That fall semester, I couldn’t get any of the classes I wanted for my major, which was organizational communication at the time. I also had to drop out of soccer after my ankle and foot inflated to twice their usual size. So instead, I enrolled in two unusual classes—British Literature and Biblical Hebrew. They say it takes a different part of your brain to speak or write a different language and that studying other languages makes your brain more adaptable. I don’t know if that’s what was happening to me, but this particular semester was a sort of personal renaissance, and it was extremely strenuous.
After studying for hours, I found myself with nothing to do one afternoon. I was all caught up on homework, language lessons, etc. I’d been wondering what I would do to stay in shape since soccer and football had suddenly been ruled out. So that particular day, I grabbed my bike.
I rode up over a hill behind my apartment complex and then down into a small gully road between potato fields. I followed the path around another hill until it dumped me out onto pavement. I found another road just a few yards down the road from the one I was on, and I was back off on my potato field adventure.
I don’t recall when it started raining exactly, but I know it was raining by the time I reached the second set of fields. I was wearing jeans, a long-sleeve shirt and no helmet at the time (relax, I now wear a helmet all the time), so things started to get sorta cold. Nonetheless, I thought about the Irish monks I was reading about in British Lit or the Masorets we studied in Hebrew. I wasn’t really out there for a workout, after all. I was out there for a little time to myself—a chance to hear myself think.
The wind kicked up as I reached the edge of a dugway—a deep scar in the landscape too small to be called a valley. The steep roads up and down the dugway walls were coated in soft dirt, which made descending interesting and ascending even more so. I had to keep my weight over my back wheel or the bike would wash out. On one part of the dugway wall, the road kicked up steeply enough to force a leg-press hard set of pedal revolutions out of my thighs. Nonetheless, I leapt ahead and made it to the top.
I really loved this ascetic ride in the fall showers, and when I got home, I didn’t eat or tell anyone about it—I just laid my cold, exhausted body on my cheap college apartment mattress and inhaled a power nap. There were no competitors back then, no ride partners to impress, and no times to watch. It was just riding for riding’s sake, and there was something pure about that. Sometimes I think that’s the way it should be—riding for no reason other than exploration, asceticism and the joy of riding—and sometimes I still think it’s nice to take a ride in the cold, sans heart-rate monitor, watch, etc. But then I remember that I do have other things to do and other places to be now, and that thought always snaps me back into reality.