Friday, October 27, 2006

Melancholy riding.

Time to leave for the office. I'm really dragging today. Did you ever see that old Dunkin' Donuts commercial? This guy's getting out of bed at what must be 3 AM. As he stumbles to find his robe he tells his wife it's time to go make the donuts.

For some reason I feel like I'm dragging through molasses with every step. Part of it's the long hours I've been keeping lately. I'm usually up by 4:30 AM. Especially if I'm going to the office. Some mornings it can take two hours to get there. Traffic in a few spots is habitually reduced to stop and go crawling. I'm making the trip pretty regularly. We have a new guy starting and I'm training him. That's kind of funny because I've only been with this company for four months. However, I have a lot more experience in how we go to market, so I get the job. It's ok. He's an eager young man and being around him lifts my own enthusiasm level.

On top of the commute I've had some late meetings the last couple of nights. I'm dragging so badly that there will be a knock on my door in a couple of days. It will be my rear end catching up with me. Now I'm facing another commute to work in the darkness, fog, and freezing temperatures. I really shouldn't be on the bike, should I? After all, I preach knowing your limits and riding within them. I teach students to recognize impairments and make the needed adjustments. Up to, and including, staying off the bike. I should listen to my own counsel. If only I could.

Like a moth to a flame I am inexorably drawn to ride. It's hard to describe exactly how I feel. I guess that's what makes it so hard to deal with. There's no logic to it. Just emotion. I could fall back on my line of "It's who I am, it's what I do". Even that's not enough to explain it. It's so much deeper than that. I've felt this way to some extent every fall but I have it worse than I ever have this year.

On the surface you could call it the weather. Looking under the ripples in the water to where the current is dark and deep, I'd have to say it's what the weather represents. These nice afternoons are jewels dispersed among coals. It gets so wet and gloomy here for so long. Soon the jewels will disappear. Only the coal will remain.

Mornings are cold, foggy, and nasty right now. By noon the sun has exerted its influence to transform the world into a warm and delightful place. The afternoons are perfect for riding. The Weather Gods are toying with us. They hold out the joys of the sun in one hand. In the other they show me the dark side. Cold, dark, tough conditions to endure. The Gods show me their power. They know I will defy their efforts to put restrictions on my riding. Bruised egos will be soothed by showing me how easily they can offer great riding conditions. Just as easily they can put the other hand forward and smite me with hardship. It has been, and continues to be, a never-ending struggle between us.

So I ride. Though I shake my fist in defiance to the Gods, I am afraid to miss out on each gentle and warm time they offer to me. Who knows when they grow tired of being patient and bring down the gloom they seem so fond of? A gloom that will last months with little relief. Now my rides are full of joy tempered by deep sadness. Dark clouds are literally hanging over my head. I will still find joy in the most adverse conditions. It is just that it will not be this sweet. My pleasure in the Winter will be that of victory in battle. The pleasures right now are more like a soft woman snuggled against my side. Two very distinctly different things. I do not relish the moment when the soft pleasure is replaced with the hardships of battle. Yet, battle I will. It is who I am, it is what I do.

Today the afternoon is devoted to the ride. The weekend will bring another class of eager new riders starting on their own journey. It is satisfying but the ride will be short. Katie's folks are coming for supper Saturday night. I will be working with my students until late Sunday afternoon. Before the darkness of winter sets in for good it is time to stock the senses with memories. It is hoped that these images and smells will serve as fuel to keep the spark burning in the gloom.

I decided to literally take time to smell the flowers. There are many roads and places with beauty to look at. My goal is to absorb as much of it as possible. There's also a couple of roads I've been meaning to check out. This will be the time to do it.

Wow! I had forgotten how different it is to leisurely ride a back road. After so much freeway riding I feel like I've just stepped off the merry-go-round. The world is moving more slowly. I can actually relax and breathe. It makes me wonder if it's really worth it to commute like I do. I like this job. I really don't want to move closer to the Big City. Out here surrounded by fields ready for Winter, my perspective is changed. I'm able to see a bigger picture more clearly.

