I love that goddamn bike path. I am on it 1000 x a year and I never get tired of it! I love where I live because I have such easy access to it. I am always surprised every time I am on it, how much I like the stupid thing! It’s just a bike path after all, but I can no longer live without it!
Yesterday, a mid-February day, called for intervals on the trainer but it was light and warm enough that I got to actually ride outside and go do my usual bike path loop. Not a lot people there this time of year, so I had it mostly to myself. As I turned off for a little mtb dirt detour in Warren, I got passed by a roady on a Cervelo who looked the roady par. When I got back onto the path I could see him in the distance as he was crossing the Bristol line and decided to chase him down. I was gaining on him but very slowly. He entered Cold State Park and rode through it, and I almost caught him, but just then he turned into this private Mansion/residence area off of Coggeshall farm. I had to let him go, since I don't make enough $ to be allowed in that area (the 1%!). He did turn around to assess how much I had gained on him. I was definitely in the red zone chasing him down with my 2.25 big knobbies tires and got a great workout out of it. I don’t see a lot of true roadies on the bike path that can give me a run for my money, as normally it gets too crowded to be able to ride at high speed. On the mtb, I can always take wide bypass on the grass, which ensures I don't run over little kids and dogs that can suddenly dart out, so it works. On the way back, I did my little hill repeats and that kicked my ass thoroughly in a good way.
If there are no roadies to chase there is always something else going on on that path. One day I ran over a squirrel who got caught in my front wheel. The rotation of the wheel shot him right onto my shoulder, where we exchanged a "wtf" glance for a second before he jumped off. Most of the time though, the scenery around the path is enough to keep me in awe of our world. Riding along the Narragansett Bay and being right on the water just doesn't’ get any better. Not only do I get the scenery, I also get no cars! And I really dislike riding in traffic! Other than it being dangerous, loud, and obnoxious, it also stinks! On the path, on a 30 mile loop, I'll maybe have to deal with traffic for a couple of miles only. I love not having to worry about getting taken down by an SUV who's driver is too busy texting to realize roads are shared by things smaller than their Escalade. I do bare some of the responsibility of that risk though, since I have a tendency to force my way into traffic.
And did I mention the scenery? Some evenings after work, I'll hop on the bike and try to get a good loop in while racing the sun set. It always beats me, but that's because I let it! There is something so soothing when you pic up your head for just one second in the middle of an interval while barreling through Cold State Park, and take in the sun setting over the bay. For that second, every problem in the world disappears, as you take in the colors, beauty, complexity, and interconnection of the world. And I love the "moodyness" of the water in the Bay. Some days it's grey and angry, some days calm and reflecting the colors of the sky! And always so impenetrable!
Yesterdays ride got me thinking a little bit! A very wise and insightful man (yes... me!) once said: The meaning of life is in its narrative! I came to this very “deep and wise” conclusion when I was reading my Narrative Psychotherapy treatment book when I was at Lesley U. The book made it obvious that we are constantly and actively constructing our narratives during our day and that every decision we make forces a direction to our stories. It wasn't a far stretch to realize that if our story define us, it also defines our meaning(s). As we grow older, our story expands and so therefor does our meaning. As we develop families, our story expands through our significant others and children and our meaning once again expands to include things beyond ourselves.
So there I am on my bike, pedaling like a maniac, digging in deep since I am cat 1 wanna be mountain biker, trying to catch up to and stick it to a roady! (Lots of self defining meaning in that narrative!) And then it dawns on me how much that bike path adds to my personal narrative. For one, it's a place where I can entertain odd reflections like this. But also, as mentioned above, it's peaceful, calming (even when working hard) and centering; it teaches me to take in the subtleties that can be so easily overlooked and to appreciate the beauty of what is around me. The slight changes in water in the bay, for example, emphasizes so much the changes in the colors of what surrounds it, which is constantly changing based on the time of the year, time of day, the weather, or even wind direction. It gives me an appreciation and reminder of how much beauty there is in Life. It even helps w/ my definition of humanity in that the people on the path are most often happy to be out and taking in the fresh air, and if you smile at them, 95% will smile back at you, even if you are flying past them. This reinforces my need to believe that most humans, if put in the right environment, are good and kind. So the bike path is a place that tells me that life is safe and good, and I can include that in my meaning! So that goddamn narrow paved straight line, running along side the Narragansett Bay has become an integral part of my life.
Before I got to go for my ride though, I had to drive my wife to Charlston Memorial Hospital in Fall River for a routine medical procedure. I took the wrong exit and ended up having to drive through various parts of the not so lovely Fall River. Watching some of the residents there started this whole thought on "meaning". Some seemed homeless, while others were just hanging at street corners drinking already and smoking. There was a grayness to them. Their clothing was grey, their skin was grey, the smoke coming off their cigarettes was grey, and their "being" seemed grey. It pointed out how much we are divided, and how different our narratives and our "meanings" can be. I couldn't help but contemplate not just meaning but also value in our narratives, and whether or not I could say that my narrative had more value that someone who had no real family and was just busy trying to survive everyday. Is there such a thing as an objective value? But is that one just a product of our culture? Since I have been talking above about color, maybe the value is in how much color you bring to the world?
Anyways, just a random thought... I have to try to spin out my legs...Sadly no outdoor ride tonight due to the impending rain! I have to finish proof reading this but that will need to wait...