I’m out on an experiment to see if I am on speaking terms with my ITB yet. As it turns out, no.
Limping along the sidewalk in the park, I go past him. He’s 35 going on 100 in that way that makes it hard to place his age. His battered bike, with all of his belongings piled up on the back, is leaned up against the park bench. He’s stretched out on the bench on a gorgeous mid-70s South Texas kinda day. Arm over his face the same way BK does it when you dare open the blinds in the afternoon.
For a moment, I feel sorry for him. What happened that brought him to this place? How does he get by? Does he even know he just missed two breathless hours of pope coverage on CNN? What kind of life is it to live day to day with only your bicycle as a home?
And then it hits me. I know exactly what kind of life it is.
In my misspent youth, I loved bike touring. Two or three or four weeks of nothing but you and the bike. 50 to 100 miles a day with 40 pounds of your life hanging off two wheels mounted to a steel frame. I had everything I needed. You quickly realize that there are only a few real essentials in life; the rest is just clutter. Eat, ride, sleep. Repeat as necessary.
It didn’t cost much. Maybe 20 or 30 bucks a day. Simple food, camping, lots of coffee. You see the world differently when traveling on a bike. You’re not viewing nature; you’re part of it.
Mo and I have done the same thing a million times hiking at the canyon. Two pairs of shorts, two shirts, first aid kit, food, tent, tiger balm, Oreos. That’s all you need. (yes, they sell Oreos at the bottom of the canyon. In case you doubt the existence of heaven.)
Even the daily run feels like this. That hour or two where it’s just you and your shoes and a pair of shorts. What more could you want?
I’ve gone through periods where I’ve gotten rid of all my personal stuff, whittling life down to the bare essentials. It’s a liberating feeling to know that you can fit your life in the back of a Honda when needed. But eventually it always starts to build up again.
Maybe that’s the blessing of living on a bike. You find out what’s important. And what’s not.
If I could wish for anything, what would it be? A big sunny field to be in. As I head off to work, that’s where the bicycle guy will be. I don’t feel sorry for him at all. Maybe just a little envious.
Life is funny …