Monday, January 18, 2010

"The highway sets the traveller's stage."

This weekend I lost a dog. Sort-of. She slipped out a gate I forgot to close. We found her later that night, or rather she just came back. But in that gut-wrenching interim Lauren and I were crawling through the woods, completely unfamiliar territory, in the dark, in the pouring rain and numbing cold.

Is it twisted that as I was peering under bushes and through branches I was thinking about how to describe the moment in this blog? Anyway, I ride 10-15+ hours a week, venturing further out on roads I've never seen before, sometimes getting a little lost. But can one ever be lost on a road? I love exploring my town, neighboring towns, totally new towns, on my bike. But, however small the road, cracked, unpainted, even dirt, I'm still exploring from the road.

As in the Avett Brothers song, "The highway sets the traveller's stage." It's so hard to escape that paradigm in which we see everything from the road, looking past the easement, over the fence, through the phone and transmission lines. How often do we explore beyond the highway?

This dog yanked us out of that paradigm and back into the woods. And with my feet soaked and freezing, my jeans and jacket soaked and freezing, my left eye closed up from an evergreen's open-handed slap to the face, I realized I was really grateful to be wet while it was raining and lost when it was dark.

I used to read a lot of mountain bike magazines that offered the cliched "get lost" advice to their readers. I romanticized that idea, but now I realize it's not about getting lost as much as it is doing whatever it takes to see without highway goggles. So not necessarily venturing farther, but maybe differently. I can ride 200 miles in a weekend, but slogging through that soaking, freezing, pitch dark few acres showed me something I hadn't seen in a good while.