Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dream States

Rawland rSogn
My first cycling dreams were vague and atmospheric. When I rode along the Danube in the Austrian countryside, I would re-experience these rides in my sleep constantly. It was mostly the scenery and the light I would dream of. That backlit look as the day fades into evening, the shimmering water, the aspens and the wild flowers swaying in the breeze. The rides themselves resembled dream states, with their improbably long sunsets and no clear end or beginning to the winding Danube trail. Fading peals of laughter from party boats, the clanking of dishes in the back yards of houses I would cycle past. The sounds trailed off, almost ghostly. It would slowly grow dark as I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled. When I remember one of these rides now, I cannot be sure whether it is the actual ride or the dream I am remembering.

Riding for transportation in Boston, cycling disappeared from my dreams for some time. The few I remember are short, anxiety-filled re-enactments of close calls - I'd wake up with a sinking feeling in my stomach from a car having cut me off or passed too closely. In waking life I experienced no fear or nervousness when riding in traffic, but it must have been there on some level - what I would not acknowledge in my conscious state surfacing in dreams.

Later it was roadcycling that populated my dreamworld. Like an animal moving its paws in its sleep, I would pedal with my legs and shift gears with my fingers. The novel sensations of ergo levers played a starring role for some time. My fingers just wanted to keep using them even after the ride was over and I was fast asleep. Tap-tap-tap... spin-spin-spin... thumb press, thumb press!... spin-spin-spin! It was mostly just the motions and the speed I remember dreaming about, the anticipation of downhills. There was also a magical effortlessness to it that did not exist in real life. In my dreams, my legs never hurt and I cornered elegantly. Tap-tap-tap, spin-spin-spin! It could go on forever, just like that. 

A late winter ride to Lost Lake led to a bicycling dream of cinematic proportions. In a small group we had ridden through the snow covered landscape of central Massachusetts, a route that culminated in a dramatic course of rolling hills. The combination of the stunning winter scenery and the sensation of the ride itself must have overwhelmed my impressionable mind. That night I dreamt of Pamela Blalock standing atop an icy mountain, her long platinum braid fluttering in the brutal wind. She pointed at something in the distance, and when I looked in that direction suddenly it was I who was there, along with Dina, Emily and Pamela herself. We were riding what I first thought were horses but turned out to be huge bicycles made of a rusty, coppery material. Later I recognised them to be life-sized versions of some of the wire sculptures I'd seen at Pamela's house, but in the dream this was not apparent. Weightlessly we pedaled up a steep, narrow road in a blizzard, and just as we crested the hill we saw that the pavement ahead had turned to ice. No longer in a procession, we were now side by side and our bicycles tied together with rope. With incredible speed, we slid down the endless winding hill like some giant 8-wheeled chariot. I let out an excited scream, but it was so cold that I made no sound.

Other dreams of cycling followed - rehashing the day's events, playing out fantastical narratives, expressing anxieties. Before embarking on an overnight ride to Maine, I dreamt that my dynamo light was not working and that I couldn't shift gears uphill. After the ride, I dreamt of cycling endlessly along the coastal saltwater marshes in the dark. I had a handlebar bag full of tiny fresh bagels. I took out a notepad and wrote a letter to a friend on the side of the road, then dropped it in a mailbox and kept riding. I do not remember what I wrote or to whom. The night was warm and dark, only the outlines of trees discernible in the distance. Morning never came. When I reached the Canadian border, the guard was expecting me and gave me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I kept pedaling. That was the last bicycling dream I remember.

35 comments:

  1. "I had a handlebar bag full of tiny fresh bagels."

    I love this so much for some reason. I feel like it should be in a children's book about an endless bike ride or something.

    Sadly, the only cycling dreams I've had have been the type you described about near encounters in traffic, but this account is certainly making me wish I had some other ones!

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  2. I think cycling is quite akin to dreaming. It's all in the gliding through space.

    My favorite cycling dream cane true... it was creating the picturebook 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle' (G.P. Putnams) which was a true story about a boy who built his own flying bicycle in 1907. Now that seems like the stuff of dreams!

