Thursday, July 12, 2012
On the Open Road (Christine's first year with her Trek Allant)
In my favorite Christmas movie Trapped in Paradise, the three Firpo brothers take a road trip to a small town with a plan to rob the bank. They make off with the money, only to find themselves trapped in a snowstorm, unable to get out of town. As darkness falls along with the swirling snowflakes, the sign at the edge town proclaims that in every direction, the road is closed. Hijinks ensue as the getaway car skids off a bridge, and escape attempts by bus, riverboat, and horse and sleigh are thwarted, until the kindness of the town's people wins them over, and they decide to give the money back. By the end of the movie, with a plan to make a honest living taking shape and a new romance beginning, the main character looks up at the road sign again and finds that “All Roads Are Open.”
I haven't robbed any banks (more likely the other way around before I transferred my account to the local credit union, but that's another story). But a couple of years ago a path I'd been following for many years dead-ended, and for quite awhile I was trapped by my own sense of failure and life closing in, in decidedly less amusing fashion than the movie scenario. But by whatever mysterious process grace happens, I eventually began to reach tentatively toward new possibility. I let go of a bunch of stuff that wasn't part of my life anymore, got a new haircut, took up yoga, and adopted a black cat. A green Trek Allant in a shop window caught my eye in early fall, and I saved a bit of money here and there and bought it on a beautiful sunit morning last July. Lugging it up the stairs to our second-floor apartment, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. The green bike told me her name was Allie. (Perhaps Allie the Allant had divined my fondness for all things alliterative.) She was outfitted with a rear rack, faux wicker basket, lock and cable and lights, and we began to get acquainted on my ride to work the next morning.
Since that day a year ago, I've ridden that bike in the darkness of many early mornings under the moon and stars, in wind and rain and glistening frost, commuting to work year round. Raccoons are curious as I ride by, deer gracefully turn their heads, and the bunnies disappear ahead of me into tall grass at the side of the road. I've carried panniers full of groceries home and verified that the basket will indeed hold a small pumpkin or watermelon, and more than one passer-by smiled when I rode home with a huge bouquet of sunflowers strapped to my day pack. I've traded my umbrella for a good rain shell and rain pants and my jeans for nylon pants that dry fast when they get wet. I've gotten good at carrying my bike up and down stairs, counting the steps, balancing the weight, remembering to breathe. And after nearly two decades of mostly traveling extensively in Issaquah, I've ventured further out into the world. I've struggled up hills and flown down them singing, traversed rocky trails, struggled against the wind some days and other days found it enhancing the joyful ease of forward motion. With great trepidation I've crossed bridges, leaving safe ground to venture across the water into new and unexplored territory. I've made my way through fear in the noisy darkness of tunnels and come out on the other side into the light. I've stretched my comfort level a bit with riding in traffic, and though I am at heart a gentle soul who prefers roads less traveled, both on and off the road I am a bit less easily intimidated than I used to be.
For much of our 27+ year marriage, Kent went off on biking adventures and I held down the fort at home. But there is, happily, less to hold down these days than there used to be, and over the last year, we've been having many of our adventures together. Last September we toured around 200 miles of the hilly Oregon Coast, where Allie earned her full title, Allie the Valiant Allant. We've gone on camping trips along the Iron Horse Trail, and taken the bikes on the ferry to ride to Fay Bainbridge State Park and Illahee State Park, and taken the trail to Preston for an overnight stay in a tree house (as well as getting in quite a few coffee shop dates and picnics). Another fall tour is in the planning stages.
Sometimes life does not give you what you want, and sometimes the thing you want and receive turns out, in the long run, not to measure up to expectations. But once in awhile, maybe, a gift will surprise you, and be better than anything you ever expected, becoming a part of the way you live and expanding your own capacity to learn and grow and enjoy an amazing world. With over 50 trips around the sun behind me, I look forward to many more adventures with Kent and with Allie the Valiant Allant, and to riding down many more open roads.