It’s a ride any of us might make. Roll from home, dodge traffic, turn into the park. Once on the trail, the sounds of the city fade, as does the light. The world is softer, more forgiving and yet more immediate. There’s the first hill that reminds us what work is. Then the opening downhill that leaves us ever hopeful—
Maybe I’ll nail that line this time.
Our tires roll over a bit of everything, a buffet of what the park has to offer. This few miles in, our fingers operate fluently, moving through a language of the land, shifts and braking a description of the rise of earth. Then we hit that first longer hill and knuckle down for the work that makes the present ever more present and the voices begin to coalesce into a single song.
There comes the moment where the trail turns down, the forest closes out the world, and we race toward something.
But just what is it we race for? Surely it’s not the end of the trail. No matter what records might be at stake, we’d rather the trail continued another mile—two—than have it dump into the lazy waters at which we congregate.
And if we can only find that thing we seek by going faster, then the truth is we seek something not on the trail. Those rises, drops, twists and berms are a subroutine meant to bring the one thing we can’t focus on directly into crystalline definition. With edges as if carved by knife, we look at nothing so much as our future, the line we hope to slice.
As surely as if we rode with lights, what’s going on inside is the very thing we do when we put one light on the bar and another on the helmet. One shows us exactly where we are heading, like it or not. The other flits with our attention—up the trail, at the front wheel, in that growth of poison oak, through that stand of Redwoods, deep into our memory.
One may as well be a metaphor for the other; as we look ahead we are looking within, that light we shine off trail is the rest of the picture we try to see, one we will never view the whole of.
But what is it we want to see? That’s where we differ. Previous successes? Correcting old losses? Just finding out what’s stashed in the corners?
It doesn’t matter. We look. We need to look. We look at the old path to see something new.
Image: Jorge “Koky” Flores, JustPedal