I don’t blame that Ebola nurse in Maine for violating her “quarantine” and heading out for a ride. In fact, I’m considering a little trip to Liberia and back just for the passport stamp. What a gift to be labelled in such a way that entire major metropolitan areas would avoid you like, well…. the plague. As much as I love my Bike Friends, there are times when I want nothing more than to leave them, along with every single other human on the planet, behind.
In our modern world there is great emphasis on social networking. We, as a society, spend inordinate amounts of energy trying to be the thing that we are trying to convince our social networking contacts we already are. Every day going forward we are more connected than any other humans have ever been. There was a time when people used to pay a nominal fee to the phone company to remain “unlisted” in the white pages for various reasons of privacy. Today, the great masses of international populations fall over themselves puking every last detail of their existences into their twitter, facebook, instagram, google+, feeds. We walk around with devices in our pockets that record the data of our every moment: conversations, connections, photos, videos, movements; the very thoughts in our minds by virtue of the questions we ask and information we consume. Everything is shared. Everything is poured into an infinite consciousness soup. When we give away the best of what we are so freely, I wonder what is left for ourselves?
There are so few unique moments. So few pieces of time which we have individual ownership, minutes or hours that belong to no one else, that are not shared via facebook or strava or tweeted out, screamed into the internet like a fool yelling at the sky. We spent so little time at home in the comfort of our own heads that we begin to feel like a stranger there. Uncomfortable and unwelcome.
I am like most of my generation. I am a suburbanite with a wife and a kid and a mortgage and a bunch of bills and and a regular job. I just completed on-line open enrolment for my health insurance. I might be doing a kitchen remodel soon. I have a lot on my plate. All this adds up. And that’s just my personal whirlwind. Not to mention the constant bombardment by the fear-mongering media. I’m also supposed to be terrified of Ebola and ISIL and wondering if Abil-iagra-ialis-lipi-crestor-zide is right for me. It’s a lot to think about. We need more opportunities to not think. To instead just feel something endogenous and authentic that isn’t manufactured or marketed or inflicted upon us.
I don’t wait for anyone. I travel at my own luxurious pace. I watch the shadow of the single bike on top of my car. In contrast to the kamikaze, death-wish, text-messaging, soccer-mom thunderdome of rush-hour traffic I escaped to make it this far out of town the lone outline of my bike against the asphalt of Colorado Hwy 66 is soothing and peaceful. I absent-mindedly select a trailhead. I have several options but I choose this particular one for no apparent reason. I have no one else to please. This trail will be neither too challenging or too easy for anyone else. Today it is just a vessel.
I leave my headphones at home. I prefer to give my internal monologue my full attention. The rush of the wind. The soft crush of the dirt. A pissed-off squirrel cussing me out in squeaks and clicks. The heightened awareness of breathing and pounding pulse. The cold air on hot skin. An unfettered, uninterrupted stream of consciousness. A freewheeling mind. I have no one to compare myself. I am beholden only to my own level of motivation. I leave the camera and my phone and most of the junk I normally bring in the car and ride with a multi-tool and a water bottle. I carry no gps device to record how fast and far I ride. I don’t ride for time. I don’t ride for distance. I just ride until I forget why I came out here and have to backtrack from thought to thought to find the beginning.
An Anti-Social ride as an opportunity return to baseline. An emergence from the depths for a breath of reality. A gut-check. A soul-check. A reset. Since you all did so well on your last assignment, here is another: Go ride by yourself. No hashtags. No Strava. No facebook selfies. No Instagrams. Leave your damned phone in the car. I know, I know. You might NEED it. But probably you won’t. Cut the cord. Go be you all by yourself.