For many, a century is one hundred miles. To us, it represents 100 days. Yes, 100 consecutive days riding bikes. This past year has been about learning to live, at least that is what I took from 100 days of riding. On day 35 I was asked if I was blogging about it. On day 36, I started. Writing, making notes, but still not blogging…and that has become several months ago.
A lot happened in 35 days, those 100. Even day 101 was memorable, and so on. It all started innocently enough. With a canoe trip. Being in nature, paddling, hiking, listening to the call of the wild and the drone of mosquitos and then coming to the end of it and suddenly evacuating north, away from home, due to the horrendous fires that were smothering BC and later the whole Northwest in smoke. And now, I flip the tattered pages through lists of dreams, hopes, blessings. Quotes. Ideas. Journal entries. Reflections. Trail reports. Noticings. Wanderings.
Waiting for the roads to thaw, just a little bit, so I can get safely to my destination, and I read through last summer’s journal and feel moved. (We did some really cool shit).
What started out simply enough, riding a few days in a row, became a long term commitment. We learned to ride bikes during road trips/deliveries, on square job days, and in between family events. “As we head home into day 58 from an exceptional (another one) road trip to Wydaho, we reflect on the whys and whos and whats that made it that way so we can continue to hold that joy and sense of adventure throughout the times of cleaning, cutting, heat, and sweat and toil. Knowing the joy it brings others is why we do it. Each contact is a kernal of getting our product – and us – out there!”
And then there was Day 68: “I was swallowed up. Fell in to the creek bed. Blackberries surrounded and entangled me. Tenacious, tentacles twisted tightly. Their barbs snared my limbs and clothing. They even sacrificed their claws, leaving nails behind.”
Spectacular! Such memories. And now these icy roads, hot coffee, the Olympics, and sunshine sparkling on my snow covered deck, allow me the leisure to reflect. So grateful. For so much. Life stands still on a quiet snow covered world and I have this chance.
The experiences, encounters, adventures…transport me. To those days on the bike and that morning in the canoe. Where all paddling stopped. And we were still. Soaking in the moment so as to never forget it. The song of the loons, the echos, the mirrorlike reflection. How magnificent our world? How great thou art.
Rereading that last paragraph, I think that is not where I intended to go with this. This is supposed to be a blog about mountain biking and now I am writing about loons and canoeing. However, aren’t all our adventures intertwined? Getting side tracked, I remember one of the most glorious moments I have ever experienced. Was it because I was “off the grid” in the Canadian Wilderness or was it because I was fully present - in the moment - so I could actually hear the loons, their calls washing over and through me, not needing to be here or there? Or, all of the above. And does it really matter why or just that it happened and I got to live it?
Upon re-entry into reality, from said canoe drip, we were informed forest fires had closed many roads in B.C. We would need to extend our journey a few hundred miles and take the evacuation route home. Bikes stranded in Kamloops, smoke filled air, and the threat of possible road closures drove us to forfeit a long planned bike ride with #Mostly_Mental_shuttles and get out. As fast as we could. Not wanting to be stranded, we made for a quick overnight in Valemount , dined with #PeakShuttles, monitored road closures, and headed south to the border. Picking up our bikes we vowed we would ride “next time”, and got out of Canada. People were fleeing their homes to safety, at the risk of losing everything, and we were racing home while we still could. Sobering. These fires were just the beginning of a hot, tinder dry, summer.
Leaving Bowrons on Saturday, arriving home Sunday, we were itching to ride bikes. Unpacking, readjusting to life with technology, and having more responsibilities than just survival, we needed to! And, while selfishly, we had hoped for blue sky as we crossed in to Washington, the gray followed us across the border and our days, even weeks, were to be enveloped in haze.
It turns out that wouldn’t stop us. A day without being outside was like a day without sunshine. And while in this case, there really wasn’t any sun to shine, we were still going to get out. Itching for a ride, and experiencing our first night of inactivity in over a week, we were excited to be back in the saddle.
Aaaah, Treefarm. Our backyard. The familiar lines, the flow. New foliage, new growth, baby powder conditions after 30+ days of no rain. We were back…and as the famous adage says, “There’s no place like home.” To pedal again felt great! And to fly!
So we rode the next day, and the next. And on the fourth day, we decided. Thursday at the Monument. With kids and Joe and other friends, enjoying happy hour, sporting our Hawaiian shirts. Life was good. Maybe it was running in to Big Edz group, or the beautiful setting, or just the pure joy of the moment when we realized we had ridden four days in a row and we should keep doing it. I mean, why wouldn’t we? And so it began. Innocently enough. Us. And Joe. Setting out on this wild ride. To see where it would take us. Not really a goal in sight except to keep riding.
But as we reached day 20, we were stoked and thus challenged ourselves to ride 100. Because really, what else are you going to do? It was summer! We were committed. The three of us. Joe, Gary, me. But it wasn’t just us.
