Pedaling through the golf course parking lot my brain begins to process what's to come like a kid waiting to tell his dad he wrecked the car....immediately my heart rate ramps up, my legs, though making smooth circles on the flat pavement, twitch in anticipation of the coming climb...
I wasn't going to ride today. I knew it was going to be hot, I knew I hadn't been riding and, if it wasn't for a pile of stuff bouncing around in my head that I needed to sort through and dispose of, I would have followed my own advice and stayed home with a cold beverage to relieve my stress. But I knew I didn't want that. I wanted to make circles with my legs and let the suffering of my body wash the dietris out of my head.
The twin posts that mark the entrance to the trailhead greet me.....this is the maginot line...the line between the civilization of smooth black asphalt and the pain of a recently graded, loose, dusty climb in the full sun that will cause me to wish I had found a different vehicle for blowing off steam.
It's really hot. Although, according to the thermometer, its not as hot as it seems which I can only assume has something to do with my lack of ride time lately. The first part of the ride, the section along the fireroad behind some of the nicer houses in the area and down to the golf course had been a nice warm up. The trail is in the shade, there was a nice breeze and I took it easy, stretching out the taut guitar strings that run up and down my legs where the relaxed flowing muscles are supposed to be. Inevitably my mind begins to head toward the place I hoped it would go. It loosens up letting thoughts and ideas crash and bump against each other in the hopes of a brainstorm or at least a glimmer of a thought.
As I suffer and make horribly sloppy circles with my lactic acid filled legs sccreaming to stop, the bike weaves and wobbles all over the trail at the slightest incline. My heart pounds mercilessly in my ears like a bass drum at a pep rally and the stinging, salty sweat runs down my forehead and into my eyes blinding me until I can let go of the bars long enough to wipe it out. Still I pedal on....
Work has been insane. Normal for this time of year although after the last three years who's to say exactly what normal is for the construction industry anymore. This year though is almost like the "good old days" when we were backed up for weeks and couldn't hire guys fast enough to keep up. I don't want to complain for fear of jinxing it. Busy is good. We want to be busy, we need to be busy, for three years we've been fighting for our lives and the pace now is good. But will it be good enough? Can we dig fast enough to fill a three year hole that has left us no safety net, no cushion, no other option than to run like crazy in the hopes that we can pull a rabbit out of a hat?
Damn! that really stings. The sweat pours from under my helmet and into my eyes causing me to squint. Everything looks fuzzy and weird as I wipe my eyes time and again only to realize my sunglasses are coated with sweat. Eventually I reach the top of the golf course climb having pushed much harder than I planned and paying the price. I pull in to the shade to get my heartrate down, calm my breathing and finally clean my glasses and wipe my forehead.
Eventually I begin again. This next little section is nice. It's a shaded flat leading to a nice downhill before getting to the rollers that make up the majority of the loop. Originally I planned on adding in the Redtail trail but the pace up Brandon leaves me unsure if I want to suffer any longer. The same pace that left me huffing and puffing has also allowed me to reach the place I hoped to be. My body is tired but not destroyed. My mind is empty, relaxed, ready to disengage from life and engage fully to the rest of the ride. I flip the lever on my shock with a smile plastered on my face where stress lines lived only a while before.
This is my place. This is where I come when life is crazy or hard or discouraging. This is that warm, empty, nothingness that is the ride. Some days its easy to find this place, a few pedal strokes and I'm on my way. Other days its a long, hard journey to get here... miles of road, thousands of feet of elevation, hours of saddle time, but its always here. Its always waiting to be found.
The biggest challenge in getting here is making the decision to step away from life long enough to start the journey. It's true the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step...
Sure there are places that will promise to help, promise to relieve me of my burdens. The bottle invites me in but only leads to time lost to stupor and the results of decisions made while there. The couch invites me over to rest a while but leaves me with the same challenges only with a couple of hours gone. The TV offers up some mindless drivel that promises to entertain and fulfill leaving me instead feeling guilty for squandering productive hours and a mind that hasn't been entertained, only turned off. No, no place delivers like the ride does.
As I finish the loop I pour my guts out on the last climb up the road to the parking lot. My heart once again pounding in my ears, my breath coming in ragged, gulping gasps, the sweat pours down my head again carrying with it the toxins and poisons from a life lived in this crazy screwed up world. This place where the size of our TV is more important than the depth of our character, where what we wear is looked at more closely than who we are and where our real goal should be not in making a living but in living a life.