Friday, January 08, 2021

My Very Big Adventure

Here is the day I reached 2,000 miles riding a bicycle.
It took about 18 months, and frequently recommitting to be very, very brave. To get me out there took Geoff being persuasive, a bit insistent, very consistent, and patient, which in the first 9 months I responded to with fear, doubt, firm refusal, petulant participation, reluctant acceptance, and intermittent panic. I remember the first time I wanted to ride... really felt voluntarily eager and willing, and it was at night, last spring. Owls were hooting, bats were flitting, the neighborhood, that had been steadily filling with joggers, and walkers, and newborn athletes stuck in lockdown, was finally quiet, and I really wanted to get out of the house. It was exhilerating, terrifying, bliss. It made me squeal from the cold air rushing against my unmasked face, from feeling like I was riding on the edge of the world, with only my headlight to light a narrow way, and everywhere else darkness, shadows, silhouettes of spindly branches. The familiar homes and turns were turned strange, and the streets were wide and empty. I rode fast and laughed aloud, spiritedly. I am still trying to figure out why, when I am scared to frozen of falling, of being hit, of losing control, of sirens, of having flashbacks, of being struck by a panic attack... why do I love riding at night? It's scarier at night, sort of. I ride faster at night, a bit. I feel freer at night, and in spring, I knew where we would hear the frogs singing, when to look up and see bats. At night there are fewer people, fewer cars. More than once I rode down the middle of the street, and it felt like I was riding down a river, like trailing a silk ribbon in moonlight and above me an owl was leading the way, flying overhead, up the river, between the rows of tree tops. Owls in flight remind me of snow, because they both make a beautiful, audible silence.

It takes two, opposite and essential, processes for me to manage riding... I need to maintain absolute focus on everything, the traffic, the possible traffic, and the hypothetical traffic, and I need to not get scared, anxious, confused, too comfortable, nor uncomfortable. I am holding space for a lot, and a lot of it are conditions or states of being that are seemingly diametrically opposed. The best part of riding is when I forget everything, when I want to pedal harder, and sing aloud, and love the ride, and that is always when I am snapped back into total recall of being struck head-on by a drunk driver, and my brain and fear seize control, remind me of all the perils, all the risks, and consequences of being at ease, happy. I promise, I don't actually dwell on this. I have done many, many things trying to forget, or manage, overcome, heal, move forward. Maybe, if I write it down, if I say it aloud, I can make sense of it, demystify or dismantle it. As it is, it, the panic and other ill-effects, show up uninvited, unexpected, and I don't know how to make it stop. I guess this is why I am kind of, completely, actually, amazed that I have ridden over 2,000 miles, because it hasn't been easy.

It hasn't be easy, but I like it. I like riding my bicycle. I like feeling stronger. I like smelling all the good dinners cooking in the homes we ride by, homes that are lit in the evenings with soft, warm lights, flickering televisions. I like bringing home limes from the neighbor, finding pinecones I can load in my basket, dropping off surprises. I like seeing holiday decorations going up, and watching children play in front of their homes, and waving at neighbors, meeting new friends, noticing the sunset, the newly painted house, the dogs that are out, the cats in windows, or darting across the street. I like going passed our house, back and forth, until the odometer hits 10.0 miles, or 12, or 20, riding down our driveway, and then Geoff and I groan dramatically as we step off our bikes and laugh about our sore butts. I like my bicycle bell, and my bicycle light, and how cold I get, and how nice that feels in summer, being cold. And I really like imagining that I am going somewhere, like a real athlete, a daring adventurer.

It was fun to start sharing my daydream schemes with Geoff... to pretend that I am riding somewhere distant. I enjoyed revealing all the many details I was working out, and looking for him to confirm that it wasn't silly. Maybe it is a little silly. I am more and more an advocate, an activist, for silly, for idealism and make-believe, for imagination, and play. The more I dare, the better it gets. So, what began as imagining riding to the market and carrying home groceries, grew to pretending that a twenty mile ride wasn't just loops around the neighborhood, but that I'd reached a county park, was getting close to the foothills of the mountains, I could soon reach a cabin in the woods. I could bring a picnic, a small tent. I could reserve a cabin, and go further the next day, then the next. And I started tracking my miles, and asking where could I be today? Then I really leveled up, by taking notes, bringing out an atlas, and envisioning an itinerary. I know, I wrote all about this, already. But. Ah, it's so much fun! I am having so much fun... thinking about train schedules, and riding my bicycle through the redwoods, along rivers, into favorite towns, to see friends, and up to my Mom's front door. Sometimes, even in this perfect make-believe scenario I begin to worry, to what-if, then I think, calmly... it's no problem. Rent a car, take a ferry, use the electric assist, visit a spa, find a quieter route. Every problem has a solution, often a very comforting or appealing solution, in a make-believe adventure.

Planning the imaginary bicycle adventure between my home to my Mom's home in Oregon was easy. I found a lot of enjoyment in mapping familiar routes, then opting for some new directions, like getting to Mendocino. Then, just outside of Salem, I was hesitating. Which way? I'm headed for Portland, but what's the best route, what do I want to not miss? This is when I posted to Instagram, an appeal for guidance, an invitation for anyone to play along with me. And then it got really fun. A sister-in-law of a friend (we haven't met, yet) gave practical advice, and made excellent suggestions. So, on a make-believe bike ride, to real places, I will be hypothetically dropping by her parent's home, "during happy hour, they love company." I can't wait.

So far, my only regret is not starting this in a larger notebook, but I am undaunted! Sometimes, I get on a train, or a ferry. Sometimes, I will probably skip the plan, and head in another direction. The final destination keeps moving, first Portland, then Boston, Michael Colletta added Paris, Rome, Ruth hopes we will ride in Hawaii, and Kristy wants to join the ride from somewhere in Northern California. Maybe there isn't a final destination. I hope more friends will ride along, or suggest good sights, ideal stops. I'd like to drop by, and I won't be any bother. Last week I used all of my accumulated miles and (not counting miles on trains or driving) I can get to Laura and Gary's place, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. But then, I decided on extending my time on the Empire Builder, between Seattle and St Paul, getting off and on again for Glacier. My notebook is a mess. That's alright. I think, when I start booking hotels, and pitching tents, when I stop at State Parks, or visit with friends, then I will need a bigger, notebook... a journal, with pockets for pamphlets, and postcards, space for pictures. This first round of planning is figurative (it's all figurative) but soon I hope to deepen the vision, the research. In the next, more immersive level, I want to think about places to stop for lunch, what I could for a flat tire, or find pictures from the deck of a ferry going to San Juan Island. I want to read the timetable for catching a ride to Prince Edward Island. I want to pack. Will I try to bring every last imaginable thing I might need, or simply a toothbrush, change of underwear, and my imaginary platinum card? Some of this, if I must be honest, is entirely impractical, and that doesn't matter one bit. On this adventure I can be bold and nothing has to out of the question.


Teresa Kasner said...

It was fun to see your bike riding has virtually brought you to Portland, Oregon. My city! I do live in Corbett, 20 miles east into the Columbia River Gorge. You'll have to go that way!

Teresa :-)

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

I actually hope that I am not being too subtle (hahahaha) because I am absolutely thrilled to be invited to "ride by," "sit a spell," or "meet up!" How about a picnic and tour at the Vista House? I would love to hear all about your involvement and good works at that beautiful sight. Thank you for playing along with me, Teresa. Even make-believe adventures are better with company.