Friends would join in, people would keep track from afar, “What day are you on? It must be 72”. “You guys are INSANE!” “What time are you riding? Can I come?” The thing is, we didn’t do it for recognition. We just kind of did it. Were we crazy? Maybe a little. But I think our craziness made us, or at least me, more sane.
I can’t tell you how many miles we rode, or how much beer we drank, or what my resting heart rate was. I can tell you how the roots heaved and branches bowed as they thirsted for rain, or about the once dormant noxious Tansy Ragwort that infiltrated the clear cut once the trees were gone. There were bleeding hearts and daisies, hero dirt turned baby powder berms, the bear scat (or was it a coyote?), the unfamiliar tire marks and unwelcomed equine post holes, a bloody night ride, and pre-work dawn patrol rides. Long shadows, filtered sunlight, balmy evenings. Changes in the flora and fauna, the baby deer, and secret swim holes. We learned how to prioritize, although some might say we had our priorities skewed, and we made time for what was important. Being.
People always say we need to take the time to do whatever. In this case we didn’t take time, we were a part of it. We were, as they say, in the moment.
Salamander tracks, baby trees, mastering the rock garden. Brilliant sunsets, clinking toasts, laughter, sweat, and personal challenges. Planning a road trip and actually riding. Discovering new trails and appreciating the usual ones. We were a team. Until Day 59. That fateful day after Wydaho. We went from three to two. We had survived a puncture wound, bursitis, and then, there was Joe.
Day 60 entry: “Our ride had been amazing. Good conversation, fun, planning for new tires on Day 100, and then, the roll in to Edie’s. Faster than usual and an endo. Thank goodness we were close to home. And, so it goes…a broken clavicle. What happens today?”
We mourned our loss, yet continued.
We rode 100 days and each brought its own “aha” moment.
Some say to define your life, ride a bike. I say, “Find your life, ride a bike”. That’s what happened to me. Healthier, happier, more adventurous. Everything changed that fateful day at Padden almost 12 years ago. My first bike ride in decades and now look. What started out as just a thing has become part of me.
On “Day 101, October 18 (we) took the day off…didn’t ride…we stopped. And like that, we were done. Didn’t get on our bikes. Didn’t even unload them from the truck. We just didn’t. After 100 days of planning and scheduling, we canceled. An hour before 101.” Mechanicals and weather called it, but “part of me is sad, like I gave in. Wimped out. We had planned to…Joe even came over. But the broken pedal, bent seat post, heavy winds and lots of rain were enough excuses not to ride.
We did it, though. 100 days. Rather addictive…feeling good, determined, a goal met. Now hiking up our trail with hoes and beers, our bikes left on the truck. In the rain. Fixing drains. Hoeing thistles. Watching the trees. Waving, bending, and creaking, to and fro. And then back to the clear cut. Collecting rocks we had stacked on stumps last spring. From that other big windstorm. Before. But after the clearcut. And before the plant. But after the raking. Before the burn. When we hiked silently. In reverence to the dance of the trees. Searching for rocks. Gusts of wind on our faces, yet out of harm’s way.
Maybe today is not 101, but Day 1. Of what? New beginnings? A chance to recover, heal, give back. Was the earth telling us something with today’s weather? Is it time for something else or something more? What does it all mean? It wasn’t for any one, but us. But it was cool. And we did it. Made us rethink road trips, priorities. The importance of riding, flagging trails, digging and moving earth, and living what we are building and selling. What changed us or was it what we learned in those 100 days? From our experiences and the people we shared them with. About ourselves and our lifestyles. Such stories! Adventures! Injuries, growth.”
Amazing things are happening. I don’t even know what, but they are and we are going to embrace them. Let go. Be in the flow. Let them happen. Not by controlling, but by being open. To all the gifts we receive from the journey. Memories flood back to me of facing the unknown, challenges, and attitude. Do you cuss and throw your bike? Or over-plan for the next one? Pack the extra gloves, get up a little earlier, carry the extra weight – a jacket or hat – help each other, see the beauty in the Larch or the old growth forest, lend a pump to a stranger, share a flask, stop for lunch, stand in awe at the setting sun, it is all part of the trail, and Karma…
What defines you? Words? Actions? Choices? A bike?
October 21: “I hiked our trail today. A break in the torrential rain. The sun was brilliant in the turning maples. And I thought to myself – just like that it was over. 100 days and now 3 days of none. But what is next? Someone rode our trail today, but it wasn’t us. 2 dogs, turns taken a little too wide, perhaps it was someone who stumbled upon it maybe it was a friend…”
I hope they keep riding. I know we will. This is just the beginning.
“The absolute quiet was broken…
from across the lake and beyond.
Not just a solo, but a symphony.
Their haunting melody echoed…
through the Cariboos,
And we beheld the chorale in awe.
Sitting in wonderment
Immersed in beauty
Filling our souls
bringing chills to our spines.” –Bowron Lakes, July 6, 2017
See you on the trails.