Forks in the Road? - CycleBlaze

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Forks in the Road?

Graham Smith

Yogi Berra said that if you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Because my next tour will coincide with a significant metaphorical fork in the road for my working life, I’ve started thinking back over 40+ years of cycle touring and noticed that each of my major (longish) cycle tours also coincided with major life changes. Major forks in the road of life such as marriage, new careers, ending careers, kids leaving home and so on, were also when I did a fairly long, or complex cycle tour.

This correlation shouldn’t be surprising I suppose, but I hadn’t really articulated this apparent link until I started my most recent journal and began digging back into the old memory and old photos. It could be said that my life journey has been unwittingly punctuated by cycle tours into a series of paragraphs and chapters. 

The question is, have others noticed that their cycle tours were either caused by, or were causes of, major changes in their life journey?
Or am I blazing this cycle touring and life change correlation solo in my imagination? 

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5 months ago
John SaxbyTo Graham Smith

Just opened my laptop after a restorative 75 minutes of Sunday morning yoga, and--lo!--there, of all things, was a Berra-ism!  Thank you, Graham  :-)

I saw the headline first, "Forks in the road?" and thought, "Can Berra be well known in 'Straya?" Seems that berra Can, indeed, so good on ya, mate. 

A wee tangent or two if I may, following the forky road before replying to your query.  The great man had his own way with words, at least as unorthodox as his batting style (he was notorious for swinging at, and hitting, balls outside the strike zone.)  Reflecting on the complexities of baseball (such as hitting a round ball with a round bat, squarely), he said, we are told, "Ninety per cent of this game is half mental." He was evidently no slouch with numbers, either--that phrase is vastly more compelling than saying, "This game is 45% mental."

Towards the end of his career, with his knees shot from years of crouching behind the plate, he was moved to play left field so that the team could keep his still productive bat in the lineup.  At least a couple of splendid unintended linguistic consequences followed.  Left field in the old Yankee Stadium was a terrible place to play daytime games, as deep shadows enveloped that part of the field in late afternoon, making it hard for left fielders to track the ball when it was hit into the air. Yogi observed, "It gets late early out here."  And perhaps because of the shadows, he dropped an easy catch one day. "I nonchalanted that one," he told reporters. Imagine! Nowadays, just about anyone with a keyboard can turn a noun into a clunky verb; using a multi-syllable adjective and the past tense is something else again.

But you were asking about watershed moments, if I can stand Berra's two-pronged fork on end:  Mine happened in early October 2012, after the end of my first long-ish tour, from Amsterdam to Vienna.  I had made that journey as a treat to myself for turning 65 that summer, encouraged to do to by wife, Marcia, and our daughter, Meg, who was then living in Berlin. "Great idea, Dad.  I'll take the train and meet you in Vienna!" We made a family holiday out of it, with Meg and I taking DB's splendid "Vindobona" train from Vienna to Prague en route to its northern terminus in Hamburg.  (Nice touch in names: Vindobona is the Latin name of the old Roman military camp-cum fortified town along the northern limes of the empire.) Marcia joined us in Prague, and--with apologies for the shameless namedropping--we were looking back on years together at a café table high above the Vltava. I realized, and then said, that I'd been away from my laptop and email for four weeks--and I didn't miss All That one little bit.

I decided then & there to wrap up my money-earning working life over the next couple of years, and did so, following the same schedule as Marcia. "What are you doing these days, John?" people would ask.  "No more deadlines, no more deliverables," I would reply.  Over forty-some years of regular jobs and consulting, I had been privileged to do hugely interesting work in many parts of the world, especially in South-Central Africa and Brazil. (I owe a great deal to the peoples of those parts of the world, but you shouldn't blame them for anything I say or do.)  But, I'd grown tired of the travel and the administrivia required to do that work, and decided to spend more time on two wheels.

The Rhine-Danube safari was thus my "Ah-ha!" moment, if not the cause of my choice.  Its consequences included first, a couple of weeks in touring Denmark, Sweden, and northern Germany in 2014, cycling through the Brandenburg Gate to visit Meg; and my next long-ish tour followed, a month in the Rockies and Cascadia in June/July 2016.

So no -- you're not alone, Graham, and thanks as always for posing another of your thoughtful questions.  I'm sure you'll get lots of other replies.

