Friday, January 3

You're Better Than You Think You Are

Last week I was talking to the new girl at work.  I blew her mind.  Friday I rode to work on my bike; a measly 44 miles from home.  Unbeknownst to the world I was ravenously hungry when I arrived.  I was near hypothermic as well.  But I managed to secret my maladies until I had them under control.

I was ravenous with no car.  I’d have to ride my bike out for lunch or eat a simple peanut butter sandwich.  My appetite demanded far more than could be satisfied with  semi-liquefied peanuts.  I asked the new girl (one of only three of us in the office that day) if she wanted to go in and order pizza.  She agreed.
As the end of the day neared I had eaten my share of the pizza so I boxed up the remains and told her she should take it home.
“Oh no, you take it,” she replied.
“I can’t; I’m on my bike.”
Her jaw dropped.  I think her eyes rolled back in her head and some of her brain oozed out of her nose.
“From Powell County?!”  She cried.  Now, she knows exactly how far that is because she’s from Morgan County which is two counties further east than I am.
“Yeah,” I admitted.
“Wow, I’m going to have to tell my mom.  And she won’t believe it!”
So we had a short conversation about bicycle commuting.  I explained some of the things she didn’t know about my scheme.  Like, I have been doing this for years now, and it took years before I was comfortable with the idea of riding so far in such a committing situation.  I also explained that I had the Mac-at-my-back contingency plan.  It’s always good to know someone with a pickup truck who works near you.  I explained a few of the other things that eased me into a place that allowed me to imagine such a ride was possible and profitable.
Over the weekend and the New Year holiday I thought about it even more.  It really does take a lot of baby steps to explore your limits.  Some would say just dive right in.  And there’s some merit to that approach.  But there have been many who have taken the plunge that got their goldarned neck broke on a rock just under the surface.  I’ve always been a cautious man.  And through my caution I’ve found a path to adventure that even some of the more daring people I’ve known would balk at.
My approach allows me to move forward from a place of strength into daily adventures that so many people wouldn’t dare to attempt.  But I go out with a steady confidence and surety in my own abilities that’s been tested again and again.  I might not reach the summit of Everest with these tactics, but then I just might after all.
Sometimes I forget how amazing my life is.  I don’t say this to boast, but to demonstrate that I’ve managed to normalize a lifestyle filled with adventures.  Most of my adventures are of the sort that get squeezed into a mundane life.  And in that sense my life is anything but mundane.  I’ve learned to turn everything into adventure, and to find adventure in any situation.
The sub-heading of my old blog reads: “Any Adventure is Possible.”  I find this to be more true now than ever before.  And adventure doesn’t mean a high adrenaline, high octane activity.  I’m not talking about paying $75 to ride a zip-line.  For me a walk in the woods can be just the kind of adventure I need.  Sometimes though, it takes getting on my bike and riding out beyond the edge of the map, stealing gold from the dragons that live out there, and returning with my tail-feathers singed.  
I’m capable of planning any kind of adventure.  The planning, the scheming, the logistics of the execution…it’s all sublime to me.  I’ve learned to see the process as a full part of the adventure experience.  Imagining what will excite and finding a path to that place is as satisfying as discovering the fairy castle across the sea and stealing its magic.
Somewhere around mile 70 in my 95 miles that day I was digging into my soul looking for the spiritual capital to keep going.  I’d gotten turned around twice—something that pride in my own navigational skills prevents me from shouting too loudly—and was finally feeling the weight of the miles behind me.  I was just riding my bike from Lexington to Stanton.  It was no big deal.  It’s just something someone who owns a bicycle might do.  Wood Hippie did it once.
And then I remembered that Mark “Wood Hippie” did make that ride once, and it blew me away.  I’d bridged that chasm and was able to look back and see someone—the new girl—on the other side.  Woody telling his tale of traversing the Bluegrass on his bike inspired me years and years ago.  The seed that was planted festered until last week when I finally decide I needed to fulfill a long tended dream to replicate something I had believed to be insanely difficult at the time.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: riding 50 miles isn’t as hard as it sounds.  If you don’t ride much then you won’t enjoy it, but you really can do more than you’d believe.  The bicycle is amazing in that it magnifies those parts of yourself that you hide away because you’re afraid to share them with the world.  If you let it, it can take all of those “I could never do that” thoughts and turn you into the stuff of legend.
I’m not kidding.

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