Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Liquid gray infinity

Date: Jan. 29
Mileage: 19.2
January mileage: 828.7
Temperature upon departure: 33

When the subject of how much cycling I do comes up in conversations with acquaintances, I usually try to downplay it as much as possible. Part of it has to do with my delusion of normalcy and my fear of being judged. “You do what? Every day? Out in the weather? Here?” After all, they know where I live.

But the main reason I don’t talk about cycling obsession with anyone but the best of friends is my fear of the best question of all, the question I don’t know how to answer — “Why?”

“You spend all of your free time biking?” For the most part. “As a hobby?” Yes. “Do you get paid at all to ride your bike?” Of course not. “Do you ever plan to make any money riding a bike?” Well, no. “Are you trying to lose weight?” Not really.

“Then ... Why?”

Sometimes I feel like rebutting by asking them why they spend their free time playing World of Warcraft or TiVo-ing whatever reality train wrecks they’re showing on TV these days, but I know it’s not really a fair comparison. Their hobbies don’t send them out into the slush and biting cold, splattered in grit and varying shades of bruises. Their hobbies don’t require wearing soggy clothing made of unnatural fabrics and coping with equipment that seems to be in a constant state of disrepair. My hobby defines me as quirky and a little bit crazy, and I find it impossible to explain my way out of that.

There are times, though, that I ask myself the same question. It usually crosses my mind in the midst of a rough ride or the conditions I dislike the most - the watered-down slush, the wind. The rain.

Today I stopped at the North Douglas boat launch to pour the water out of my shoes and wipe my Camelbak nozzle free of a solid layer of grit. Nobody was out in the monotone drizzle of a Monday afternoon, and the calm water reflected the silence. Luxurious, billowing clouds draped over tree tops and tumbled down the mountainside like stain fabric.

I sat down for a moment on the beach, littered with broken mussel shells that sparkled in the dull light. I thought about my routine and its strange motions, and I thought a little about “Why.”

I live in a liquid world where everything is fleeting and nothing stays the same. The only thing I’m really certain of is the passing of time, the waves of good and bad that carry me forward. And the details - the possessions I acquire, the way that I look, the places I go, the people I meet, the people I love - are too often little more than glimmers of the present in a sea of memories. It's all too easy for me to drift away with the tide, become lost in that ocean, and forget that life is something that happens, not something I have.

What I really want is to live at the crest of every moment - every frightening, joyful, exhausting, brilliant, mundane moment - as they pass me by. And bicycling, in a way, is my means of staying afloat.