Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Time To Ride

My buddy Joe Broach just wrote a little essay called "My Own Power" which contains a lot of nice truths. Joe's essay is a celebration of human mobility but it contains a bit of wistfulness when he writes:
"The past year has made it clear that my own power is not the same as your own power. And, it is not even in the same league as my distance riding pals like Kent and Michael. As it turns out, my own power is pretty ordinary."
Later on Joe states:
"I'll never be able to ride as far in a day as Kent or Michael or a lot of other cyclers do. And, I certainly can't access all of the woods I could by car."
It is in those wistful statements that I respectfully disagree with Joe. I think he goes awry when he confuses space and time. He's not alone in this. I do this often and so does every other person I know. But it's the wrong way to think about the situation.

Joe writes "I certainly can't access all the woods I could by car" but this can only be really true if those woods are at the end of some auto-only roadway. If it's just a question of distance, Joe could bike there. Maybe the trip takes lots of time and he'd have to pack lots of sandwiches. Maybe there are lots of hills and he'd have to use very low gears and pedal slowly and maybe walk beside his bike on the steepest sections. And maybe he doesn't have the time to do that. So those woods he longs for are not too distant, they are too time-consuming. The problem is not distance, it's time.

But somehow Michael and I are different than Joe. Distance is different for us. How can that be? Did we come to this planet when the sun near our home world exploded, carefully packed by our doomed parents in tiny rocket ships and raised by loving human couples in Smallville? So, of course, we leap tall buildings in a single bound, see with X-ray vision and ride farther than Joe ever can with his mere human power.

Or perhaps we have some other relationship with time? Do Michael and I get 28 hours given to us each day while Joe and the rest of the ordinary humans have to suffer along with only 24? That would explain it. Michael and I go farther because we get more time. We're lucky that way.

Or maybe, just maybe, the old adage has it wrong. Time is not money. Time is more valuable. You don't save time, you spend it at the same rate as everybody else on this planet. The rate is 24 hours each day. You can never save it, but some ways you spend it may work out as investments. Am I wasting three hours each day by cycling back and forth to work? If I drove a car my commute time would be half that, think of what I could do with that time I saved! But that hour and half each day that I drove, that hour and a half each day that I didn't enjoy, I know that would be wasted. And I know that I love my hours on the bike.

I go riding on Christmas, a three hour tour while Christine is curled up indoors with the cat and some cocoa and Christmas carols on the CD player. The boys are making dinner and Christine is used to my being uncomfortable with too much comfort. I tell her I'll be back by two.

The old trees are silent and the moss is still green on the trails of the Taylor Mountain woods. By the time I meander my way up the trails and ultimately emerge near the Tiger Mountain summit the air has turned white with the snow of the season. My studded tires crunch and grip the trail. As I descend the snow gets wetter and turns to rain. Back in town, White Christmas is only a song on the radio and a mountain glimpsed out the window.

It's all within biking distance. I learn this one pedal stroke at a time and it's a lesson I get to keep relearning every day. Like Joe, my own power is pretty ordinary. And my own time gets delivered to me at a rate of 24 hours each day. I guess I could waste it racing around in some attempt to save it but mostly I spend it slowly, close to home. But the funny thing is those trips add up. My legs get into the habit of turning and I learn how many sandwiches it takes to go from here to there, even if there is Tiger Mountain or Portland or Minnesota or Mexico. I still don't travel far from home, but home is a lot bigger than it used to be.

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