I get this question a lot, so thought I’d dedicate this blog post to answering that question—
Well, who isn’t?
I wake up every day afraid. Afraid I won’t be able to cope, face the unknown, to step outside the house. And for good reason—
Maybe I’m simply a fearful person, but to me every day is fraught. The possibilities for failure are endless. Is this pessimism? Depression? Or an acute awareness, knife-sharpened by my childhood? The sense that one must be hyper-vigilant because no one else has their best interests at heart.
I’m even afraid to write this.
Writing is fear, to face the blank page, to pull words out of the invisible universe and conjure up a notion residing inside my head. To evoke a scene playing out in my imagination. To physically emote onto the page. And, this is scarier yet, with the hope of communicating, connecting with others. To instill in a reader the same emotions I’m feeling. That is an achievement usually unrecognized and definitely under-appreciated.
In other words: Art.
So, yeah, I’m afraid and face my fears daily, on a moment to moment basis. Cycling alone is scary, but it also empowering.
Let’s also acknowledge we never have control. So when people say to me, Do you ever think about what can go wrong? I simply nod my head.
--What about crashing? Yup.
--Cars running you over? Got it!
--Rapists? I’ve never once forgotten this is a reality, always has been.
As a writer, a creative, I can imagine all of this in great detail. That crash—it’s run through the movie screen of my head over and over, careening downhill and hitting a fist-sized rock and then skidding into oncoming traffic. It’s one of the reasons I wear a helmet because I envision my brains splayed out on the pavement every time I pull out onto the street. About the rapists—I consider myself lucky. The number of women who can’t walk down the street without comment or being objectified is crazy. Something men don’t have to worry about.
Yet, astride my bike, pedaling along I feel not only safe but a sense of power. I’m doing it! Things will happen, but I can tackle the problems one-by-one.
For example on my last trip I got as flat, a thumbtack stuck in my rear tire. There’s nothing I hate more than changing a tire. That’s why I’ll constantly keep pumping a slow leak until I can make it to a shop. I was on a back road when I heard and phish and felt my rear pull to the side. I found a safe place to pull off, tossed off my bags, and turned the bike over. The hardest part of a flat is after I’ve installed the new tube and not pinching it, thereby creating another flat. Getting the tire to stretch over the last bit of rim just by pushing with my fingers: impossible. So I went out to the road and hailed a passerby. He got out and did the maneuvering and then had a regular pump in the back of his SUV. He helped me quickly inflate and was off. Thanks!
A few days later I threw a spoke on the rear wheel. At first I thought, oh no another flat, but then saw that wasn’t it. My brakes grabbed weirdly and things felt squishy. I figured it out and then pulled out my phone to see where the nearest bike shop was. I had to cycle 7 miles to Blue Hill where a nice lady gave me a ride the rest of the way to Kingdom Bikes (located out in the boonies on a gravel road). Each of these times I worked the problem.
Yes, I’m afraid, mostly though I worry. I’m so vulnerable. But isn’t that the human condition.
One more thing to take into consideration: I live in Chicago. If I can survive the streets of Chicago then a bike tour should be a piece of cake. Just this week in my neighborhood, on my street, just a few blocks away 4 people shot in front of a jerk chicken place and then then a few hours later a body discovered in one of those bins where you drop off clothes. How??? Then set of fire.
So riding is a stress release, a way of escape. After a hard week of Trump news, neighborhood crime, allegations of sexual harassment, it’s nice to get away and get my life back. A long ride is exactly what I need.