I’ve morphed from an awkward kid to an insecure kid to a full-blown alcoholic.  I’ve got money problems, legal problems and nothing I try can fix the predicament I created.  Survival instincts have kicked in and I’m too worried about my next drink to bother with thinking about when I was a kid – or how far I’ve fallen.

Fast forward another five years and I’ve sobered up.  God has done for me what I couldn’t do for myself.  Now it’s time to make up for those lost years.  Life is all about making something of myself now.  No time for anything other than work but rollerblading at the local county park…  This is where I learned that fitness is almost as important to sobriety as air and willingness.

Fast forward five more years and I’m engaged to be married.  My wife and I have a small house, I have a steady job and I am fully committed to living a sober life.  I am finally an adult.

Fast forward five more years and I’m a runner now.  We’re out for a run and I’m pushing my daughters in a double running stroller.  I have a career now and my wife and I are not exactly happy together but we’re making it.  I am sober and just trying to figure life out.  It’s hot and humid…  That’s when I run through a wood-lined section of road and a sweet smell takes me back to those days of playing up north at my grandma’s house with my friends.  I have no idea what it is, but it makes me happy.

Fast forward ten years.  You guessed it, still happily sober but my wife and I have figured our marriage out (with a lot of help) and we’re in the middle of the happiest streak we’ve ever had.  I’ve been into cycling for a few years now, having trained for and done a couple of triathlons and deciding the swim and run were messing up a perfectly good bike ride.  In fact, one of the best parts of riding is the fact that I ride through that favorite smell of mine a lot more often.  It seems every week or so now, I get that waft of pure joy.  I still can’t figure out what it is but it makes me happy like nothing else I know.

Fast forward to the ride from Lansing to Mackinaw City last year, on the fourth day.  The day before, I rode through that sweet smell in the air so many times I lost count.  Today we’re riding up the coast of Lake Michigan and I’m in the middle of at least a two-mile-long stretch and that sweet smell of my awesome childhood surrounds me.  I have a grin stretched from ear to ear, enjoying the sunshine and looking all around me.  And that’s where it finally hit me.

It’s the sweet smell of cedar.

The one smell on this earth that takes me back instantly to those perfect carefree days, playing in my grandma’s neighborhood is the smell of cedar.  Not Godforsaken cedar chips, actual, real cedar trees.  Combine that with the one activity that makes me feel like a kid again, cycling, and it’s nirvana.

Soon I’ll complete that journey again.  Day three and four are gonna be awesome



  1. Sandra says:

    It’s amazing how a smell can trigger a reaction like that!

    Nirvana indeed. Happy riding!

  2. bribikes says:

    Wow, you made me tear up! This is beautiful, Jim šŸ™‚

    Ride on!

  3. fitnessgrad says:

    Awww, this was very heartfelt, you are such a good writer when it comes to targeting your audience’s emotions, you may not ALWAYS mean to, but you write very well.I am proud that you can look back at all those happy moments and smile. I have some smiles I can look back on myself, when you brought up “playing in my grandma’s neighborhood”, I could picture myself doing the same! haha. Goodness, we get older but the best part of getting “old” is remembering everything you did when you were young and laughing about it šŸ˜€ also sharing it with others! great post.


  4. Dude, that was a joy to read.

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