Thursday, January 01, 2009

Three Hour Tour

By choice or chance or most likely a combination of both, most of my friends are bike people, people who are happiest when they are awheel or tinkering with what Christopher Morley correctly identified as the "vehicle of novelists and poets." Our devices capture mathematics in metal, casting abstract ratios in solid cogs and chains. Hard roads yield to soft rubber and the resiliency of captured air. Our legs don't pound, they spin. We need not walk or crawl, for we roll with a strength so smooth it seems like flying. Our simple machines, machines that cannot even stand alone without us, come to life when we balance on saddles and dance on pedals and reward us by taking us farther, faster, than we could ever go alone.

I get to ride such a machine three hours each day going back and forth to work. Friends, even some of my bike friends, don't quite get why I choose to live 18.5 miles from where I work and ride my bike back and forth. "Wouldn't it be easier to live closer?" they ask. "Or drive?"

Well, some of this is circumstance. When Christine and I first moved to Issaquah, I worked in Issaquah. My commute was about a mile and I often walked. The kids settled into school and we settled into this lovely little community at the foothills of the Washington Cascades. Over time, I got other jobs, jobs in the big city of Seattle and found I could bike there. I found I liked biking there. I found I loved biking there.

It's not about ease, it's about love but when you do what you love, it's easy.

Yes, it is easier rolling out the door on a sunny day in July than in a rainy night in November but the miles build and what begins as a choice becomes a habit and your habits become your character. I'm that character who rides everywhere.

I've learned a few things along the way. I've learned wool gloves stay warm even when they are wet. I've learned that a cycle cap keeps rain off my glasses. I know where eagles perch on Mercer Island and which patches of road ice up first. I know many of the shades of red and gold that the sunlight shows as it glints over the Cascade and Olympic mountains and I know every day will show me something new. I've changed flat tires under starlight and heard frogs singing in the moonlight.

I get three hours each day to think, to sing (badly) to myself, and write little essays in my head. I get to sweat and work up an appetite or take things easy depending on my mood. Some days I charge up the hills, some days I just survive them. But the ride is always a reward.

My daily three hour tour puts a bit of muscle on my legs and gives me a basis to launch out on longer trips. Riding Paris-Brest-Paris or the Great Divide, I measure not just in miles or kilometers but in memories of commutes, of tiny tours that add up to great distances. How many commutes does it take to reach to Brest and back, or from Montana to Antelope Wells? I know that big journeys are just small steps repeated and strung together.

People work for the weekend or slave for some retirement where they dream of doing what they want. I want to ride my bicycle and I get to do it three hours per day. As Bob Dylan said, "I can't help it if I'm lucky."

Keep 'em rolling,



PsySal said...


Jaco said...

Very inspirational... Thank you.

Ruby Topaz

fxdwhl said...

you summed up my hour and a half as well! the perfect bookends for a working day. here's to a good 2009!

Anonymous said...

I'm on the other side of the country, and I'm new to biking (just under 6 months of bike commuting now) but my commute is a fairly hilly 14.5 miles, and this post really resonated with me. I was so excited to read it.

You captured it so perfectly, I might just print it out and wave it at my coworkers when they express their surprise that I rode yet again!

David Killick said...

An absolutely beautiful post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Another brilliantly inspiring post. Thanks again for sharing.

jasonk said...

I couldn't agree more. My commute has been 46 miles round trip, daily. Recently I took a new job where the distance is just under 40 miles. There is no better way to get to work. You're right, it is all about the love.

Donald Boothby said...

Very well said, Kent. Having been on vacation since before Christmas, I'm really looking forward to getting back into my commuting routine tomorrow. Thanks for keeping it real.

Anonymous said...

Three Hour Tour ... I can't get Mary Anne out of my head, forget Gilligan.

F.W. Adams said...

That's wicked commitment to the two-wheeled commute--thanks for setting the example (and making me feel like a schlub--okay, not sure what a "schlub" is, but I sure like sayin' it!).

Happy New Year, Happy Trails!
Ride One or Ride None!

climbhoser said...

I just ceased my 35 mile daily commute for more time with the family. My hopes are that the kids will get old enough for school and I can resume. I miss it so much, and while not the most important thing in my life it is way up there.

Nice post, I like your passion.

Boxer Bikes said...

Nice use of the line from Idiot Wind, Kent. I look forward to the days when those cherry blossoms are in season again.


MELI. said...

excellent post, & beautiful picture, that tree is something else.
nice blog, will be visiting often
greetings from San Francisco♥

SomeGuy said...


Just wondering...
My commute is 16 miles each way.
Problem is, on return I have to climb 500 meters altitude (1640 feet).

That's actually what's keeping me from doing this everyday.

Is there any climb on your commute?


Kent Peterson said...

Hey SomeGuy,

Yep, I've got about 1600 feet of total climbing on my commute. I've mapped out the bulk of my ride here:

The Bikely elevation profile gets confused by one of the bridge crossings to Mercer Island, so that's why it looks like I go subterranean for a bit there. But the big climb is Cougar Mountain, while Mercer Island and Seattle are both not-flat.