Sunday, August 21, 2011

Unexpected Interludes

Cabin, North Shore
Back in the city now from our stay on the shore, I am looking back in bemusement at what had been intended as a bicycling-heavy trip, but turned out to be anything but.

Surly Peeking Out
It did rain a great deal. But even when the weather was good, we hardly did any substantial cycling. In fact, we probably cycled less during this trip than at any other point since winter ended. Like everyone else who rides a bicycle, I go through periods when my enthusiasm for it waxes and wanes. But this was probably the strongest and most unexpected case of the latter I have experienced since I started this blog. Why?..

Beach, Rockport MA
On a superficial level it was really very simple: I lost interest in cycling when I discovered that the water was warm enough to swim. You see, I love swimming in the ocean but can't tolerate hot climates, so my options are severely limited and I've been swim-starved for years. In Northern New England the water is too icy, but in Southern New England (let alone popular vacation spots such as Florida) the weather is already too hot and humid for me. It is as if there is an imaginary line somewhere along the MA/RI border where the climate and the water temperature undergo a dramatic change and what I really need is a place that is north of that imaginary line as far as climate goes, but south of it in terms of water temperature. And unexpectedly, I found such a place in Rockport, MA. Despite it being August, it was never above the low 80s, and dipped as low as the 60s on cooler days. Yet, the water remained swimmable the entire time and I found myself perfectly content to spend my waking hours at the beach: swim, read, eat, repeat. I cannot remember the last time I've been able to do anything like this!

Loaded Bikes, Rockport MA
I also must admit that we did not enjoy cycling here as much as we hoped during the few times we did it. Going north to Ipswich and beyond, water views were limited, car traffic was pretty heavy and there was not a whole lot of shade. We know from experience that once you get up the coast to New Hampshire and Maine it gets better, but we never made it that far. Truthfully, cycling "at home" - along the tree-lined, quiet country roads Northwest of Boston - is, on the whole, considerably more enjoyable.

Bearskin Neck, Rockport MA
So at some point we decided to just let it go and accept that there wasn't going to be a whole lot of cycling during this trip.

Carradice Pannier
We used the bikes for transportation when necessary, but gave up even trying to go on "real" rides after the first week.

Loaded Rivendell, Rockport MA
By the time we loaded up the bikes again to head back, I felt as if I'd gotten completely unaccustomed to it and the weight of our luggage was challenging. There are many short, but steep hills en route from the place where we stayed to the train station, and the bike fishtailed wildly every time I attempted to feather the brakes on a downhill. Given the huge amount of Saturday tourist traffic and the narrowness of the road, this made me so nervous that I was shaking and covered in sweat by the time we got on the train. Ironically, the final leg of the trip home - from the train station in the center of Boston to our house on the outskirts - was less stressful, but by the time we got home I was completely drained and did not want to look at another 100 lb luggage-laden bike again for a long, long time.

Beach, Rockport MA
24 hours later, I still can't shake that feeling - a feeling that somehow morphed from that of being tired of just the trip home, to being tired of cycling in general. Maybe the hot, dusty, overloaded final ride was just a particularly cruel contrast to the cool, light feeling of being on the beach - swimming so far out from shore as to be surrounded by complete silence, submerged in the blissfully perfect temperature of Rockport's water. Also, maybe having taken a step back from cycling has made me realise that I've been neglecting other activities that I used to love - still love, in fact, but just don't get a chance to do. Maybe I ought to try harder to find time for them. Take swimming for instance: After all, Rockport is just a commuter rail's ride away and I can take one of my upright transportation bikes on the train, and... Ah, there. I guess I am still thinking of everything in terms of bikes, and there is really no danger of Lovely Bicycle abruptly ending as I run off to spend all of my time on the beach. Everyone needs an interlude, but cycling is such an inherent part of me now that I can hardly imagine life without it, at least in some form.

29 comments:

  1. That photo with the sailboats is really lovely.

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  2. V- like some say, variety can be pretty spicy.
    We're all very lucky to be able to enjoy so much life has to offer.
    The concept of "Northern and Southern" New England makes me giggle - i never thought of it that way.
    We're so far from water and swimming here we have to sleep on a water bed to get the wave action mojo thing going.
    Glad you had a mostly-great vacation,
    OBR

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  3. I know just what you mean. I've been spending so much time training for my Maybe Century that I realized recently, somewhat startled, there were other things I actually enjoy doing. For example I have some great friends who are accomplished but welcoming musicians, and I couldn't sing or play barre chords on my guitar right now to save my life. And don't get me started about my golf game.

    These things wax and wane. There are rhythms inside of us that I'm positive we'll never completely understand.