For three and a half years I had this kind of ride home every night. Quiet, peaceful, country rides were mine for the taking. I could still be home at a reasonable time for a restful supper with Katie. Now I'm on a super-charged ride that wears on my nerves with little respite easily available. I hated the other job. I loved the ride home. I really like this job but have a nasty commute. Maybe it's time to simplify life. Would it be irresponsible to build a vocation around a pleasurable commute? It's amazing what a man will think of when you give him a chance to relax and look at something bigger than himself. If nothing else changes, I've resolved to make time for this kind of riding opportunity on a regular basis.

Here's what I found at the end of one of the small roads. It dead ends at a small lake. This house has seen better days but it has this great view. I almost didn't finish the journey to the house. All I saw was the pavement ending and the road turning into gravel. Sophie and I aren't real fond of chunky gravel roads. She's a great mount for the streets but a little ungainly for rougher ground. Katie isn't the first one to call me stubborn. More polite folks call it persistance. Either way, we had to finish the trip. I'm glad we did.

This road takes a sudden turn to the right. So far there's been nothing but trees and underbrush Right after the turn the road opens up just a little. The gravel ends in a wide area where a few cars could be parked. There was a woman doing some work in a flower bed when I arrived. I know the place doesn't look like it from the back of the house, but the front is well tended. The lady didn't seem at all surprised to see a rider in Hi-Viz yellow come down her lane. I told her I hadn't seen a mailbox and didn't realize it was a driveway. Her and her husband get their mail at a post office in the small town down the road.

Graciously, she told me a little about the house and led me around to the back. I took a couple of pictures and told her goodbye. After apologizing for disturbing her, of course. I think it would be so cool to retreat to a place like this. Can you imagine a great ride followed by sitting on the deck watching the sun go down over the lake?

I soaked up all I could before I ran out of daylight. It has been an awesome afternoon ride. Whatever the Weather Gods throw at me, they will never take this day away from me. I don't know how much longer we will have these sunny afternoons. Each ride will be a balance of joy and sadness. I will be riding the fine line between pleasure and pain. Winter promises to come early this year. I'm resolved to enjoy each opportunity I can. My hope is that you will be able to do the same. Like anything worthwhile in life, enjoy it while you're able.

Miles and smiles,



Dick said...

Hang in there. It sounds like you have the winter depression case they talk about happening in the North West due to too much rain and overcast. Lack of sun can do that to people. The other contributing factor is the long commute. You NEED that afternoon sun and it wouldn't be the same in a cage.
Doctor Dick

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Doc!
Will you write me a prescription for sunny afternoon motorcycle therapy? Maybe I can get my health insurance provider to reimburse some of my riding expenses. I could even deduct them on my taxes!

Steve Williams said...

Dan, I agree with dick that the seasonal change has a profound impact on some. I like to think that the more intelligent, sensitive, and caring people are the ones affected....

I have been in a similar place for the past few weeks, part seasonal, part work stress, part who knows what. I am glad I took last week off from work.

My only suggestion is to be completely honest with yourself in regard to when it is not a good idea to ride because of where your head might be. I push myself to ride because "that's what I do" (on a mini scale compared to you) but there are times when I should stay at home or drive the car. Gratefully not often but I need to have that option open and reasonable rather than avoided.

For me life got better when I stopped shaking my fist at God and started asking what I should do next. For my whole life I didn't want to go there for fear the answer would be something I wouldn't want to hear. My experience is that things have gotten better and better when I let go of my plans and expectations. And most of the time I get what I wanted all along.

Hmmm, this doesn't seem to be a post about riding.....

Hope work, life, riding and the world brighten up for you. At least you are able to see the flowers along the path regardless of how rough it might be.


Anonymous said...

Going with the flow has been hard for me when it blocks me from doing something I want to do. I'm working on it!


Steve Williams said...

Dan: You're already going with the flow. Maybe you just don't realize it. How else would you be able to craft such fine reflections of life and riding here?