When I have conversations with others about books and writers and I inevitably mention Hemingway, more often than not I get a look of confusion. Apparently, there’s a lot of people out there who don’t share my admiration for his work. Everyone knows he was a great writer, but many try to read his stories and don’t understand the hype.
I’ve been getting that same look recently when I tell them about the ride. “It sounds like one hell of an adventure … but WHY?” I understand people’s misgivings on both accounts.
For me, riding long distances on my bike is a lot like reading a Hemingway novel. When I first start, it feels a little disjointed. The sentences are short and choppy. My pedaling feels unnatural and unsmooth. My hands can’t find a comfortable place on the bars and the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Page after page and my butt still hurts and I have to think about how hard I am pedaling. Am I at the right cadence or should I be spin a little faster? Every hill becomes something I need to conquer and it’s back side my reward.
I stop looking down at my bars, my tire, my speedometer and begin focusing on the road in front of me. I no longer focus on my pedals and instead the path before me. I can no longer feel where my hands end and the bike begins. I forget about the helmet on my head and don’t feel my tires rolling over small pebbles. The pavement in front of me disappears and only the terrain is left; the same terrain that’s been there for thousands of years.
I spot an Osprey perched in a tree at the same time he spots me. We stare into each other’s eyes and I wonder if he feels the same connection I do. The glare of the sun has become a warming hand on my back. The breeze feels more like something I’m a part of than something that’s pushing against me. And then the chapter ends.
I’ve just ridden 30 miles in what seemed like moments. We’ve stopped for a snack, or a bathroom, or because our ride for the day is over. Although the break was needed, I hate it for taking me out of the place I was in. All I want to do is jump on my bike and pedal my way back. But it’s a new chapter with its own start and its own end.
I often wonder how I’ll feel when the book finally ends. Will I feel contentment or sorrow or awe? I kind of hope it’s none of the above, but rather a new feeling, one that couldn’t have been imagined at the start of the ride. I have always been a sucker for surprise endings.