Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Head in the Clouds, Wheels on the Ground

All these clouds

My head's in the clouds but my wheels are on the ground. I'm struck dumb lately, silent, by the silly ideas people offer seriously: that bike riding is hard, that a handful of miles is too far to move under your own power, that sweat is some kind of evil fluid which destroys all that it touches, that it is better to be cooped up inside an air conditioned car than out riding in the free air beneath all these clouds in the blazing August sun. 

This August sky is my favorite sky, this August heat is my favorite heat. The morning doesn't know what the night might bring. It's best to slow down a bit when it's this hot, and what's the hurry anyway? Where are you going? What's the rush? Do you know the count of the minutes? Are you able to predict with certainty what waits for you at the end of the ride? Not what you want, not what you hope, but what actually will be? No. The ride is the ride. Go with it.

What is important is often not what we think is important. What we look so hard to find is often right there in front of us. As I waited at the stoplight for the green arrow, I looked up into the sky and beheld the mosaic of clouds and light in the photo above. I tilted my head way back, and looked straight up at the pattern which was dappled all across the morning sky, as a car pulled into the lane next to me. I looked slowly down into the driver's window, and she was looking at me, smiling, and I thought, I hope she caught me being carried away staring at all these clouds while waiting at this light, the guy on the bicycle looking up and allowing himself to be swept away.

I hope she thought, I wonder what goes on inside his head, what's he looking at, what's he thinking, who is he, why is he sitting on his bike on a workday morning staring up at the sky? What does he see? If I could make one other person curious about the clouds, just one, just curious enough to look up for one moment, that would be enough for me. Did she look? I don't know, but she did smile, which is something in itself.

Be calm, adrenaline junky, rest easy, drama queen: we're going to just stare at the sky for a moment here and now.

I've found that quiet energizes me now far more than chaos. Calm gets me higher than crazy drama. I've tired of repetitious mini-dramas that play out like set pieces from old bad commercials that run on a worn tape loop over and over. Been there before. The sun-drenched cloud eel dragon attempting to consume the steel pillars above, swimming in sunlight blazing cloud fire, that grabs my undivided, single-tasking attention. My head's in the clouds, but my wheels are on the ground, I've lost track of time and I'm just going to ride around for a while. It's not like you can really keep track of time, anyway. You cannot. You cannot hold the count of the minutes in your hand. You can guess at them, you can wish for how many they might be, but they will never be enough anyway, you know it, and hoping otherwise seems like where we begin to go wrong.

One minute, five, I let the clouds grab my undivided single-tasking attention. The cloud eel dragon blazed fire into my wheels, and I rode like there was no tomorrow.



  1. you've nailed the entire piece right here with this post. nice! oh and thanks! steven

  2. Sometimes I don't read all the emails I receive from my local bike advocacy group or read the ongoing cyclists vs drivers drivel as its depressing and negative. Sometimes its just best to ignore it all and ride your bike and enjoy all the little things that bike riding offers such as cloud formations, gardens, etc.

  3. My perspiration is an evil fluid that destroys my eyeballs.

  4. I bleed sweat and bike grease! Aww heck yes summer sweat is American as apple pie and camo pants!

  5. Had a similar experience today, here in NY. I rode with 2 friends because it was an absolutely beautiful day. We met up with some other friends at the indie coffee shop (the not-Starbucks place). We climbed some hills so we could sweat and then appreciate the descent. We saw a few deer. I looked for turtles in the swampy place but didn't see any. About an hour after we were done, we had an earthquake. Made me think about the beauty and the power of nature.

  6. When you associate NOT sweating with heat exhaustion, it increases whatever appreciation of that wonderful process. Besides, motorists sweat while they wait for the AC.

  7. steven, thank you, have a great ride!

    PaddyAnne, I think it all starts with agreeing that sweat is good, that cycling is easy, safe and enjoyable, and when other cyclists disagree even with these because they will, stare at the clouds.

    limom, I'm picturing some ceramic eye shades which keep the sweat out.

    veesee, mmmm, apple pie.

    Shelly, our brief and fleeting endeavors are brought into sharp perspective by the power of Nature. But I do not recommend riding in a hurricane.

    Steve A, I appreciate all the body's systems of cooling and elimination, and try to ensure that all continue to work at optimal levels even in desert heat and dry by hydrating incl. some electrolytes and verifying that cooling/eliminating continues per specification.

  8. I think about my life before cycling, and I wonder what took me so long. Cycling makes me a better person. Sweaty, but definitely better.

  9. JK I've been looking at / taking some various health assessment tests lately, answering questions like Do you smoke (N), how much alcohol per day (0), how much stress (Medium), etc, and after reading your post, I think they should add a question like this: "While exercising each day, how much weight do you lose through sweat?" There's an optimal level of daily exercise sweat, in my book.


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