There’s a special attraction to waking up in an unfamiliar land and spending the day exploring. Sometimes it’s not possible to do this due to family commitments or support requirements. Sometimes it’s been work. Mostly it’s work. For the last 20 years it’s been work.
It’s also been the way to pay for my apartment, car, food in the fridge for 20 years and untold trips to faraway places, many of them to explore or to race bikes.
But until very recently I didn’t have time, and now unexpectedly, without fanfare, I do. I have a lot of free time. It’s taking me a while to get my head around the concept. My life for so long has been shorthand, precious minutes spent in productivity or planning or both.
I’ve been sitting watching the world go by for an hour now, idle on the ramshackle veranda of the rhythmically named de Jardin de Jade restaurant in Montreal’s Chinatown. I am spending the whole day doing nothing but waiting. I have no plans, no obligations – my only job to make sure my daughter is ok should she need anything at Otakuton, a festival of anime unrivaled anywhere as far as I can tell.
The air is humid, the shorts are barely needed, and most people wander slowly as if in a dream-state, talking quietly under their umbrellas. I am full with a pot sticker the size of a baby’s head and a plate of rice and veggies. I haven’t crashed though – I think the veggies must have offset the sugars from the rice. Or not, who knows. Either way it’s fine not to have a hammock or a nap and it’s ok to watch all the teenagers and Weebs wander by in their costumes.
I’m also not training today, or yesterday. Today is a rest day. So was yesterday. I am planning 20 x CH reps tomorrow to the amusement of my bike club. None of them will be joining me. This effort translates into about 3 ½ hours riding and maybe 7,800 feet by my calculations. There will be lots of bottles and snacks in my backpack tomorrow when I ride over there. I would love a support crew, complete with mid-ride ice showers, but apparently this is not likely to happen.
I might be a dreamer today, I might also be a writer, or a photographer for hire, or a free masseur, with our without happy ending, but always asking for a tip. I might be trying hard to save every penny now, to stem the cash burn, the cash cremation, the effigy inside writhing and unravelling straw limb by straw limb. I might be in the mood to ride fixed gear around Notre Dame square and practice my skidding.
I just don’t want to do the same old thing. Which is why I can never understand being stuck at home by choice. Last night it was walks no the Old Montreal waterfront, a few days ago relaxing by the Seaway canals. There’s so much to see in this urban landscape that I usually miss because I’m cranking out the watts and going hard to make sure my time is not wasted and the next opportunity is not missed. It’s easy to use Strava as a personal whipping instrument – to drive you on mile after mile, suffer score after suffer score, tss max after tss max. Well, I guess I’m having something akin to an allergic reaction to this regime.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but sometimes, it’s great to take a break. I was going to Yellowknife, I was going to the Rockies, I still will take my bike to Chicago, gears or no gears. I obsessively search for travel deals, I plan for my next trip’s budget, I stare at youtube videos teary-eyed and sentimental for smells and tastes and sights I haven’t yet experienced. I am an addict to the promise of somewhere new. So much so that I forget what’s in my own backyard sometime. Or maybe just across town.
I remember throwing my office clothes into the Pacific Ocean from Venice Beach 24 years ago, almost to the day. Synchronicity becomes less a manic rhythm and more of a slow tap of your walking cane as the years progress, so take heed. Don’t worry about the score, the progress, and the result. Take time, even in your own town to slow down; to enjoy what’s around you; to seek out the unusual and the unfamiliar.
Some days I feel like I got the key half way in the lock and the key snapped off, leaving me unable to proceed. It’s stressful, frustrating and most of all easy to self-berate. Some days you watch a whole family in the rain struggling to unlock their bikes only to realize after 20 minutes that they were using the wrong key. I learned a long time ago to breathe, relax and understand that sometimes not achieving your goals can be the best goal of all.
I’ll be on the program again tomorrow, but after that I’ll be taking my time to enjoy the slow ride of recovery, if not that of discovery.