I reread the previous post recently, knowing that I had been away from these pages for a long, long time – just as I had been prior to posting that edition. The good news is that there has been no relapse, no crisis. One week I couldn’t make the time to write, the following week I was busy the day I usually write. And then, well, habit slipped quietly into the room univited and mingled with the crowd, rolling the weeks along with barely a change in gear.
And so it was with my cycling. Same old, same old. Same routes, same views, same tarmac. Don’t get me wrong, the countryside in these parts (East Sussex on the south coast of England for those of you reading this in Singapore, or Australia, or India, or Birmingham, for that matter) is beautiful. It feels good to ride these roads and lanes. Again, and again and again. It’s always worked for me, riding these familiar routes. The climb over the Dyke holds no fear for me. I know where to stop for a coffee in Henfield, which pubs serve good selection of vegetarian meals. The cows in the fields even know my name.
Lately this has been making me feel increasingly anxious. It’s like there are no other places for me to go. ‘It’s too far’, ‘I don’t like the look of that main road’ or ‘I used to like that route, but it’s been so long I can’t remember where it starts’ are just some of the thoughts that keep me from turning left when I’ve always turned right. Then there’s the 25 miles cap that I have started noticing.The handful of regular routes I’ve been riding are no longer than 25 miles. Some of pedestrians, couch potatoes or swimmers reading this may be impressed with those kind of figures. Not me. Those miles are full of fear, constraint and the What ifs.
All this adds up to the polar opposite of how things should be. Regular readers of these pages will know that cycling is a critical factor in keeping me going – literally. If how and where I’m cycling have become an issue then…then…then what? Should I stop cycling – as I did for a whole year when I was first pole – axed by depression back in the early 2000s? What about getting my Mountain Bike out of the garage and going off road following the trails that start just a mile from my door? Thoughts of broken collar bones, marauding cows and a lack of confidence buzz around my head like wasps.
I’m doing O.K. otherwise, though, I say to myself. That’s alright, then.
Last week I set off on one of the rides I have described. I stopped at a spot with a beautiful view – as usual. I came to a crossroads (yeah, yeah, yeah) I know well and turned left towards a village I had never heard of and how far away? The sign post kept its mouth firmly shut on that subject. But I got there, I found a pub with a lovely garden and good food. I read my book for a bit before heading home. I took a wrong turn somewhere, but kept going and found myself back at the crossroads where the new route had begun.
Oh, and my bike computer showed I’d been in the saddle for 37 miles.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)