Traveling by bike

One of my favorite bike quotes came from Ernest Hemingway, and goes like this:

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

This is true, and I can honestly remember most of my epic climbs and blistering downhills.  This last weekend along the coast I had plenty of both. But today, on the first day back at work, I had time to reflect on the rides of the last week, and, I find this quote lacking a bit….

Now I don’t want anyone to think I am putting myself up against one of the literary giants of the last century.  Nor do I know how often, how far or where he rode his bike. But I will tell you, two rides in Oregon this weekend reminded me there is SO much more to experience when riding.

I have told you time and time again I am NOT a fast rider. I keep the legs moving and get where I want to get to, but I make sure to live the ride as well.

I look for the animals around me.  In the ride to the Lighthouse, I saw 3 gray whales, 1 black bunny, 1 bald eagle and these blue herons.

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In a car I might have seen some of the same, but cruising along at 13 mph, I have plenty of time so see what there is to see.  I love nature, something instilled in me since I was little by my parents.  The bike lets me see so much more than I would otherwise.

Then there is the feeling of the air around me.  The ride started out bright and sunny, with warmth on my face and arms

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But as I went along, and gained elevation, I moved into the clouds with fog coming in

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In a car one sees the fog, but in general, the windows are shut, the heater is on, and one punches right through in to the other side.  On the bike, you feel the moisture on your skin, shoot sometimes water drips off your nose.  You can taste the fog, and as your view lessons in the distance

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Your ears start to pick up the things you can’t see, in this case waves.  If you are patient enough, which is again easier with a bike, the wind might shift a little and you can see just a little bit of what the fog is hiding.

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I don’t want you to think I am glossing over the hills. Some of the climbs I had were damn tough. It was all I could do to keep the legs moving fast enough to keep the bike upright. But honest to Pete folks, in my climb up to Ecola, I could feel the green I was passing through.

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What does green “feel” like?  Its fresh, clean, and vibrant.  I can almost feel the extra oxygen from the plants entering the blood system, giving the legs more energy and clearing my mind.

And last, but far from the least, the smells. Yep you get gas and diesel exhaust from time to time, but then you do in a car as well.  I also got ocean smells, evergreen forests, some oh my gawd amazing food smells from restaurants, some BAD seafood smells and the above mentioned green. I have taken off stuffed up from a cold or allergies, and within a mile or 2 I was able to breathe and smell again.  It’s almost like magic.

So yes, my buddy Ernie up above was correct. Cycling an area will commit the route to memory.  Where he is lacking is the reasons for it.  It aint just the hills, it’s all the senses combined providing the experience that will never be forgotten.

I know there are many people who let the fear of traffic

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Keep them from ever experiencing this life changing activity.  But, if you take the plunge, learn to ride with even old farts in Winnebagos, and let your senses open up to the world that is yours while pedaling the bike, you will never regret it.

I very much needed this time away with Michelle, and I am damn lucky she understands my need to ride. Ride whenever you can folks, experience the world and live life.  You only get one chance on the this world, make the most of it!

Like the wind!

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6 Responses to Traveling by bike

  1. sarburch says:

    Ha, ha, Mountainstroh takes on Hemingway! And rightfully so! You go!

    The great thing about memorable quotes is that they tend to be short’n’sweet. The shorter’n’sweeter, the better! While I’m also a huge fan of Hemingway’s quote about bicycles, the length of the quote has always bothered me. (I understand the words were lifted from one of Ernest’s other writings, but that’s not the point.) I challenge you to rewrite Hemingway’s quote, incorporating the wonderful points you’ve noted above, but making it even shorter’n’sweeter than the original. 😉

  2. And that is exactly why I fell in love with cycling. 😀

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