May 12, 2009

Adventure #1: Cycling the Canyon

There is a very small canyon in the foothills not too far from where I work. To take a bike ride in the canyon seemed like a good first adventure. I have a commuter bike, which means it is a road bike with handlebars like a mountain bike so that you aren't bent over killing your low back while you ride. I also don't have those fancy cycling shoes, I just use my sneakers.

I start out after work, dealing with the lights and cars and traffic. After three miles I turn on the canyon road. It snakes into the canyon along a blue resevoir. Along this sun-baked stretch of road, the brush on the hillsides are beginning to dry out as spring turns into summer. It is mostly a slow, subtle uphill climb, barely noticeable except that you don't really get a downhill rest. The canyon walls slowly gain in vegetation until the road is completely shaded by trees. The trees become more and more dense and I get a happy welcome by three redwoods along the road.
Redwoods are amazing; you can feel the wisdom of their long age.

The road becomes very narrow, really only good for one car, although it is a two way road. Ferns, moss and other lush, green vegetation climb up the walls of the canyon. A small creek bubbles along, making its cobblestoned way along the twists and turns of the canyon floor. The road crosses several frugally maintained, one-lane bridges. There is no one around. It is quiet. It is peaceful. I try to take big gulps of my surroundings: the moist, fresh air, the smell of earth and plant life, the glow that shaded light creates, the feeling of my legs working and my lungs out of breath. All of this is sometimes interrupted by my nearly incessant mind-think. Random or useless thoughts that are inappropriately placed in my day. They may have their time and place, it is just not now!

Eventually the road dead-ends and I turn around to head out of the canyon. I am looking forward to the fact that the way out will be a nice, long, slow downhill ride. The road winds and swerves and crosses back over the bridges. I build up white-knuckle speed as I let myself enjoy the thrill of wind whipping past me. I push my legs to continue to take me faster and faster. I grip my handlebars harder and harder and try to relax my shoulders. Eventually the downgrade of the road lessens just in time as the road becomes wider and cars are more common. The sun appears again, although lower in the sky now.

My ride back takes less than half the time it took me to ride into the canyon. Somehow riding with the cars in traffic and stopping at lights is less annoying, even fun when you try to make as many lights as possible and keep up with the speed of car traffic. When I get back to my car I feel refreshed. Not really tired after 21 miles. I wouldn't say I am ready to conquer the world or anything, but I am rejuvenated. It was an adventure of an ordinary life.

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