Alone again, and so alive

Day 12: Bodega Dunes to Samuel P. Taylor Campground, 43 miles

The ride today is hard. The merry company is disbanding, everyone but me is headed into the city, to rent a car, and take a drive up to Yosemite. We agree to stop for coffee in Tomales, and all the others pass me on the road.

I am struggling with the steep hills around Tomales Bay. My legs are resisting. And my arse (correct British term) is sore in the saddle. My heart is feeling loss, alone again for the first time in days. Sure, I’ve been riding alone most of the time on this tour. Yet the many random stops and interactions with my traveling companions have fueled my rides, goaded me on to the next destination.

Now, I’m alone with my own thoughts, my own plans, my history and future. All here, on this bicycle, crossing this landscape, on this day. Reality is stark, yet refreshing. I’m inspired to understand how quickly and easily I made alliances, and how to release attachments and expectations. So the next thing that happens surprises me.

Blake pulls up beside me on one of the hills, and asks for advice. “What?”

Because older people know more, he wants my advice. Both a compliment and a jarring of my time sense. Yes, older than him I am (pardon the Yoda-speak). “Well, older people have made more mistakes, and hopefully I’ve learned from mine!” is my quippy reply.

He shares concerns about relationship, and here I’m stumped. Not a success in this area. And reluctant to offer any advice. I tell him we’ll have to talk at camp tonight. He’s riding with his group to the same park. Off he speeds, up and over hills that I am crawling up. I even dismount and walk one.

This feels ok. To honor the current position and condition of my ride, of my body. To compare to other rides. How my legs were stronger, but my heart much more conflicted than now. I’m excited to be heading into San Francisco, to meet old friends and make more new acquaintances.

I stop often, capturing pictures of the beauty of spring in Marin County. Again, the flowers are stunning. Even overcast, Tomales Bay is beautiful and serene. Tacos in Point Reyes Station, delicious. More cycling along Route 1. One more coffee break before the final climb, the turn towards Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The last few miles count down quickly, as the tall trees of the state park appear. More mighty sequoia sempervirens. My trees. I feel at home as I recognize them.

Two other cyclists are here, who I met at Bodega the night before. Mike and Lucy, on a short tour north, now returning to home in Oakland. Then Blake and crew show up. Two more cyclists join. A fire is struck, warming the chill evening. I’m invited to dinner, and shyly accept. The attention seems focused on me, the wise. Ugh. What do I know. But the conversation is light, even as topics grow heavy. The future of the environment. Truck culture vs. bicycle tourist. What are we all going to do when we stop riding.

“I’m unemployed” says Lucia. I suggest “between situations” as a positive way to reframe. Many on bicycle tours are in just such a condition. For it takes time, lots of time, to cycle, to explore, to engage in the world from two wheels.

“When people ask why I don’t ride a motorcycle, I tell them pasta is cheaper than petrol,” quips James, a new companion from Britain. Lucia asks why I keep riding.

“Because this is the time I feel really alive,” I say. “Everything else seems unreal.” The exposure. The struggle. Living on the edge of terrain, of what is seen as safe. On a road, where the Kurious Kampers though I must be out of my mind.

But what is true safety? Insulating ourselves in a multi-thousand pound box of steel and glass, which consumes vast amounts of resource and warms the climate to the point of threatening our very lives? Car culture, safe?

“You lose a sense of space and time,” notes James. This is the crux. The lost sense, the disconnect between action and consequence. An entire lifestyle built on endless consumption, which in the end consumes itself.

But on a bicycle, to chose to slow down, to a much more human pace. To consume what is needed, a lot of food for instance. But vastly less resources. And to have an experience that is invigorating, inspiring, enlivening. I’m alone again, and alive. So alive.

3 thoughts on “Alone again, and so alive

  1. Your reflection, brings to mind the poem “Clearing”, by Morgan Farley


    I am clearing a space
    here, where the trees stand back.
    I am making a circle so open
    the moon will fall in love
    and stroke these grasses with her silver.

    I am setting stones in the four directions,
    stones that have called my name
    from mountaintops and riverbeds, canyons and mesas.
    Here I will stand with my hands empty,
    mind gaping under the moon.

    I know there is another way to live.
    When I find it, the angels
    will cry out in rapture,
    each cell of my body
    will be a rose, a star.

    If something seized my life tonight,
    if a sudden wind swept through me,
    changing everything,
    I would not resist.
    I am ready for whatever comes.

    But I think it will be
    something small, an animal
    padding out from the shadows,
    or a word spoken so softly
    I hear it inside.

    It is dark out here, and cold.
    The moon is stone.
    I am alone with my longing.
    Nothing is happening
    but the next breath.

    ~ Morgan Farley

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