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  4. "The concept of "Northern and Southern" New England makes me giggle"

    Oh there's a huge difference : )

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  5. You need to come up to Canada for your next vaca! We have a beach called Parlee beach in New Brunswick which has the warmest waters north of Virginia :)
    The regular temperature on the beach is about 25C (77F) during the summer...and much cooler when its windy!
    We aren't in the hot part of Canada, but we have awesome beaches!

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  6. I know in my life, sometimes the more I anticipate something, as in a vacation, the more the let-down can be for me if it doesn't come off as anticipated. It's good you were able to enjoy the ocean and take advantage of an opportunity you have not had for such a long time.

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  7. my son told me this, which i think is quite wise....'remember, dad, everything in life seeks it's equilibrium.' i'm glad you floated in the ocean rather pedaled bicycles during your vacation. how refreshing!!

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  8. "I lost interest in cycling when I discovered that the water was warm enough to swim."

    Glad to see you're a normal person... Who wants to sweat on a bike while they can lazily lizard on a beach...

    "I also must admit that we did not enjoy cycling here as much as we hoped during the few times we did it."

    This happens a lot.
    The fact that you are frank enough with yourself to admit it and analyse show you are a honest person.
    So many peopple bullshit themselves into pretending to like things they obviously didn't. It is very frequent in outdoor activities unfortunately.

    "Maybe I ought to try harder to find time for them."

    That's called taking some (real) vacations.
    Maybe you've simply overstreched yourself on that biking thing. A mini-bike-burnout.
    That whole heavy loaded bike tour seemed very odd to me with your insisting in carrying everything.
    Hey, in a few days it will all fall back in place again.

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  9. Sometimes you just need a break or change, that's what holidays are for. :) Also, a change of what you do for exercise is refreshing and motivating, noone does the same thing all the time and constantly stays highly motivated.

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  10. A classic conundrum. Near obsessive focus on an interest often underlies inspiration and progress. However, this same intense interest can crowd out many other things in life. I have always had an addictive personality that falls head over heals in love with an area. I have dived deep into interests for years at a time, and greatly enriched my life, my network of friends and experiences, and what I know of both myself and the universe because of this trait. And yet, I sometimes need to take a step back and ask what I have lost in other areas during a long deep immersion in a particular area. I do believe balance is a good thing, even if I struggle to find an equilibrium between focus, obsessions, and a range of interests in my own life.

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  11. I'd enjoy reading anything you blogged about I think. I like your world view and introspection.
    Go explore all sorts of other interests and tell us about them.

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  12. Andromache - I had no idea. Yes, I need to visit this place!

    Anon 4:18 - My interests are never exclusive, in that I tend to do at least 2 or 3 things at a time, but they are definitely addictive and emotionally depleting. Ah well, at least the focus has never been on drugs or alcohol - that somehow does not seem exciting enough.

    Also, I personally think that the whole balance thing is overrated - or at least it does not work for everyone in the same way. Some people need balance to feel fulfilled, others need an all-enompassing interest or two. I've know many high functioning people who feel absolutely miserable when they try to instill balance in their lives. It's all a matter of what works.

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  13. 100lb loaded bike!
    - lovely, you need to discover 'minimalism'.

    One of mine and my wife's most treasured memories was a week spent cycling around Scotland where each of us had only what could be fitted into a Nelson Longfap saddlebag and a small handlebar bag - say 20lb on top of our 24lb randonneur bikes. We stayed in bed&breakfast, covered 80miles a day and ate more cake than I ever thought possible, and more beer than we should have. Oh and it rained....
    For long weekends we don't bother with the handlebar bag - very liberating!

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  14. Sounds like compassion fatigue, a term used to describe a phenomenon in which medical professionals become apathetic after seeing too much sufferings on daily bases. I think your passion for cycling still there and will accompany you for life. You will feel tired of cycling if you let it dominates your mind too much. I like play basketball and I play when I feel like to. It is aways fun this way. If I set a goal for myself, let's say, play 2 hours a day, then it becomes a burden.

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  15. Perfectly natural really, Totally makes sense that someone who HAS to ride everyday, would take a dim view of it whilst on vacation. Especially when other more pleasent and relaxing distractions present themselves! I would do exactly what you did! Sometimes you do not appreciate your hobbies/interests until you give them a little rest. One thing I have discovered about myself as I get older is that my interests move around allot. Throughout my life I have been really "into" many different things and lost interest in them only to return many years later and pick them up again! Luckily I don't get rid of too much, so when the mood strikes I simply say "hmmm, Where did I put those R/C cars, roller skates, skateboards, Darts, Slot cars, Etc.?" Thing is now I have figured out the depth and bredth of my interests and I find time to practice each activity now and then even whilst immearsed in one main interest. Keep a few good functioning examples of my equipment to keep me entertained and get rid of the extra. You will find a comfort level with bikes eventually (sounds like you are close to it already) and you will move on to other interests, it's natural, especially for someone as curious as yourself!

