Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Keeping It Light

The author with his mascot, Gumby, during the 1987 Race Across America. What could be more fun than having my sister-in-law crawl inside my inflatable 6" tall Gumby to surprise me?

It astounds me how overly seriously so many people take their cycling and endurance sports. It's like they just literally want to suck the life and the fun out of the whole experience.

Not me!

I honestly believe I enjoy cycling, and getting "out there" under human power, more intensely, and more intently, than just about anybody. I do this largely by "keeping it light."

When I'm out on my bike, when I'm "out there," I make a point of taking everything in, all the time. Some people stare continuously at the white line, or the butt of the rider in front of them, all the time. I don't get that. I prefer constantly using my peripheral vision to soak in as much enjoyment, information, inspiration, and light as possible. Not ony is this fun and smile-inducing, but it helps me to notice little roads or trails off to the side of the road, or way off in the distance on some hillside, giving me inspiration for more places to explore. I'm also more likely to notice weather changes in the offing, or aggressive drivers, or historic markers, or viewpoints to check out. If I don't pay attention, I'm liable to miss that glimpse of wildlife along the way, or a waterfall, or a dolphin in the ocean, or a classic car in somebody's yard or driveway, or a funnily decorated mailbox, or a funny sign, or a funky café or mini-mart. I've got to take it all in!
You noticed those wild turkeys over there to the right, on the way to Lake Cuyamaca, right?

Yes, I really do stop during my rides. It amazes me how many people just blast right over the summit of a big climb, without even stopping to enjoy the view or take photo at the summit. Seriously? Likewise for those who have ridden past some historic marker placed by the county, some historical group, or the Clampers a million times, but have never stopped to read it. I pretty much always stop for those signs. In fact, I want to find an area in California that is thickly covered in historic markers and viewpoints and then create a cycling event that specifically involves stopping at all of them! (Any suggestions?)

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 858, along Sunrise Highway on Mount Laguna.

If cycling isn't about embracing the world around us and getting to know it, why not just ride indoors on a trainer?

Naturally, I at least nod at all the other cyclists I see, and sometimes I wave at them. Amazingly, I even verbally greet those riders that I catch along the way! (I know, I know, that's so uncommon anymore. Sad.) Of course, I don't discriminate based upon their type of bike, clothes, or anything else. Anybody on two human-powered wheels is fine by me, and automatically "on my team." (I make a point of chatting it up with motorcyclists, too, treating them as fellow two-wheeled lovers of the world. Being a human is the best way to be respected by another human, I believe. However, if one slides off the pavement because they are driving their motorbike like an idiot, I will ride on by.)

When I meet somebody to go for a ride, I am actually there to ride with them. I know, call me crazy, but it's not my idea of fun to "half-wheel" a friend. The friendship, conversation, and mutual enjoyment are paramount when I ride with somebody. I also keep it light by talking a lot - generally about non-cycling stuff - with my friends when I'm riding. All that sullen silence so common in group rides is not for me. (Quite boorish, that is.)

Of course, I enjoy a silent jam with friends sometimes, too: Let our pedals do the talking! But when I really want to "train," which isn't often, I join a racing type club ride, enter a race or timed event, or I just go ride on my own and use my heartrate monitor and personal records on various stretches of road to push myself.

My late friend and mentor, Willard Bascom, said "The whole point of life is to enjoy it." By keeping it light, I do that as much and as often as possible.

Yeah, I stop to check out these kinds of signs, too. That's my Ritchey Break-Away. In this case, they explained the devastating, but natural, fire which had swept through this area of Mount Laguna.
OK, we all stop to get water at National Forest Visitors' Centers, but how about going inside? They often have neat pins, postcards, books, and maps which I'll buy during a ride. Nice volunteers, too!
Just one of many displays inside the Visitor's Center shown above, atop Mount Laguna. Want to visit this amazing Mount Laguna? Come ride our Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic in April! Info.

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