If you follow me on social media, then you’ve probably seen my short and sweet “about me” caption: “Lover of all thinks books, bikes, and bison.” I really couldn’t sum up myself in three better words. Books are obvious—I love to read and write of course. Bison may be confusing to some, but I can go into that in another post. This week I want to share some about the second “B” that describes me—my bike.
Last week over 500 people descended on the Big Bend region of Texas with one common purpose, to ride some of the best mountain bike trails in Texas at the annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest. The best part of this for me was that I got to take a week off from the usual write-read-write to volunteer at the event, and ride my bike with other avid bikers, as well as with those just finding an interest in the sport. I love sharing this passion with others, and especially in seeing young people get excited about a physical activity that gets them moving in the great outdoors.
I think riding a bike is one of the greatest analogies for life, as I was reminded of last week during the festival. One of the rides I was part of was a beginner ride, and I was in the position of sweep, making sure everyone in the back was okey dokey and having a good time. In this case, the person I was following was a woman in her early forties, mountain biking for the first time in ten years. Usually it’s the kids who are fearless, and the beginner adults are hesitant, but that wasn’t the case with this woman. She would ride the obstacles, fall, pull her bike back, and ride again until she made it. Let me state that the trails out here are not easy. When I get out of shape I struggle to ride many sections, and end up walking my bike, afraid to chance a fall. But this woman wanted to get better—she was willing to fall, get back up, and try again, ignoring the fear, bruises, and sharp rocks she’d land on. It was inspiring for me to watch. And this is where the life part comes in. This woman will get better at biking. With her attitude and drive, she won’t just get better, but will probably be great. And isn’t that the case with everything we attempt in life?
As I pedaled behind this woman throughout the day, I couldn’t help my mind from wandering to other thoughts of why this activity is so special to me.
Personally, biking is something so much more than exercise. For me, biking is interconnected to my writing, my health, and my brain. When I’m out on a trail and the sun is beating down, or the clouds move in, and there is a heavy silence except for the wind rushing past my face and the gears clicking away, my mind seems to work better. Whether it is writing a piece of a story or sorting out a personal issue, there is something about fresh air and nature that really frees a person’s thoughts.
Just the other day when I was riding, dark clouds rolled in and out of the sky above us, shifting the shadows and colors of the rocky mesas and hills. One minute something would be purple and red, the next it would be yellow and tan. I often wonder what authors who don’t get outside do when it comes to writing descriptions. When I think about describing a landscape in a book, I like to draw on real experiences. How can one describe a shifting desert sky without being immersed in that altering landscape for hours on end? How can you know what something smells like or feels like without experiencing the scent of creosote after a heavy rain, or the stinging sensation of a white thorn acacia cut as you pedal by. One could easily describe a desert sky from five minutes of standing on a porch, but it would be like every other desert sky portrayed. When you truly involve yourself in a place for hours on end, that’s when the real magic of description descends. And as I biked to each destination over those few days of Bike Fest, I was able to breathe in new air and new ideas. It was physically exhausting, but spiritually and creatively exhilarating.
That’s how it feels when I ride my bike. Even if I am with a group of people, we are each in our own minds, sorting out our own issues and goals, while zooming through stunning scenery that only those willing to step out of their comfort zones can see. Last week was especially exciting for because I got to share that feeling with 500 other people, some of who experienced it for the first time. I know what biking and hiking and nature have done for me. I truly believe many of the things we see doctors for personally could be solved if we got outside more. The exercise for physical and mental health, the fresh air for the mind and blood, the awe-inspiring landscapes for the spirituality, and the pushing of oneself for confidence and achievement.
When I say I love biking, it is not just a love for the sport, but what the activity does for me. I write better when I am active. I am happier when I am connected to nature. I am inspired when I see others challenge themselves. And I am more confident when I am pushing myself to new levels.
I love biking. You don’t have to. But you need to find your bike and get outside. I promise, it will change your life.
For more information on the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, visit: https://bikefest.desertsportstx.com/. Registration for 2018 will open in December.
What I’m reading: Prey by Michael Creighton, and The History of the World in Bite-Sized Chunks by Emma Marriott
2017 Books I’ve Finished (4/30):
1) The Stand, Stephen King
2) UR, Stephen King
3) Behind the Mask, Janice Brooks
4) The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood