… I’ve been aware of this noise for a while now. I know what it is. Pivots creak. Something is not quite right down there, and I muse to myself just what it might be as I watch the trail turn to fist-sized marbles out beyond my front wheel. The world falls away, away, away to my right, 8000ft down into verdant beauty punctuated with dusty scrubland. The wind picks up, 55 degrees and I keep climbing. I’m up here rising a mile and half or so above the sea, trying to fix things in my head that I don’t understand, through revolutions of my pedals, tachycardia, and a crust of salt on my clothes.
When something’s not quite right with my bike, it tells me. Noises, grinding, parts wear out with regularity and everything must be kept meshed, oiled, attended to – you want to ride again tomorrow, don’t you? People, not so much. Not a sound, a peep, just a catastrophic failure without recourse or recrimination. This is what happens when we are silent and complacent. I start thinking about this, and I watch my heart rate spike to 183bpm. Redlined, lost my focus, not watching the wheel, slip, dab, curse. The world spins off-kilter for a moment before I shake it off and see the staircase battened to the rock and offering a chance to touch the sky – I’ve reached my destination. Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout.
I gather my sanity and look down from whence I came. Time to release my demons to carry me down, down, down. Dust chokes me, rocks and trees blur past, the almost steady rhythm of my bike squishing and releasing it’s hold on the Earth, over and over. I push for more speed, and all sound stops for brief moments when I’m free of the ground. Silent moments I weave into the chaos.
Miles later, 6000ft down it’s all over. In town, on pavement and I’m spent. I can’t quite remember what had hold of me during my climb to the top. The sweat is still crusted to my clothes, but the crazy pounding in my chest has settled. The world is right, peaceful, and open again to me. I’ll do it all again tomorrow. After I give my bike the attention she has asked for.
“What it means to be fully human is to strive to live by ideas and ideals, and not to measure your life by what you’ve obtained in terms of your desires, but those small moments of integrity, compassion, rationality. Because in the end, the only way we can measure the significance of our own lives, is by valuing the lives of others.” – The Life of David Gale