    Don't think about what you think you might have lost, but what's to be gained.

    MASMOJO

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  16. And here I thought you'd discovered nirvana with those pedal-boats.

    But don't fret. I once took my sketching pencils and drawing pads out on a 3-day camping trip to the ocean. But instead of sketching the ocean and trees, all I could draw were a few cartoons while sitting on the camp bench.

    But after I got home I turned those sketches into a nice painted illustration.

    Maybe you were just taking a vacation from bicycles? That's a good thing I'd think.

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  17. I think you're tried from riding a bike with a 100 pound load. I certainly would be.
    I once rode from Washington DC to Pittsburgh carrying a 60 pound load on a trailer, and that was enough for me. It was good to be home.

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  18. Andy - If I were touring, I would definitely go for minimalism. All I'd really need would be a change of cycling clothing. But weren't touring, we were living there - for 2 weeks, two people. The bags you see on my bike include laptops, camera equipment, bedding, towels, 2 weeks worth of clothing and footwear for 2 people for different weather conditions, and everything else one needs to look decent and presentable away from home.

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  19. Nothing strange or unusual, especially for someone who relies on a bicycle for daily transportation, sometimes you need a bit of time off the bike. You're on vacation!

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  20. sausend - Not sure yet. In addition to the tiredness issue, it looks like I may also have a conflicting commitment. I would really like to go though.

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  21. Outdoors and self propelled - who cares if it is not 'on-the-bike".

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  22. Lovely pictures -- and for those of us who can't get away this summer seaside reading and leisurely bike rides are just as much vicarious fun!

    I felt burnt out last summer at the end of our last long ride of the summer but then have been feeling a little sad that circumstances have prevented us from any "real" rides this summer. But it struck me last week, pedaling back home from a day spent getting to places I needed to be by bike that I loved cycling around my own town as much as any day on a biking vacation.

    Being on a bike at home makes even grunt-days seem like mini-holidays.

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  23. On Saturday a home repair project nearly wiped me out. Instead of going for a long ride I napped. But it felt good to get back out there this morning before work. Your hiatus was well earned.

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  24. It's hard to loose the desire for transportation cycling once you found it.
    But imagine a place where transportation swimming worked!

    Even better would, for me, be transportation sailing...

    Until then, cycling around will suffice happily.

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  25. Ah, it's good to have variety, and it was a great decision to let it all go and take advantage of the beach and lovely water while the conditions were right.
    I absolutely love to swim, but without a car, our choices are limited. I don't mind swimming in pools, but the closest one is a chlorine nightmare and has goofy rural hours so I can never get there anyway. Lakes are too far away to bike to and I actually have no desire to bike up there. I do live near the ocean, but the pacific is mostly freezing. Last summer i got in the ocean as much as possible and hoped this summer would be the same. The weather was weird and cold until recently. Work and life transpired against me having time to go to swim. And although nice warm currents have been around, the ocean has been very unappealing. A) late spring run off has filled the ocean with stuff that could knock you about in the ocean, B) an unusual persistent algae bloom that has made the beaches yucky, C)red tide!...and D) most of all, radiation fears have kept almost everyone out of the ocean on the west coast. I went in once and it felt weird, the algae taking over everything....
    My mom is coming to visit and renting a car so we will be able to drive up to the lakes so I can get some swimming in before the dreaded sea change in weather.
    A few years ago we went to Tofino for my birthday. I told my husband I absolutely wanted a break from biking-just wanted to wander the beaches, take a surf lesson etc.. But he wouldn't listen, insisted on staying at a b&B with bikes to use and trying to bike at night without lights. It was pitch black and wild animals ran in front of me! Like a wolf chasing something smaller. I was so scared and angry I marched right back to the room. Then he insisted on renting bikes and taking them far out of town towards Long Beach. I got a flat, we were stranded, needed help back. It took hours out of my holiday and I was mad! I bike year round in all weather, but sometimes, I just want a break!
    The one thing that drains me about biking is that so much of my time is spent biking for commuting, the distances are long etc that I rarely have time to do anything else that I yearn to.
    You had a lovely unexpected holiday-enjoy the memories.

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  26. It is 37 Celsius now in Croatia, a nd see water temperature iz 25-28. You can choose from 7000 km of shore and hundreds of islands and beeches. That is what I call a good place to spend wacation. But I am sure you must know of that since you visited Austria.

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  27. I can relate to your feeling. It's always better to let interests ebb and flow naturally and only do something because you really want to do it. If anything becomes an obligation, it won't be as enjoyable. As with bicycling for you, the really important stuff will usually come back in favor after a needed break.

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  28. Re-reading this post now is pretty funny. I must have been tired! Totally back to obsessive cycling now : )

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