Monday, October 26, 2015

Dreaded Destinations


Those of us who cycle as our default means of transport are sometimes faced with an interesting contradiction: having to pedal to a destination at which we desperately do not wish to arrive.

I do not mean the ordinary unpleasantness of cycling to a job we hate, or to unwanted commitments. When it comes to those, cycling usually serves to improve the experience, to relieve some of the anxiety from such everyday drudgeries.

But occasionally in life we are faced with destinations which we dread with every fibre of our being. We might cycle to a risky or painful medical procedure. To a funeral. To a legal proceeding. To a job from which we know we are about to get fired. We might cycle to receive news which we know in advance will almost certainly not to be good news.

When faced with a journey to such a destination, I experience the conflicting sensation of both wanting and not wanting to turn the pedals - of enjoying the cycling experience in spite of everything, while knowing that with every pedal stroke I propel myself toward the place I do not want to be, the thing I do not want to experience, the news I do not want to receive. In this manner, joy and apprehension are combined into a single, tangled emotion that none of the languages I know have a word for.

In a car or on a bus, the same trip is somehow more congruent. An unpleasant - or at least a neutral - way to travel seems more consistent with a destination we dread, more appropriate for it. But cycling is one of life's few pleasures. It's a refuge. Pedaling toward something horrible just feels wrong somehow, a betrayal of our beloved activity. Might some of the trip's anxiety rub off on the cycling experience itself?

Then again, there comes a point, where pedaling everywhere - and that means everywhere - is simply all we know. And whether that means heading somewhere we want to go, or straight into mouth of the beast, for better or worse cycling is the way forward.

27 comments:

  1. For all the bicycle's steadying companionship as we pedal into adversity, maybe what redeems such trips is the expectation that, whatever awfulness we'll face, at least we'll get to ride home afterwards.

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    1. ...a thought that is not comforting in 100% situations - i.e. ObGyn appointments!

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    2. I can't speak to that specific experience, but I will admit to having taking a cab home from a colon cancer screening. Not that I didn't ask...

      ME: Will I be able to bike home after--
      DOC: Absolutely not.

      Maybe I gave up too easily? Faced with far worse, Ezra Caldwell built himself an assless bicycle.

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    3. The assless bicycle is a classic. That man was unbelievable. And for anyone not familiar with what we're talking about, visit here.

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    4. Hey adamdoesit, I had to have some surgeries in the same geographical area. After the first couple, my Surgeon(who is a T.T. World Champion) told me to stay off the bike for months and the procedures weren't ultimately successful, later another Surgeon tried something different and told me to get on the bike as soon as the sutures were out. That was the successful one. Seems pretty counter-intuitive but they're only Doctors. Whaddatheyknow, ya' know?

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    5. Wow. Ezra Caldwell. Dude was a VIKING.

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  2. Velouria wrote:
    Might some of the trip's anxiety rub off on the cycling experience itself?

    I'm a utilitarian* bicyclist, having not owned a car in a town with little in the way of public transport for going on three years now. Every day I am glad I made that commitment. I haven't yet pedaled to a funeral, as none have been local, but my dentist and eye doctor are now in easy pedaling range. I'm happy to say that, for me, it goes the other way--the meditative, calming, joyful aspects of cycling offset some of the anxiety of arriving at a potentially unpleasant experience.

    BTW, when I first saw the photo with this post, I thought you were finally getting around to reviewing the Rustines! On closer examination, no telltale ridge at the end-of-the-bar location. I have a pair in white and natural, and will probably get a pair in black when my Clementine gets here (The bike is listed as complete with everything except grips. Weird!)

    *In both the John Stuart Mill philosophical, positive sense (loosely speaking), and as an adjective form of utility.

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    1. Cheapie hard plastic grips c.1970s.

      Clementine! Oooh, wish I were in the US to test that one!

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    2. I'm not generally a new bike kind of guy, but I am looking forward to this bike, glad I had the opportunity to get in on the first shipment. Of course I do not need another bike, but I'm happy to report I did concoct a decent number of sincerely plausible and reasonable rationalizations. Happy to give my impressions after I've ridden it a bit (They are being shipped in order of order date. I got one after some people backed out, possibly due to not being able to play with decal configuration as originally promised, due to overzealous finishers at the factory,so maybe another week. BTW, apparently they are shipping with grips.)

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    3. My favourite existing Riv bike is the Betty Foy/Yves, and I think their calling is really utility bikes, which they've been gradually moving toward, rather than the road bikes they started with. I suspect the Clementine will be their best model yet, especially factoring in the price. Good luck and enjoy, and if you have a moment please let me know what you think of the bike once you get it and ride it!

