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Smoke and Mirrors: My Vacation on Social Media

I posted 3 weeks ago about the proposed surveillance of social media by the Social Security Administration.  This may be preaching to the choir, but I took a bike trip last weekend and my experience highlighted the problem with this idea.

It was too soon after a major pain episode for me to take a bike overnight, but I had just sold my condo at a profit after years with an underwater mortgage, and I wanted to celebrate. Besides, I’m never ready for my first big rides of the season. That’s why I go—because after I get home and recover, I’m at the next level and can keep building on that. It takes a few overdos to get to peak touring condition in July. I missed last year’s touring season because of my knee injury, and I’m all about getting back in the game.

I left Friday for the hostel on Jericho Beach in Vancouver, BC (just 75 miles from my home in Washington), to ride the waterfront trail around the city on Saturday. I hoped to cross the Lion’s Gate Bridge and go to Ambleside Park, where there is almost always live music and a food truck or two. The newly built Spirit Trail through North Van is a joy to ride, with its fresh asphalt surface free from tree roots and frost heaves.

I stopped on the way up to visit a friend in Surrey and pick up some organizers I’d ordered from a Canadian company that doesn’t ship to the US. We visited until late afternoon and I drove on to the hostel.

I realized I’d forgotten to ask for a bottom bunk, but after 2 months of steep loft stairs and a ladder to my storage loft, it didn’t matter. I shinnied up to the top like a tree monkey and made my bed with ease. The remaining disadvantage to the bottom bunk is there is no place to sit or take a quick break; you have to go out to the common area.

I went out on my bike to get dinner, buy tomorrow’s breakfast, and visit my favorite bookstore. My first Facebook post of the trip included shots of the waterfront at sunset as I rode back to the hostel—rabbits all over Jericho Park, giant horse chestnuts in bloom, and lighted ships anchored for the night in Burrard Inlet. There was one shot of my bike and longtime travel companion, Silver.

Not posted:  My spine reached the end of its broadcast day while I was slurping down won tons in peanut sauce at the Iron Wok. I spent maybe 5 minutes in Banyen Books, my happy place, because I was too sore to walk around, but I bought a bar of patchouli soap to commemorate the visit. I got into my top bunk with my contraband inflatable sleeping pad, because I can’t sleep in a hostel bunk without a little help. Still, I was in agony and took twice my prescribed dose of pain meds to get through the night, plus a CBD capsule I got from my friend.

When I woke up in the morning, I was in such pain that I was truly afraid I’d throw up. When hot flashes came on, I sat down to breathe through them—that’s when I’ll hurl if I’m going to. I headed down 2 flights of stairs to the kitchen for breakfast. There I met Mel, another older woman with purple hair from Toronto, and had a delightful hour-long chat that distracted me from my pain while my extra meds kicked in. Soon I was able to take off on Silver for my waterfront ride.

We resume our posted vacation:  My friends saw my lunchtime veggie dog from Mr. Tube Steak, with Sriracha sauce and Dijon mustard, most of which I wore home on my purple fleece sweater.

At about kilometer 21, I reached the approach to the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Crossing the bridge is my favorite part of any ride, but my legs were already spaghetti and my back, neck and shoulders were complaining loudly about their night in the hostel. I could keep going and turn it into a grim death march, or I could enjoy the ride back the way I came. I’ve ridden across that bridge at least 3 times now, and I would rather enjoy my next time than force it. When I set out on the ride that morning, I was anxious to reclaim the ground I lost during my knee injury. Now, full of cycling endorphins, I was in a place of gratitude that I was improving, and I was in no hurry to get there. I turned back without regret.

I hit a wall around kilometer 30—cyclists call this “bonking.” When your blood sugar crashes, your energy tanks, and you still have miles to go. I pulled over at the Coffee Bike and got a strong coffee with a Russian pastry. I felt a little reconstituted and posted a perky selfie. With 2 more breaks, I made it back to my car for a total of 41 kilometers, or 26 miles.

It wasn’t very safe to drive straight home after that, but I did it because I was checked out of the hostel and had no place to grab a nap. I got a nourishing take-out meal on the way home. That evening’s posting included scenes from my waterfront ride, and the joyful reunion with my cats when I got home.

My friends saw happy scenes of me riding my bike around Vancouver and heard stories of funny things that happened at the hostel and around town. They saw me staying in a hostel, which is traditionally associated with young people, and enjoying a bike ride that would be a bit of a haul for any healthy person. That is what a SSA case worker would see too.

The case worker would not see the night of severe pain, the morning when I was physically ill with it, or the care I took to find seats with backs for my off-bike breaks. The case worker would not know why I had lunch at a trailside food cart rather than waiting in a long line at the Granville Island Market, where I would have had a much better meal. They would not see me carefully log my extra doses of pain meds, put the night brace on my hand, or surreptitiously roll up my 3 inflatables I carry to make the hostel bed bearable. They would not know about the following day that I spent watching TV like a zombie as my body recovered from the ordeal. And they definitely wouldn’t appreciate the grit and courage it takes to keep going back and taking these trips over and over again—because I’d rather be in the game than on the sidelines, even if it hurts.

I don’t want to do honest posts about the shadow side of my trips every time. I don’t want my friends to pity me, I want them to include me in their world. Social media helps me feel normal. I deserve that. I don’t deserve to have my issues diminished or my needed benefits denied because of a little selective sharing.

It takes a lot of adrenalin to go on these bike adventures; a level I can’t sustain every day. Plus, the cycling is usually build-up activity while working is usually tear-down activity Social media surveillance would reveal nothing but our skill with smoke and mirrors.

Smoke and Mirrors: My Vacation on Social Media

Kristin Noreen

Kristin Noreen lives in Bellingham, Washington with two cats and her vintage touring bicycle, Silver. Her triple passions are animal rescue, long-distance bike touring, and writing. Her book, On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed, is about reinventing her life following a catastrophic injury.

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APA Reference
, . (2019). Smoke and Mirrors: My Vacation on Social Media. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 May 2019
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