Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sometimes, You Get What You Need

This summer was supposed to be my season of climbing. Last year, I covered more miles than I ever had and I wanted a different challenge for this particular summer. I have nothing against completing longer rides, but since climbing is such a sore spot for me, I thought it would be a good challenge. A few epic-for-me climbs did take place, but as a general rule, I haven't been great about accomplishing the goal. Now, here I am, summer drawing to a close and realizing just how non-eventful riding really was over the last several months. It's okay to me for riding to not always be glorious and wonderful, but I have struggled with the realization that I haven't pushed myself much this year. There are reasons for it - both real and imagined - but it's easy to start feeling less than accomplished or downright depressed at times.
I have found this summer that I really needed to take more slow, non-purposeful rides than ever before. I needed to allow myself to stop and literally smell the roses (or manure as was often the case). It's challenging to struggle with a side of myself that wants to always achieve something more, but at the same time realize that my body and/or equipment isn't ready to cooperate with my wants and desires. Trying to push through isn't always the answer, I've found.

On trend with what has been more typical this summer, I found myself out on a ride. I didn't know where I was going and wasn't entirely sure I even wanted to be out on a bicycle at all. I have been struggling with a lot of demons this summer and most of the time, I have to be honest, the demons have won out. There are times when my only sanity is simply to get on two wheels and let it all out on the road in front of me, but sometimes, just getting myself motivated to get out has been a struggle.

As I rounded a corner I'm all too familiar with, I knew I needed something different this particular day. I couldn't stand the idea of taking a route I've been on innumerable times and I didn't have it in me to attempt to figure out a new path either. As I continued riding, I made it to the other side of a neighborhood and rolled down a hill. I realized there was a dirt path right in front of me that I'd never traveled. No time like the present, I thought; and with that, I headed down a bumpy, unknown path.

There's something exciting to me about cycling on a road I don't know. Even when I'm familiar with all of the roads that surround or intersect it, there's something magical about the idea of traveling a specific trail I haven't experienced. This particular road was a little tough to travel because of its condition in spots, but I didn't seem to care. As I looked around, I realized there was a trailhead just off the road. How didn't I know this was here? I reminded myself it could be a great spot to return to as the weather cools and the dogs want a new adventure on foot.
The path was hot. There hadn't been any shade for some time and I grabbed a swig of water before realizing I hadn't seen another soul on this road at all. I wasn't concerned as I was surrounded by farms and homes with lots of open space. It was rather nice to be on a road that didn't have cyclists racing by or cars swerving into me, so I just enjoyed taking in the new sights and smells.
There were cows, sheep, and horses. There were small lakes I didn't even know existed. It was just a pleasant time to be out on a bike, even if I did appear to be riding a non-stop climb. As if out of nowhere, suddenly some shade appeared and I was thankful for some relief from the sun that felt far warmer than it should for late September.
I continued to climb, knowing that even if the road dead-ended, I could always turn around and come back down. I could see a stop sign warning in the distance, so I knew there would be a road crossing of some sort. When I reached the sign, I realized it was another dirt road that would force me to choose one path over the other, as my road was coming to an end. Back down the climb, or continue on? It was an easy decision because I wanted to see where the new path would connect me.
One of the things that struck me as I rode was that this place could be any number of other locations I've been or lived. The peek-a-boo shot above reminded me of a similar photo taken on the Presidio in San Francisco a decade ago and of another taken in Madison, Wisconsin. Perhaps the foliage is different and the view through the trees changes a bit, but it's amazing how similar places really can be from one coast to another, and at many places in between.
As I continued on some rolling dirt hills, I came upon a man on his horse enjoying the afternoon sun. He seemed to be struggling a bit to keep the horse on the path he wanted to travel, and I couldn't help but identify with the horse just a bit. He (or she) seemed simply to want to go off on his/her own path and not down the one they were headed. Was it a path the horse knew well? Had s/he had a bad experience there? Who could know, but in that moment I felt a connection to the beautiful four-legged animal.
The unknown portion of the ride was coming to an end as I intersected with a paved road I travel quite often. As an added bonus, I finally got to see the buffalo I've been trying to get photos of for weeks, but somehow seem to miss every time I go by.

As I rode the rest of the way home I knew that I may have missed having an epic summer on the bike, but it had its own greatness. I think I found ways to acknowledge the small victories as much as the bigger ones. I can't ever really know where life is leading or what's coming around the next bend, but I can always take the time to appreciate the present for all its grand moments, and the seemingly trivial happenings... and what better way to do so than on a bicycle.


  1. "...what better way to do so than on a bike." Indeed! I loved this post. I felt like I was coming along with you, wondering what road would intersect that dirt road. I was hoping you wouldn't turn around and go back the way you came and gave a little cheer when you didn't. I, too, love to go and see where a road leads. Who needs an epic ride when you can have a satisfying day letting your curiosity lead you down an unknown road?

    1. :O) Sometimes, it really does seem easier to go back the way I know, but I'm glad I continued on... and hopefully, I can find more of these unknown spots because it was really enjoyable!

    2. Looks like you had an incredible ride. Lots of stuff to see. Beautiful day.


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