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  3. cycling to a dreaded destination removes us from the surroundings that we otherwise are so joyfully a part of. isolating depression kicks in. the pedaling and the sound from the chain feel somehow like a cinema projector rattling in reverse. yet the screen sucks us forward. a darkness from our stomach numbing us. like lamps to the slaughter. a primitive chain driven mechanism that is the world. rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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  4. Yeah--getting ready and riding somewhere is usually an energy boost, but a sad/bad destination can certainly affect the usual calm joy of pedaling. It can be confusing--the feedback of the whole activity can change physically and mentally so a person can be left with a sort of physio-cognitive dissonance. As you say, it can be like a betrayal of the senses.

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  5. This is a familiar theme for me. The anxiety, fear and stress of the destination can at times be overwhelming, numbing My heart races, my hands shake, but the bicycle is, for me, a companion. It helps me cope. It allows time to spend energy and to center. It calms. It does the opposite of rubbing off in a negative way on the bicycling experience.

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  6. The face that a bike connects to more profound rhythms of life and living (for me) means it's the preferred mode of transportation to that occasional dreaded destination. Thankfully there have been only a handful of those trips, which is to say my life is comparatively easy and happy set next to so many whose loss and suffering exist on a scale I cannot relate to...the biking experience has not been diminished by those few trips, just more deeply engrained as a healing thing in life. What actually diminishes from these rides is my care or concern about having a cool bike, fancy, bike, etc….such minor, meaningless, things!

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  7. Rather than propelling oneself toward the place one does not want to be, maybe think of it in the opposite manner, moving away from the fear of going there in the first place. 'If it doesn't kill you….'

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    1. That would be my ideal way of thinking about it.

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    2. I find having my bike with me, cycling rather than driving, more comforting. I don't know why, I just do.

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  8. First of all, I'm sorry to hear you had to go through something so difficult. It's part of living, I guess, and life indeed marches on, so I hope taking your trusty bike there and bike was somehow helpful in the end. Best to you.

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  9. Okay, I need to know! What is that monstrosity in the background?

    PS: Glad to have you back.

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    1. Ha. That's a farm gate made out of some whale bones that washed up on the shore. It's lovely actually. I just thought it made for a good illustration of the theme.

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    2. I really like this particular photo, I'm sure you must put a great deal of thought into the photos you take and no doubt considerable effort, even though they may appear quite 'natural' to the viewer.

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  10. To me, this mental exercise reveals the inherent optimism of cycling. Walking to a dreaded destination feels more like quicksand, or a continuous struggle with each step to resist detouring. Driving becomes like a highly cautious version of ourselves, pausing that much more at each intersection, or a predilection for the long way around, which will only tend to buy us a few minutes. Maybe it's the balance and inertia that seems to propel us forth as though buoyed by a pep talk from a friend. Which in a way it is.

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  11. I've been to a wedding and a funeral on a bike. The bride may have found it drew some attention, being white, but it was an outdoor wedding and I was in the back. I rode my silver bike to a funeral, a short distance from where I live. Had trouble finding something to lock it to. Ended up finding a railing in the back of the funeral home. Not wanting to leave it long, after the first service, I waited for the people to mostly walk down to the crypt, then rode my bike down and leaned it against a tree so I could see it. Worked out fine. One of the morticians came over and talked to me about bikes after the service. He had an older steel bike he rode to work and around the cemetery. I finally saw him doing just that a couple of months later.

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  12. A bit off the topic but I noticed the SA shift trigger is mounted incorrectly. That is to say, it should be on the right-side of the handlebar.

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    1. This is a friend's former bike and I am reluctant to change it for sentimental reasons. Also, I keep hoping he'll come back for it, and this way it will be just as he left it.

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  13. Well, to me it's like riding on a cold rainy day; even as much as you might enjoy riding, it's a sort of no win situation that's only good, because you are getting to a place you are required to be, not that you want to be necessarily.
    Good to see your post, stiff upper lip and all that!
    On an upbeat note as someone else noted my family has two Clementines arriving shortly, I rode the Clem Smith Jr. prototype when I was in Walnut Creek this last summer and it was quite pleasant! Sort of a cross between my beloved old cruisers and an old 80's steel mountain bike. I really felt like I could ride it all day to nowhere in particular, which is my favorite type of ride anywayz!
    -masmojo

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  14. Late to the party here, but think of the enjoyment of pedaling after the horrible thing. The endorphin rush as you push away whatever it was as life goes on. I find it cathartic, and therapeutic.

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