Friday Group Ride #477

Friday Group Ride #477

I’m a bad night dreamer. Bizarre anxiety comedies play out from my subconscious. Some outright nightmares too. Any time a dream looks like it might be headed in a vaguely good direction, my deep, inner self swerves it off course. The saving grace is that I am a heroic daydreamer.

It doesn’t take much to send me there, the thousand yard stare, the quiet nothingness of a daydream. Instantly I’m on a steep dirt road, out of the pedals, sawing back and forth. Legs go heavy but never give up. In these bits of reverie I am capable of great things. I surpass my very real limits.

Some people would call this mind over matter, but I think it’s actually mind over mind, and it bears saying that I have no climbing legs to speak of at the moment. I don’t remember when I last felt really strong on a hill. I mean, not in real life.

It was seventh grade, Ms. Strachan’s English class, where we read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Thurber wrote that story in 1939, the first year of WWII, and though it’s often read as an ennobling paean to the anonymous everyman, I can imagine Thurber was just explicating the only avenues of escape open to people of a certain type, the put upon and stalwart, the dutiful and diligent. This is what I tell myself as I slip away into another imaginary paceline.

Real life is difficult. We have limits and shortcomings. I’m out there on my bike poking and prodding at the edges of what I can do. I feel the acid flood my muscles. I feel my center of balance give way. And yet somehow I convince myself I can do more. Be more. To be sure, some of this is psychological. We can hurt more than we think. Our bodies will recover sometimes quite unexpectedly. We think we know what we’re capable of, but we don’t really.

Another part of this is ambition. I usually plan a ride that is more than I can realistically do. I commit to returning at times I can’t possibly make. That ambition comes from daydreams, I think. Or stupidity.

This week’s Group Ride asks, do you daydream about riding? And are you more heroic in those visualizations? Do you dream about riding when you’re asleep? What is the best ride fantasy you’ve had? And how close has it ever come to being real?

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  1. TomInAlbany

    I daydream about riding
    Across the country
    Of rolling right out my door
    And ending up on the west coast
    Maybe Seattle
    Portland or San Francisco
    Maybe just hopping on U.S. 20
    Hitting the Pacific
    Upon my return
    Heading to Boston
    On 20 as well
    And then I get back to work
    Whatever that happens to be
    To stave off
    For a bit.

  2. Michael

    I do daydream about riding, but it never involves me being particularly strong or weak, but rather about the roads or trails I really want to ride. So, I imagine myself there, sometimes even to the point of the bike and gear I might have. I have some general ideas for combined road-and-dirt tours across the western US about which I occasionally fantasize, I’ll have the perfect route figured out one of these days, and then it is time to do it.

  3. Stephen Barner

    I don’t dream about riding, day or night, but I do a lot of daydreaming WHILE riding. This evening, I was nearing the top, steep section of the mile climb to home on my 1985 Fat Chance, the headlight giving me tunnel vision, focused on the icy gravel directly ahead, the world contracting into that trapezoid of light. As I approached that last, steep pull, it just felt like my 28 x 28 bottom gear was a tad lower than it needed to be. I thought, “It seems a waste to get out of it, what with friction shifting and all, and the steepest part is just ahead, but I’m feeling good, and almost think that it might be low enough even for that. What the heck.” And that’s exactly what happened. A minute later, my eyes mesmerized by the slowly passing patch of gravel, ears tuned to the crunching of the studded tires as the road passed below, my mind wandered away as the legs pulled me and 40 lbs of bike, bags, and papers to grade up the final 17% slope. Thinking of it now reminds me of the experience I had decades ago, standing on the very peak of a mountain, leaning into a thick, blowing cloud. Like the patch of light I traveled in tonight as I climbed the hill, I could only see a few feet in any direction, and with the ground falling away all around, it was as if I was traveling through the ether, bound for wherever the rock would take me.

    And the kid who cut my hair at the barber shop this afternoon couldn’t comprehend why I would ride a bike when I own two cars and a truck. “You’re riding to Bolton? Tonight?”

    Yeah. And daydreaming all the way.

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