    I still think it'd be fabulous to actually fly over trees and chimneys on a bicycle. Bicycles are dream machines. There actually is a modern day equivalent of the Sky-Cycle that I found online. It's a bicycle powered dirigible that looks like a lot of fun to fly.

    :0)

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  3. I love reading it.
    the bikes in my dreams are never this vivid.

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  4. Beautiful post. Cycling is a portal that for many does appear to awaken and engage our senses and imagination in a way that stirs us deeply and connects us uniquely to the elements of the natural world. We are as children again filled with wonder at the wonders and beauty of the world. And so we dream. Road biking does that for me and is the soft place I am at when I fall to sleep. THe only comparable experience I have had is lambing back in the day in the foothills of the Oregon coast range with my little flock of sheep. Bringing out those new lambs in the barn is as vivid and emotional and physical and satisfying and wondrous and dreamlike as some of my road rides today. Thanks! Jim Duncan

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  5. Don't know why, but I've never dreamed about bicycling adventures at night.....Though I do have them in my mind directly after a ride and have been trying to etch those memories into my sketchbook...heat, colors, movement, light, time, place...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61932626@N07/7641136468/in/photostream
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61932626@N07/7641131824/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61932626@N07/7641103368/in/photostream/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61932626@N07/7641139198/in/photostream/

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    1. Thank you for sharing, those are beautiful.

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  6. this is great, velouria. thanks for sharing. i love when bicycles are poetry.

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  7. You: "No. I don't want to share my Seven review now. I want to keep it to myself. It's good to have a focus."

    Me: "You are bizarre. Just review it. That and do some ride reports."

    And we get this, a very nice ride report filtered through an Alice in Wonderland lense. S'ok wit me.

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    1. I've been working on the review, almost done. The bike is hard to write about; you'll see.

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  8. Good lord...you can even make retellings of your own dreams interesting, typically the single least interesting story source ever. Is there anything you can't write? :)

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  9. Ah, cycling dreams.

    About a year ago I had a wonderful dream in which I cycled around a city on the planet Neptune. No kidding.

    I travelled there on a huge spaceship and wasn't sure where we were going. I thought maybe Saturn, but someone said "no, Neptune".

    On the planet, I rode my Giant STP 0 in a big city. There was no auto traffic, just pedestrians who didn't seem to mind that I was riding there. The people were very odd looking and I remember thinking "don't stare, that would be impolite". No streets, really, just wide sidewalks and concrete plazas, all very neat and clean. (Here on Earth I ride in a big concrete skate/bike park quite often, so that could be where the Neptune landscape came from).
    It was a really wonderful dream. I remember thinking "wow, I'm on Neptune" but at the same time it was not unbelievable.
    Thank you for making me think about it.

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  10. Gorgeous! I am in a similar dream state on my commute from Somerville through Central Square over the Charles river to Coolidge Corner, especially in the evening. It is not the Danube but the darkening sky, aromas of all sorts of foods wafting from restaurants, laughter, lit skyline of Boston and wind in my face put me in a place that seems dreamlike and at the same time in the middle of life. Thanks for sharing your dreams!

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    1. I am impressed that you find riding to Coolidge corner dreamy; that area stresses me out! But I do love riding through Cambridge and Somerville.

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  11. lovely post, my cycling is more defensive (a bit like effortlessness of roadcycling - not the way it feels in the real world as you say), a feeling of control, movement, being part of things and not, rather than overwhelmed by things or detached in disturbing ways - thanks for the post!

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  12. Terrific post. Dreams are fascinating, aren't they?

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  13. I love your story. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. I love these! I've had rides that I still "daydream" to, due to the lighting, the sights and smells and sounds. I love your posts and their varied subjects.
    NM

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  15. Dreams are so cool!
    I really like the vision of tying 4 bikes together to ride down the icy hill - dream logic!

