Friday, September 1, 2017

Total Eclipse (of my brain)

Just shy of a couple of weeks ago, I set out to do a short, 5-10 mile ride. I was preparing for a race and in the days prior, I wanted to keep my legs loose, but not get into any distance or speed. I had a mental plan of the week before the event, so even though this particular day was a rest day, I didn't want to sit around doing nothing.

At any rate, I decided I wanted to go out and check on a portion of our greenway that has been closed since the flooding almost four years ago. The city website stated that a connection to the east side won't be open until the end of next year, but I assumed that the other side of the path would be open and rideable. A nice, relaxing, short ride on the paved path sounded perfect.

When I arrived to the area, it became quickly evident that the path on the east side was also still not available for use. The choices in front of me had barricades and orange accoutrements placed all around, so it was obvious that work is still in progress. I was disappointed, but figured I could cut through a shopping center on the opposite side and ride the path to the southwest side of town and then head home.
At the end of the paved greenway headed in a south-western direction is the start of the LoBo trail, which connects the cities of Longmont and Boulder via a (mostly) packed gravel path. The LoBo is a fairly quiet, removed path that allows for travel through the small communities of Niwot and Gunbarrel in route to either of the aforementioned cities. It's been quite awhile since I've ridden the trail. In fact, I'm fairly certain it's been about 10 months since I've set foot or wheel on the path.

The LoBo is not the most efficient way to get to Boulder or Longmont, but it does remove riders, walkers and runners from the speed of motorized highway traffic, making it far more pleasant. The lack of efficiency though often causes me to avoid it because, as is the case for most humans in today's world, I seem to often have some sort of time crunch and need to get where I'm going. Instead, I travel along the shoulder of the highway next to the very loud cars and trucks, which is a much more direct route of about 15 mi/24 km (one way, give or take, depending on start and end point).

When I arrived at the start of the trail on this day, my intention was to make a turn north and head back home, but instead I decided to pedal a little farther out onto the gravel. There are plenty of ways out of the trail along the way if needed, so I figured it would give me an opportunity to check things out.

The weather and atmosphere were feeling a little strange; nearly a similar sensation to what I have experienced during tornado weather. Not that there was excessive wind, but there's something about the sky that changes when tornadoes are possible. 

As I pedaled along, I realized just how much I was enjoying this ride. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that was so enjoyable, but I was actually having fun -- something I later realized I haven't felt in quite awhile.
I continued on and soon found myself approaching two individuals sitting in folding beach chairs in the middle of the path. One of them noticed I was approaching and got up to move her chair over. As I went by, I wondered why they were sitting in the middle of the trail and what they were watching up in the sky. While passing, I looked over my shoulder and saw their eyes covered with different-looking glasses and realized they were out waiting for the solar eclipse.

D'oh!  ::Face palm::

The trees provided a nice filter for sun-gazing.
I had completely forgotten about the eclipse, which seems impossible given the amount of attention it had been receiving during the weeks prior. I wasn't particularly interested in the event, but was fascinated that so many people were taking time off of work and traveling to locations to see it.

As I kept pedaling, I came upon more and more people who were out staring at the sun with large, rectangular-shaped glasses covering their eyes. For some reason, it amused me. We did not have 100% eclipse locally, but it was pretty close (somewhere in the mid-90% range), so it made sense that people were out trying to see what they could.
Coming up around a bend, I approached a small group of men who shuffled to get out of the path as I got closer. Slowing slightly, I asked if they had seen anything good yet, and they (very enthusiastically) responded in the affirmative and offered to let me borrow a pair of their glasses. I declined because I didn't really want to stop this ride I was so thoroughly enjoying, but appreciated the sentiment and thanked them for their generosity as I continued on.

As I rode, I could not stop smiling. I was not pushing myself in the least, but was just enjoying what and where I was riding. There was this joy that felt ready to burst from within. I could not remember the last time I'd been so happy on a bicycle. I wish I could explain it fully, but there was simply something about this ride that was providing immense happiness.

I am on a bicycle at some point nearly every day, and I never hate being on a bike, but it had been such a long time since I felt so utterly and purely joyous about pedaling. Up and down I went over short, slightly steeper stretches and back to the flat areas. I spotted a field of sunflowers and couldn't help but grin ear to ear. I was enjoying every single second.
Before I realized it, I had pedaled my way to north Boulder. How did that happen? I knew that I had to head home, but I was shocked to see how far I'd traveled without even a thought of discomfort or awareness of the distance I'd need to travel to get home again.

The highway seemed like the reasonable choice to get back home, but even it was strangely quiet. During the miles traveled the traffic was nearly non-existent. It was as though aliens had taken most everyone, or a biblical rapture had taken place and left only a few of us behind. If I was one of those left behind, I could not have been happier. I really didn't want the ride to end.

Arriving home, I uploaded the trip (I'd decided to record it, even though I believed it would be short and slow) and discovered that I'd obtained several personal records on trail and road segments, which just made me laugh. I felt as though I'd been taking my time and yet somehow bested myself.

As I went about the day, I kept thinking about that feeling -- that happiness that lingered throughout the ride. Trying to determine what it was that had made me so ridiculously delighted was puzzling. Was it the fact that I had taken a path not traveled in many months? Was it the lack of pressure to perform in any particular way or at a certain pace? Still, that didn't entirely explain the complete euphoria throughout the ride.

I have tried without success since that day to figure out what made that ride such a pleasant experience, but I have little explanation for it. I cannot for the life of me stop thinking about it though. I can't help but want to repeat it over and over again. Perhaps it was just part of the solar eclipse experience. I may not have had much concern for the crossing of the moon between the earth and sun, but maybe it affected me more than I believed.

A bicycle ride almost always turns my mood around and makes me happy, but there was something inexplicably wonderful about this one. Have you experienced a ride like this -- one that was unusually exciting, happy, and effortless? What do you think made it so perfect? Have you been able to duplicate that feeling at will?

6 comments:

  1. What a delightful story! Like you, sometimes I have a ride that is simply, inexplicably wonderful, more so than usual. Take it when you can get it!

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  2. I have this feeling also, and it is generally when I don't have time constraints - lacking any record setting pace though! I love looking around me, discovering a unique home or lawn ornament, etc. It seems like I could ride forever...

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    1. It is really fun to see the items people put on their porches or in their yards. It makes it easy to keep pedaling to see what else can be found. I'm looking forward to seeing holiday decorations in the coming months too.

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  3. I don't know if Ive ever had a whole ride like yours, but I've certainly had bits of rides where I've felt "oh this is perfect!" And I sail along! Other times I might think I just want to turn round and go home - but I'm always glad I don't, and like you I always feel better for having been out on my bike. Beautifully written post by the way!

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    1. Even having those perfect moments during a ride is a fantastic feeling, isn't it? I was rather amazed to have an entire ride that felt so euphoric, but it really was wonderful. :)

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