Sunday, June 22, 2014


Last night, whilst shellacking the wooden teeth before bed, I was reviewing my lovely Sunday ride in my head. The part I dwelt upon was the long stretch above the trees, wending through Wendell State Forest. I was thinking again of how wonderfully isolated I was up there. There’s a long stretch during which you can’t see a single sign of civilization. Just rolling hills covered with the forest primeval.

It occurred to me that, if I had been there later in the day and, say, broken a bone or had a catastrophic equipment failure, it would have been all on me to get bike and body to civilization. I might even have had to make camp for the night as best as possible and wait for the first car down the road in the morning. There are no houses for miles. (Yes, I ride with a cell phone – that’s part of being married, a trade-off I happily make – but there is little-to-no signal up there.)

Now, risk is certainly not why I went out there. There are many reasons—the simple pleasure of time on the bike, there’s the hard effort of the steep grades, the fabulous view, and, of course, the solitude. Pehaps the most important ingredient was that I decided to explore a new area. I did get lost for a bit, but, even though that gets frustrating after a while, I believe it only adds to the goodness.

And yet the risk undoubtedly was an element. That “back-of-beyond” feeling. Relying on yourself alone.

It's the way you feel when you're backpacking miles from the nearest road. It’s why randonneurs ride unsupported. It’s the principle of the thing: Bust a spoke? Bent your derailleur into a pretzel? You're on yer own, friend. Better know how to jury-rig something to get you to cell-phone coverage. Or, if you're not up to the repair, you'd better be ready for an adventure, of the type you didn't bargain for.

With luck, that just means discovering, by staggering synchronicity, one more guardian angel walking the earth, who picks you up in her/his car, tells you a fascinating life story you otherwise would have never heard, and drops you off where you can be collected by a friend or loved one. I’ve had my share of these saviors, and I still savor the stories.

I’m hoping I still have credits for a few more of those. Because the whole point here is that (to cash in on a cliche) you just never know. You have to be as prepared as possible, but life is infinitely variable.

May this edgy mystery send a pleasant yet cautionary jolt down your spine the next time you throw your leg over the saddle.


Patrick Clayton said...

No matter how routine the ride, there is always some risk. A friend and fellow rider here in Newport, RI was hit by a deer the other day while riding on Ocean Drive here in Newport. He sustained such severe head injuries, in spite of his helmet that he passed away Thursday. It was about 8 in the morning and I have never seen a deer on Ocean Drive in spite of riding it at least a hundred times. It just shows how no matter how well prepared you may be sometimes fate intervenes to change the situation.

Velosopher said...

Sobering, Patrick. Life is risk, really.