Exploring on two wheels

I’ve been thinking about my journey these past 12 years since moving to Madison County. The first 4 years focused on the homestead project, building the cabin and the gardens. Then several years focused on astronomy, looking through an eyepiece up into the night sky and thinking constantly about the universe, trying to develop a better understanding of the cosmos and my short time in it. And that brings us to now. I’ve spent the past 8 months having mini-adventures, daily explorations on two wheels around the local countryside. From trails to paved roads to gravel roads, I’ve been riding through farmland and forests and everything between.

A common thread throughout the past 12 years here seems to be a mix of adventure, exploration and a seeking to understand the world I exist in. In the first few years I was focused on my immediate surroundings as I created a home, gardens, and generally sought to fit into this landscape. The adventure was extremely local. Most of my time was spent within 1/4 mile of my cabin and thinking about the life within this 1/4 mile radius. Most of my days were spent doing garden work or something related to creating or building the homestead. My free time was often spent walking and observing.

Then I began a transition to spending more time looking through the eyepiece of the telescope. Looking into the cosmos and finding the beauty there. To some smaller degree I kept up the garden but my mind and my thoughts were oriented outward. In the day I read and pondered what I was seeing at night as I looked at galaxies, nebulae, planets, and star clusters. I would stay out 5 to 8 hours every night that was clear of clouds. I can’t explain what led me to that pursuit. But I think it’s interesting that my thinking, attention, time and effort shifted from what was immediately in front of me, plain and simple, to distant astronomical worlds and objects, and thinking about the complexities of cosmology, physics and related sciences. Not that I understood everything I read but I made the effort to dive deep (or what seems deep to me).

Likewise, I’m now spending hours every day peddling a bike around the back country roads of Madison and neighboring counties. I’m not quite sure how this happened. I bought an electric bike and rode it to town the first day I had it. Then I rode it to town the next day and the next. A few weeks later I started looking at the map and rode further into the county and the next county over. By February and March I was taking two and three hour rides just to get out and breath the air and to see what was going on in the woods that these roads were built through. Over the summer I retreated to our own woods as I built trails through them for cycling and walking. And now, again, I’m back exploring further out on 40 and 50 mile rides.

I’m not sure what to make of it really other than to say it feels good. Part of my motivation is personal health. For most of the past 12 years I’ve made it a point to get out for daily walks. At the end of 2019 my walking time increased dramatically, almost double my usual. I’m not sure why but perhaps the cycling was my mind searching to go further afield. I don’t think it was a conscious thing but it’s what happened.

Like most kids I had a bike and rode it a good bit. As an adult concerned about climate change the bike was my main transport during my college years and after. From grocery trips to laundry to work to random errands, I cycled most of the time. And then I had a knee injury in 2000 and my cycling became painful, uncomfortable. Now that I’ve discovered that I can cycle again I feel like I’m making up for lost time on the bike. 20 years away from my two wheeled friends! I have to remind myself to be careful, to not ride too much or too hard. I’d like to think that if I’m careful I’ll be able to ride for a good long while. We’ll see but for now I’ll just accept it and remain in gratitude that I’ve returned to peddling forward with two wheels beneath me.