My friend Ted took me for a bike ride around Utrecht last fall. There were canals. And a cathedral. It rained. Then it didn’t. Then we drank coffee so that turned out pretty well. Also, next year the Tour de France starts in Utrecht, so you should go there. Then you can drink the coffee and see the cathedral just like I did.
Posts tagged ‘bike rides’
He drew me a map, the paper torn from my notebook. We stood over the hood of his white truck, a diesel converted by hand to run on vegetable oil.
We were stopped by the side of a road running through the cow pastures. The grass gleamed green from the winter’s rains. Only the wind interrupted the silence. The fence lines marched straight until they disappeared over the crest of the hill.
There’s a climb here, he said. Then you descend a short ways and turn left. HIs pen traced out the switchbacks of the twisting descent and the sharp bend of the turn. In small tidy print, he spelled out the names of the roads. After the schoolhouse, you turn right…
there’s a point in a long ride, and it nearly always comes when you’re the farthest from home, when your legs decide enough with this bike thing, we want to get off. but you can’t get off, because you’re way the hell out there and somehow you have to find your way home.
you think maybe food will help. you eat an energy bar and you forget it like it never happened. the sweet aftertaste lingers, the only clue that you’ve eaten anything at all.
you try to blow snot but you’re tired so it ends up all over your face. you figure there’s a reason most people wear gloves on bike rides. but you’re not as smart as they are, so you try to wipe your face on your hands but it just smears and now you’re an even bigger mess. next time, gloves.
before, you glided along gleefully, each pedalstroke blending smoothly into the next one, the pavement blurring beneath your wheels. now you feel like a hummingbird. it takes a thousand turns of the pedal to move an inch. the tree in the distance stays stubbornly in the distance. you’re pretty convinced you’re never going to get there.
and you start thinking about carbon and expensive bike parts and you wonder why the bike can’t just ride itself home. but there would be no challenge in that. the risk of riding too far, the need to peel yourself off the pavement and get there, it’s the part that makes you feel alive.
so you keep going, because what else are you going to do. a second energy bar goes down almost as fast as the first, but this time, you actually notice it. you’re still not exactly soaring, but you’re moving forward. and forward is good. the inches turn into feet and the feet turn into miles. you pass the tree in the distance and leave it behind.
and you think maybe you’ll make it home again.
We get lost a lot. We go out on the bike on the same rides we’ve done hundreds of times, for the past ten years and counting, and still, we get lost.
Maybe it’s because we each ride along in our own particular world. Sometimes, when we get home we talk about what we saw. It’s like we weren’t even on the same ride at all.
There was the black truck stacked full of badass dudes with tats with Call Me Maybe blasting from the stereo. There were tourists dressed in bright colors, reading their guidebooks as they walked blindly off the curb. There was a bird in a tree and a cat slinking through the grass stalking it. There was a woman riding one horse and leading another. There was a man in playing golf in a red sweater. A duck flew by.
You didn’t see that? Not any of it?
And then there’s the clearing where we always meet up. But somehow this time, it didn’t work out. He went up the climb. Then I followed after him. And that’s where I lost him. A car passed behind me as I turned the corner, so he didn’t see me. Tricky, those cars.
We started the ride together, and then we finished it separately, because we get lost a lot, even on the same ride we’ve done a hundred times.
We make the wrong turns and climb at different speeds and somehow lose sight of one another for a moment too long. Maybe there was a bird in the tree or a horse on the road or a woman jogging with a dog.
You’d think no one ever gets lost in a world of cell phones and signal towers. But that imagines that we all carry our phones. There’s pockets in the back of our jerseys, even, and the phone fits right in, but you have to remember to put it there. Sometimes, it’s easier not to remember.
Phones don’t work in the best places, anyway. The places you want to go, those are the places beyond where the phone can go. You ride right up to the edge and then, you keep going.
And so we just get lost. And we get home and we laugh and we talk about what we saw. Because we ride a bike to see the weird and wondrous things along the way and to share them at the end of the day. While we may ride the same road, we never sees it exactly the same way as anyone else.
We get lost to find ourselves all over again.
Somedays when I go out on bike rides, I see odd things. One day, it was shoes. Not pairs, just single shoes. An old athletic shoe at mile 10, a white strappy high-heel at mile 15. Another day, I saw a T-square in the road. Who carries a T-square in their car? And leaves it on the road?
Today’s oddity had a Christmas theme. Fitting, since last I checked it’s almost Christmas. Anyway, I was rolling along the road that runs along the beach, wishing that the beach would suddenly transmogrify itself into the North Shore, and along came a guy with a convertable. It was one of those wee little fast cars, a BMW or an Audi. He was on the other side of the street, and well, I really don’t do cars. Anyway, sitting in the passenger seat next to him, was a giant, life-sized nutcracker. It was red with a white beard and a black hat. And it was sticking straight up out of the car on the right hand side. Since his wooden knees didn’t bend, he sat at an odd angle, tilted backward as if the speed of the car were sweeping him backwards. Woosh.
And there he was, a nutcracker, riding along in an expensive convertible along the beach, which wasn’t the North Shore.
The world is a very strange place sometimes.