Sometimes impressionable experiences come at the most unexpected of times. Invariably, trying to transcribe an existential occurence to text is bound to leave an account that is lacking. There are no quantitative data bits or much speculative punditry below, so readers may want to save themselves a couple of minutes and move on to something else.
Yesterday, I'd arranged to ride home in the afternoon, after picking my bike up from the shop, having left my car at home. As an avid cyclist, it's a 23-mile ride I've made countless times before. In the early morning, I did twenty minutes of circuit training and a 2-mile jaunt with my younger brother, who runs cross country in high school. It's just a short late-day trip.
The afternoon rolls around. I'm out of the office and some paces later on the Cross Check fancifully deemed my black stallion. It's been too many days now, and I'm pumped.
The wind is howling out of the southwest. The road home runs from south to west, and the directional hybrids that lay between. The noise is so loud that anything in the ears is out of the question.
That lack of stimulus allows my mind more freedom, though. And as I ride, it wanders into an analogy on the 'human experience' (or life, if you prefer). I start out invigorated, taunting the deafening wind as it resists every push. I call on everything I have to keep in front of the vehicle in the left lane for as many feet as possible coming out of the traffic lights.
A few miles in, I come to a valley, where I descend for half a mile and then face a steep climb of the same distance (while Kansas is generally thought of as one big plane of flat farmland, that does not characterize the easternmost part of the state, which resembles the hilly, foresty Ozarks of neighboring Missouri more than it does the western prairie; to the right is a walking trail near my home). The wind is unrelenting, and I'm standing the entire way up. The harder I push the harder it pushes back.
While it seems like everything to get to the top, the sense of accomplishment fades quickly, as an endless array of hills become visible from the momentary perch.
As time wears on I start to wear down. The idea of slicing through the gale, forcing it to blow as strongly but from the northeast, goes from being a happy hope to ridiculous quixotry. Frustration replaces resolve. But the weariness brings its benefits. I start to employ established energy-saving techniques instead of relying on adrenaline to get me through.
I try a couple of backroads that are situated by tree and slope windbreaks. But this course has been charted before, and there isn't an easier way, even if it strikes me as so in the moment. Some lead to deadends. The wind carries me back. When I face it again, it is that much more imposing. Others wind this way and that. The 'shortcuts' are costly.
I curse the Weather Channel's meterologists, who had, the day before, forecast winds of 5-10 mph. Less than 24 hours after those predictions, its blowing constantly at three times the upper limit of that range and gusting beyond it. The cynicism briefly turns toward the stake placed in various climate models.
The sun's starting to set. As my pace slows, the sweat-drenched undershirt is starting to chill. I'm in shorts, but this late in the game, that can't be helped. I hadn't anticipated the duration, so I'm also thirsty. To the very end I'm paying for the mistakes I made in the beginning.
But I'm resigned now. The anxieties that had bounced around in my head have dissipated. As I turn north into the neighorhood's entrance, I float half a mile home on a couple of symbolic pedals. What should've taken just over an hour took more than two.
I suspect windburn as I stable the steed. The shower confirms it. It doesn't disrupt my peace of mind, though. I take care of nothing that needs doing. I just climb under the covers and quickly drift away.
I hope dying is this easy.