I have not written in a while, lamenting to the wife about how lame my blog has been lately (no photos, no adventures); but I’ve been riding just as much, I just have not been talking about it. Mrs. Maadjurguer countered that if my blog is lame, it’s just a reflection of me……fair enough. Granted, I’ve had a few distractions such as the new car and the state of OU’s faltering linebacker corps; but in general nothing has changed except for a few subtle things which manifest themselves into flow and epiphanies. I can honestly say that my skills have progressed to a level where I no longer feel good riding form is luck, but habit. The way I used to struggle to move my body around my bike in turns and whoop-dee-do’s is gone. The way I confidently rail turns, anticipating drift off of my tires is no longer feared, but reassuring. The way my handlebars seem to come alive in my hands, moving up and down with dips, rolls and drops as my body soaks up the feedback automatically feels right.
I’ve also started to occasionally listen to music while riding and it has taken me to a new level. I’ve always eschewed diluting the outdoor experience, whether it being skiing, hiking or biking; focusing instead on sensations of sound, feel, taste and the mental drift culminating in the unanticipated and surprising focus which usually accompanies any physical endeavor outside. That is, until now. On a whim, I rolled out to do the Hawes loop with my newly bought iPod. My inaugural tunes for the ride: My very first moe. show – 10-29-2004, DAR Constitution Hall – Washington D.C. I can’t explain the details except to say that I rode the entire loop including mudflaps without stopping….and I only dabbed twice. This is several orders of magnitude better than I’ve ever done before. For starters, stopping after riding up mudflaps has usually been mandatory to catch my breath…guess the moe. took the pain out of my mind. As for the dabs, one was on the only switchback I still struggle with and the other was when I washed out on a sandy corner carrying waaaaaaaay too much speed because moe. was kickin’ ass and takin’ names. After finishing the loop, I was so inspired as to repeat some of the loop in another order by taking a shortcut and reversing my direction.
moe. transformed me that night back in 2004 with their rendition of “Crab Eyes” and “Puttin the Boy Down”….I can even be heard on the recording of the show yelling “Chili Dawg!” from the crowd. However moe. did it again this week by giving me flow on the bike I thought was still months away. It’s taken me almost 7 months of 4-6 rides per week to get to this point. Tire pressures and seatpost height, angle and position are finally synched and optimized for my geometry. The skills are starting to build and as a consequence, so are the flow of confidence to try new things and challenges. However, I still occasionally prefer to ride with just me and the sound of the wind.
Just yesterday after a long day at the office, I hit the trail after doing some weights at the gym. I was a little behind schedule and the sun was beginning the twilight hour. I normally look for transformative experiences on my days off when I have time for a long ride; not when I’m rushing to cram a ride in between work, weights and dinner. But right off the bat something seemed different about this ride. Perhaps it was the cold front that came through and dropped the temps to the low 70’s while still daylight. Perhaps it was the crimson, vermilion and mauve illuminated low clouds contrasting against the rapidly darkening sky. As I rode on, I stopped to take it in; no longer spurred on by a pounding guitar riff or baseline, I was clearly on a different ride. Looking at those clouds perched above the eternally-present granite canyons and saguaro studded ridges, I saw the movement of perhaps a hundred mourning doves gliding down slope, all illuminated in the fading but focused last rays from the sun. Appearing as bright white streaks, they swooped down from the highlands towards the bajada below. It was then that my admiration turned from the clouds to the beautiful palate behind the birds. The ridgeline and canyon were beginning to glow with the fading light that can only be described as electric. I peddled on and began thinking of those doves. I’m sure I’ve seen the movement of as many doves in flight before in the desert, but tonight was especially striking. I’m wondering to myself if they do that every night, returning from their highland roost during the day down to the washes below at night. As I peddled up a rise towards another intersection, I began to hear a high-pitched squealing coming from the blood orange ridgeline in front of me. As I rolled to a stop, doves in flight still firmly etched in my mind; a slow earthy movement in the direction of the squealing on the ridgeline ahead of me snapped my focus away from the doves and to this new stimulus. Descending the ridge up contour from me were about 10-15 javalina with several babies. The squealing was coming from the babies, doing what fury baby peccaries do: squeal. I stopped for a minute to watch them descend towards me; blindly ignorant of my presence now that I was motionless, they continued grazing on mesquite pods and herding the wayward babies along. I mused they too must be heading towards the lowlands which surround the main wash. Moving onward and passing the herd, I noticed the clouds were now gray, the color gone for the day in my little slice of geography; always marching westward to inspire swaths of humanity; returning every 12 hours or so in a different guise to the same spot but only if we’re lucky enough to see it.
The rest of the ride was spent in diminishing light and intensifying thoughts of light, time and space. Rolling home I realized that I probably have more time to appreciate the subtle things now that my mind is not completely focused on every turn and every pedal stroke. The minutia of skill and technique which previously consumed me is now automatic, the detailed subtleties of my surroundings more accessible and my enjoyment more profound. I always knew that riding a bike was fun on an elementary level, however I’m just coming to learn the deeper enjoyment and inner-peace found when exploring a new trail or even a new time of day. I’ve felt this very thing through skiing for nearly two decades; but am pleasantly surprised to experience this awakening all over again. Strange and inviting, I’m taken to places rarely visited in everyday life.