To the Road - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

July 22, 2014

To the Road

Give me a bicycle and give me time. I'll take care of the rest.

I will leave the city behind and crank my way into the country. I will camp in places where I'm not supposed to camp. I will call out to cows that stare confused from beyond the fence line. I'll end most days hungry, exhausted, used up — and then wake early the next morning feeling refreshed. After a few yawns and stretches I'll feel ready to do it all over again. The passage of time will slow down, because each day will fill itself with roads and mountains and rivers and towns I've never before seen; because many of those things will be worth looking at and thinking about and then committing to memory; because routine and consistency will fade away. I'll spit at road signs like it's a game. I will learn the dreams, the secrets, and the regrets of people I've never met before and will never see again.

My legs and back and shoulders and arms will grow strong and any squish around my middle will vanish. I'll stop paying attention to the news and pro sports and other kinds of entertainment. I'll sleep better on an inch-thick pad in a tent on a patch of dirt among the bushes and trees than I do on a mattress and box spring and stacks of pillows indoors. I will wash my cycling shorts far less often than I should. I will be impressed again and again by the kindness of strangers, the helpfulness of strangers, and the strangeness of strangers. I'll swim in the softness of subtle but constant waves of endorphins. I'll look forward to the change that happens after like three weeks on the road, that point where traveling stops feeling like a vacation and simply becomes my life. I will leave in my wake a series of impossibly clogged toilets.

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I will lose myself in the moments that only seem to come when I adventure by bicycle: watching fields of wheat dance on the breeze as they fade into the horizon; leaning into the curve of the road as it follows the tight oxbow of a river; looking out at tree trunks turned naked and white along the path of a forest fire for as far as I can see; rushing to catch a ferry; slowing down to savor the stillness of the world just before sunrise; feeling the cool wetness of the air around a marsh rush over my body long before I ever see the water; dodging clouds of mosquitoes that only become visible when spotlit by sunbeams falling between the trees that crowd the road's edge.

I'll also be pushed back by the steep hills, turned dry-mouthed and dehydrated by the heat, bit by the bugs, annoyed by the flat tires, disgusted by the bathrooms that haven't been cleaned since the Reagan administration, and aggravated by the drivers who pass too close. These things will of course be difficult, in the way that anything worth doing is difficult. As they happen I'll find myself sinking into anger or frustration or defeat. I will whisper, grumble, yell, or say in my head motherfucker more times than I can count. But counties and states and then entire countries will fall beneath my wheels, and when I look back with the benefit of perspective, time will have scraped away the harshness, rubbed out the ugly parts, and left behind only the most wonderful memories.

Bicycle travel is one of just a few things I've yet experienced in life that extends beyond happiness to fulfillment. It has the ability to deliver me to a place where life pushes forward at this level where I feel it in my bones, in my nerve endings, all the way down (as David Foster Wallace so eloquently put it) to my butthole. It's a state where the colors are brighter and the jokes funnier, where the world's harsh edges don't cut quite as deep, where when I take a moment to stop and think about what's happening to me there's this combination of happiness and contentment and appreciation for how it makes me almost vibrate. These brief periods of joy make the unremarkable weeks and months and years of everyday life worth the effort. They're the reason I don't want to grow old and die, because that means I'll never again have the privilege of living them.

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