The Unknown

Sitting on the steps of my driveway, the  Fall chill sipping past my soft shell jacket, my skin and nose bask in the crisp aroma of tired leaves, the atmosphere saturated with the smell of fall, and the sun – missing in action. It was decision time: do I go on this ride or not? You see, every once in a while, especially post riding hiatus comprising of full on absence from the saddle, I decide on some big exploratory ride the theme (slow and long) where I attempt to go off lots of unbeaten paths and explore roads I have never been on before. It so happens that somehow on those rides I end up riding some variation of the rides I already know, I never really get lost, I stay constrained in my curiosity and always stay within the buffer of the familiar.


What do we fear in the unknown? Is it trepidation of mental and physical anguish we might experience in discovering it, or the effort required in embracing and mastering it, maybe its just the awareness of our nakedness and ignorance made glaringly apparent in a state of not knowing. I think in my case, my fear is that I might not be able to afford the cost of the venture. Due to the significant topographical fluctuations in elevation (climbing) around Cumberland, I would have to climb and/or decend a couple thousand feet before I even reach uncharted territory, when finally on virgin territory the further I go the more worried I become: I worry about how climbing lies ahead, am I going to get lost and have to backtrack, what about getting back home? I am going to have to do all that climbing to get back home (this conversation set to the Banjo ridden soundtrack of Deliverance as I go deep into Appalachia). The fear of running out of energy is so immense I inevitably end up doing a variation of the ride I already know.

On Saturday though, I mounted and headed towards the limits of my familiarity, I got to the cross road of decision where I could turn left and head towards Centerville and back home or I could head towards Everitt, towards more struggles with gravity, towards adventure. I chose the latter. I rode all the way to Bedford PA, through a cathedral of changing colors and Fall foliage, the scrubs signaled their welcome to old man winter with bright shades or green, yellow and amber, the maple trees displayed every shade of orange occasionally liberating a confetti of spent leaves as the wind demanded, I coasted on the downhills ignoring my Garmin, I drank of the beauty and searched for a deeper meaning of all this. I dug deep looking for a palpable connection between this awe and my inadequate comprehension of God’s magnificence, constantly failing, my attention wrestled away by a vibrant shrub or a cammo-clad youngster stretching his bow.

Thanks to inadequate planning, I ran out of food was cold, worried and my butt and legs hurt. There comes a point in ever Century ride when it is no longer as much fun, you just turn the cranks in order to get to that 100mile marker. In many aspects of my life I feel that’s where I am: like I just rode past the 75mile marker and the views are beginning to look the same, the company the same since mile 1 and conversation is running thin, in my ride of life, change is imperative but I remain clueless as to its initiation. I was tired but I somehow knew I was going to make it, the hardest part had been done, I had gotten on and started riding, I had made that turn and had been rewarded for it.


I recently heard “Fear is the fruit of forgetfulness” when we forget all the other times we have taken the leap of faith and God has brought us through it builds our faith and debunks fear. Another I heard is “Faith is not the opposite of Fear…Love is” when we finally comprehend the love God has for us, and how much he has done and is willing to do for us, we gain perspective and faith and loose fear. You know, I think even those we think are brave like the Nomad and Vagabond need to ask themselves if deep down they are actually afraid of stability, assurance and calling a place home. In the Bible my favorite passage about fear is 1John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.

After 70 miles and 6k ft of climbing, I arrive home, toes numb, shoulders locked, ears and face numb but a smile frozen in place. It was difficult, it was lonely, it was hard ….. But it was New!

The Saddle an Altar

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Barely brazing 85 percent of my maximum heart rate, I slug up Irons mountain on a crisp spring afternoon, blue bird day with the sun taking intermittent breaks behind sparse puffy clouds feels nice but a harbinger of what summer has in stock. Suddenly it strikes my how many parallels can be drawn between cycling and one’s spiritual walk, I ponder this while looking out into the cadenza of yellows, reds and varying shades of blue stratification that would require a true tetrachromic  to appreciate I juxtapose my spiritual growth with my improvement in the saddle over the course of my riding “career”. Just 2 year ago the idea of riding up this cat3 climb on a bicycle would have been totally absurd to me, the first time I made it to the top the only vista I enjoyed was watching the snot and sweat cocktail run from my face to the tarmac as I desperately toiled to reach some negative elevation figures, today however I can pedal up the same climb, hold a conversation (albeit limited) and still notice the curve of the road as it sneaks its way down the mountain, I am soothed by the vengance with which the leaves on the tree are reborn, I notice how this calls up in me an awe for a Creator. Something inside, something fundamental feels summoned, I feel a sense of privileged to somehow be willing and able to take the time to commune with the creator. A month after I gave my life to Christ I very nearly threw the towel in, I remember at a church service saying to God “this is too hard, I have tried all I can but its just too hard” I decided I was returning to my old life the minute I left that service that night, needless to say God spoke to me in a real way that night making me believe John 6:37. Just like riding if we stay with it we develop spiritual muscle/spiritual endurance with time.


Before I ever fell into cycling, I asked God to help me as I start trying to live for him to get connected to the right people I knew some old friendships had to go and I needed support beyond family. He answered me by sending me a friend in the form of a Giant Rincon 26″, one not with triflow instead of blood coursing through its vein. A friend that if I look hard enough and listen well enough becomes an altar a vessel through which I could be with God.