Cheers,  John

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5 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Saxby

Thanks for that example John. That’s exactly the type of sudden change of direction   related to cycle touring I had in mind.

And thanks also for reminding me of those other Berraisms. I may well borrow those sayings for posts or journal use. They are good ones. Especially the statistics on mental effort. They apply to cycle touring as well. Yogi would have been a champion cycle tourer. 

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5 months ago
John PescatoreTo Graham Smith

Most of my life and cycling/touring decisions seemed pretty random at the time, what turned out to be real forks in the road at the time just appeared to be insignificant and random choices.  But, when I think back I realize I'd been unknowingly preparing before that point and it makes the overall decisions and route look consistent and purposeful - but it was anything but!

The appropriate Yogi-isms:

  • How can you think and hit at the same time?
  • You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

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5 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Pescatore

Thanks John, especially for that second Yogi-ism. I haven’t heard that one before, and it is a very apt saying to use when reflecting about cycle touring. 

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5 months ago
John PescatoreTo Graham Smith

I'm 63, born in Brooklyn NY and grew up in Long Island.  Yogi Berra was at the end of his career with the Yankees when I was a little kid but my father and uncles (and by extension, me) were all Yankee's fans  because Yogi was the most prominent Italian-American in sports. 

I grew up thinking the World Series meant some other team played the Yankees but then Yogi went on to be a coach with the Mets during the years when they lost record amounts of games. After a few years of Yogi-isms, in 1969 (when I was 12) the Miracle Mets won the World Series, further cementing Yogi's reputation!

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4 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Pescatore

John that’s fascinating. I’m also 63 and only discovered Yogi Berra via cycle touring. My wife, eldest son and I visited (not cycle touring) the USA a few years. We went to NYC, New Jersey, Brooklyn but still didn’t learn about Yogi. Then we hopped over to the West Coast (by plane) to Seattle and used Amtrak to work our way down to LA.

On the way to LA we went to Eugene Oregon to collect Bike Friday (BF) folding bikes we’d pre-ordered.  The sales rep for BF handling Australian orders was a fellow called Peter Berra. He collected us at Eugene Railway station and introduced himself as Peter, but he said everyone called him ‘Yogi’. That caught my attention.

So I met a Yogi Berra who sold us our folding touring bikes, and sparked my curiosity to find out more about the amazing original  ‘Yogi Berra’. 

And as John Saxby pointed out, I live in Canberra, often mispronounced as Can Berra :) 

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4 months ago
John SaxbyTo Graham Smith

And as John Saxby pointed out, I live in Canberra, often mispronounced as Can Berra :)

Couldn't resist the jeu de mot, Graham -- tho' I confess I thought of it only in assembling a reply to your question.

Our yoga teacher--regularly surrounded by yogis, of course--is also a keen baseball fan, & old enough to appreciate the homespun wisdom of the great man.  Lotsa tangents in his classes, as you might guess.

And thanks, John, for reminding us of Yogi's inimitable approach to route-finding.  (Not his, I know, but I always liked the observation that "If you don't know where you're going, pretty much any route will get you there."  It works just as well if reworked as, "If you don't care where you're going, pretty much any route will get you there."

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4 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Saxby

John this thread is unintentionally turning out to be a source of ideas and inspiration for my current journal which organically began with more retrospection than I’d originally meant it to be.

Travel and navigation directions lend themselves to life journey metaphors as the great Yogi’s examples show. Those Yogi-isms remind me of an old joke variously attributed to Scotland, Ireland and probably other countries.  The traveller asks the villager how to get to a destination. The villager replies instantly in an earthy rural accent, “You can’t get there from here.” 

My realisation from this Yogi flavoured thread is that this joke could also be a metaphor for all sorts of non-geographic situations. Age, financial,  health, family, career and so on. There’s always someone (especially our inner self) who will say we can’t get from whatever context we are embedded in, to somewhere better or different.

That’s another wonderful lesson from cycle touring. Discovering that insurmountable barriers aren’t really insurmountable. They often only appear impossible to cross until we actually get out there on a bicycle, and keep moving forward, albeit with occasional stops to reflect and ponder.

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4 months ago
John PescatoreTo Graham Smith

Graham, a New England variant on "You can't get there from here" is when you stop and ask directions of someone from New England and they say:

"If I was going theyuh, I wouldn't start from heah."

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4 months ago