Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Art of the Active Life

Most people think of self-expression as artsy stuff. You know: painting, writing, playing an instrument. At various times, I’ve been a visual artist, a writer, a musician. These days, I’m also a cyclist. And that’s another important way that I express what lives inside my heart and mind.

This expression is most obvious in the color of my bike, the design of my jersey, and whether I choose to rock climbing knickers or lycra shorts on a given ride. Each item I put on myself or my bike reflects what and who I feel like that day. Dyed-in-the-wool-jersey roadie. Dirtbag mountain biker. Waxed-canvas-toting randonneur.  It’s also a way of signaling to like-minded people, “I’m with you.”

If I’m going for a long, hard ride with friends, I might fuss around with things until even my water bottle sets off my new handlebar tape. If I’m just going for a morning spin, I'll sometimes grab the bike that has platform pedals on it and take off, wearing whatever I had on when I got the idea.

Where and how I ride is also fair game. The longer the ride, the more I get to massage my mood into the route: hills versus flats, stops at hip cafes, or nothing but isolated forest roads. 

The acme of outdoors self-expression, though, is trip-planning.

If I’m masterminding an outing with friends, they know they can expect certain flavors: a few, handpicked companions, lots of dirt roads, lots of room for conversation and detours. If there will be overnights, there will also be campfires and starlit conversation.

* * *

A great ride or trip is like a good set of live music: You are surprised at certain points by fortuitous convergences. You’ll take a left when you planned a right (either on purpose or by mistake) and something totally unexpected flows out of that moment. And you fold it in to the larger experience and call it good, because you’re the creator, you’re the one who gets to say.

I don’t ride as far as I used to. Only sometimes as fast. But I did plan and experience four trips (three biking and one camping/hiking)  last year that broke new ground, excited and inspired me, and left me with memories (and fitness) to spare. I also took countless rides and hikes over familiar terrain that took me and others to a new place or head space.

And when I was done and home again, I felt a lot the way a great gig used to leave me feeling… buzzed and tired. Well-expressed. Satisfied.

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