I rolled along on two narrow tires across hundreds of miles of road. Two weeks prior, my plans only included work and school.
I had spent numerous nights with my friend Liz, looking at maps and planning routes for her solo bike trip. As the trip approached, I became more and more inspired by the idea of biking hundreds of miles across the southwest. For her, the purpose of the trip wasn’t to get to a specific place, accumulate ‘x’ number of miles, or to move at a particularly fast pace; It wasn’t to win KOMs on Strava or to get people to ‘like’ a photo. Sure, there were daily mileage goals for the sake of camping and there was an end goal of getting to the Grand Canyon and returning home. But, the main purpose of this trip was to go on “vacation” and to see the landscape through a new perspective. (To many, vacation equates to relaxation and cocktails by the pool. For my friends and I, vacation equates to physically challenging endeavors and ambitious goals that demand mental acuteness, resulting in a rush of scenery and endorphins.)
One night at the bar, Liz invited me to join her. With an overwhelming excitement and a temporary lapse in responsibility for all of my obligations, I said yes. For the next few days she thought it was the locally crafted beer speaking for me. Little did she know, I was serious and scheming. I was in need of a physical challenge and mental clarity. I was in need of an adventure.
Prior to this trip, I considered myself an around town biker who preferred flat, paved terrain. Not in my wildest dreams would I have realized a love for biking before spending eight days relying on my bicycle and my body to carry me and my essentials over hills and across vast desert landscapes.
By the end of the week, I biked nearly five hundred miles from our front door in Colorado to just outside the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
Biking has broadened my horizons. Ive become proud of my strengths while finding peace in my seeming weaknesses. I endured wind at my face, sore muscles while climbing 8% grades, and incredible seat discomfort. I felt pure bliss while coasting across desolate landscapes and down hills.
A region that I have driven back and forth across appeared quite differently from the saddle of my bike. The colors became more vibrant. The hills became steeper. The wind felt stronger than ever. I learned how to feel the landscape. I became acquainted with each and every scent of the flowers and the trees and the dirt and even road kill. I earned a deeper appreciation for physical connection and physical strength. I have never felt so committed and connected and at peace.
This week, I opened to another new bike experience: my first mountain bike ride. Only a couple months after embarking on my first bike trip, I felt inspired to pedal on new terrain. The road has become a comfortable place for biking. I wanted to roll across packed dirt and loose sand and rocks and roots. I hopped on a demo bike and headed up to the local mountain biking trails.
Out of my comfort zone, I pedaled on winding dirt, through oak forest, and on rolling rocky trails. At times, I had to be reminded to breathe. I felt tense at the top of each downhill. I felt strong as I progressed up each uphill. The new bike felt foreign, as if I needed to relearn what each lever was for. Mountain biking felt nothing like the touring I had been doing. Other than both bikes having two wheels and a set of pedals, they feel quite diverse in how they maneuver.
Before long, my excitement crowded out my discomfort. I was able to notice the smell of the blooming flowers and nearby rain fall. The sound of thunder aligned with my heartbeat. I shared a bright smile with the peeking sun rays. Dirt lifted behind the tires and floated in the light breeze.
It feels good to broaden horizons, try new things, find comfort in discomfort, and love the unknown. I am grateful for friends who inspire me and those patient enough to share their passions. Biking has taught me about strength and endurance, power and grace, patience, and ambition. I’ve felt the landscape from a new perspective... from a broadened horizon.