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  16. I don't often remember my dreams, but I've often found music that I either listened to, sang, or had going through my head on long rides to have a wonderfully evocative effect afterward, sometimes for months of years every time I hear it. And many of the longest rides I've done are firmly associated in my memory with whatever music I was listening to, thinking of, or had been practicing.
    The Pennsylvania 1000k makes me think of Jacob Van Eyck's Daphne variations; improvising on "Summertime" makes me think of riding through Bavaria in the middle of the night; Giovanni Paolo Cima's Sonata Prima makes me think of Townes Pass on the Furnace Creek 508; Ella Fitzgerald singing "Moonlight in Vermont" makes me think of climbing Middlebury Gap on Boston-Montreal-Boston (the only time I ever brought a music player and headphones on a long ride).
    It's not quite a dream world, but those pieces bring the feel of those rides to mind more vividly than photos or ride reports ever could.

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  17. Okay, I am going to give this a try:

    bikes tied together = you want wider tires.
    writing a letter from the road, don't know to whom = blogging
    border patrol and sandwich = you want to ride BMB!

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    1. Hmmmm I don't know about any of that : )

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  18. Geographical note: Twice recently you have referred to areas of Massachusetts as 'western' when they're really central. Groton and Barre are both beautiful places, Groton actually in the same small county as Cambridge and Barre only in the county of Worcester, just the next one over. Even in the tiny state of Massachusetts, 'western' can't really be said to start for a score or more of miles past these places.

    This isn't to be a pain, but to make a suggestion: Being accurate with this might help your readers understand just how much beautiful riding there is in the somewhat underappreciated central part of Massachusetts - a lot! - and how easily they could be there too, by short drive or MBTA train to Fitchburg or Worcester.

    Of course, it doesn't have the same ring to it as mystical 'Western Mass', with its literary and artistic associations with the Berkshires (still hours from Groton or Barre), but you would come up with something. The hill towns of Central Massachusetts are a complete delight. Glad you are enjoying them and hope to see more stories of riding there.

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    1. Thanks for the correction. I tend to think of "Western Mass" as anything not on the coast, but I know that's wrong.

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    2. I went to U Mass Amherst and married a girl from out there. I consider the Connecticut Valley and west of that to be Western Mass - some validators of this are the counties (Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin on either side of that river, and Berkshire) and the 413 area code which hasn't fractured like 617 has so many times.

      Central Mass I consider Worcester County, running from NH to RI borders (which is largely area code 508), though some of Middlesex tails off there.

      Anything east of that is Eastern Mass, which subdivides in some people's minds to Greater Boston, Inside 495, South Shore, North Shore, Southeast or Southern Mass (Bristol County - Buzzards Bay to RI) and of course the Cape and Islands.

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    3. Agreed. I include the 3 Connecticut River valley counties and Berkshire County as western Massachusetts. I am originally from the valley. There is great cycling out there.

      In the late seventies, a couple of UMass professors unsuccessfully tried to start a campaign to create the Independent State of the Quabbin with the four western counties. We were to get all our revenue from selling the Metropolitan District Comission water.

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  19. What bike is that in the photo?

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    1. click on the picture!

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    2. it's strange, i went cycling last night, around ten pm on a vintage bike i picked up and am restoring (i just fixed the brakes and was testing), feeling the geometry, the handlbars (flat old vintage porteurs), the tyres (originals!), the whole experience, drinking it in and really getting a kind of zen and the art of bicycle maintenance intimacy with something someone designed seventy years ago - it made me realise how much cycling is like meditation, an immediate here and now focus that then suddenly sets one free to transcend.

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  20. Those blue flowers are truly gorgeous and dreamy!

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  21. Thanks for sharing,really well written and makes me what to get on my bike right now.

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  22. I wish my dreams were as pleasant as yours. They struck a chord in me, helping me to remember many rides of just cruising for hours....

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  23. More bike dreams....
    http://revesperminute.tumblr.com/

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  24. A very recent bicycling dream:

    Riding my old Alpe d'Huez, suddenly built up as a single speed, on Bishop Allen Drive in Central Square. Unlike reality, I had the space to do a u-turn. I wasn't even in town for that dream.

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