Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why do I do this?

Somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, after several hundred K of riding on our latest multi-day, multi-metric bike ride, Mark Thomas turned to me and asked ... "Why are we doing this?" I don't remember if this was before or after his bout of dry heaves that day, but there was certainly an element of "Are we nuts?" in the question. Of course, the answer is we are.

Putting that reality aside, as well as my daughter Jessica's oh so accurate observation that "but they're miserable dad!" after helping out on last falls' mountain 600K ride, I have come up with 10 reasons why I go on these long rides. These aren't prioritized in any way.

1. Adventure

Taking off with a couple of friends to ride my bike from Portland to Glacier, 1,000K, without any support or riding on my own through the mountains overnight on a 600K are adventures. Adventures are cool. How often do we get the chance to do something like that? And, just as important, how often do we grab that chance and run with it? (Note to wife ... I know, too often)

2. Camaraderie

Randos are a special breed ... each eccentric in their own way. Yet they are very similar and I enjoy being with them (Birds of a feather flock together?). This is true of the Northwest Randos (both SIR and OR) in general, but also of Mark Thomas and Vincent Muoneke in particular, with whom I've ridden at least a dozen multi-metric rides this year alone.

3. Scenery

Living in the beautiful Northwest, we have access to a wide variety of stunning countryside ... the Palouse, the North Cascades, the Olympic Rain forests, the Columbia Basin Desert, the Pacific Ocean, Lake Coeur d'Alene, and so much more. Riding my bike has given me the opportunity to enjoy those sights up close.

4. Reality

As in escape from ...

5. Sounds & Smells

Now there are some smells that I don't particularly relish ... not so fresh road kill and some farm smells come to mind, but the opportunity to fully experience the sense of smell is a definite plus. One example is the processing of onions in Paterson along the Columbia River ... it almost brought tears to my eyes!

It may be a bit silly, but some of the things I remember most from my rides are sounds:

- the variety of sounds that water can make from snow-melt going over the
North Cascades ... from a drip, drip, drip to a gurgle to a rushing torrent,
- the squealing of a baby elk as it tries to run to its mother,
- the scraping of a deer's hoof on a tree stump.

These are sounds you'd never hear driving by in a car. Grinding one's way up a mountain pass provides lots of opportunity to look & listen.

6. Wildlife

Over the past year I've seen fox, deer, bear, elk, moose, snakes, mice, turtles, salamanders, naked pedestrians, skunk, ferret, beaver, seals, heron, eagles, and probably a few other that don't come to mind at the moment. Sure beats the mall ...

7. Eccentric

Sure what we do is a bit weird and not for everyone. But it is nice to be different.

8. Accomplishment

Completing a long brevet gives one a sense of accomplishment ... having overcome real physical and mental challenges...something that not everyone can do. This is true for all of the long brevets, but especially the very long ones. There were probably only 150 riders who rode a 1,000K or longer ride last year ... and a small subset of that (a dozen?) who would have done two or more in a year.

9. Healthy activity

Fundamentally biking is a healthy activity. Okay, I'm ignoring the three or four 911 calls on our rides last year - several broken shoulders, dehydration, and such, but you can trip and break your neck going down the stairs at home.

10. Self-destructive behavior

As a Myers-Briggs INTJ Type, my personality type tends to overdo gratification of the senses ... binge and overindulge compulsively. No point in biking a little; it has to be a lot. Two 1,000K and two 600K rides in six weeks probably qualifies as excessive and overindulgent.

I'm sure I could come up with some more reasons ... like since I just burned 36,000 calories on the ride this weekend I'm not going to worry about having an extra slice or two of pizza ... and, hey, it is just plain fun (most of the time anyway).


Vincent Muoneke said...

Lets not forget Endorphins
Those endogenous ligands to the opiate receptors in us.

Robert H said...

11. Taking Crazy Pills

Paul Johnson said...

Keeps you outta the bars ...(that only works for so long with the wife).