We continue our series of 'what we've learned via the bicycle in 2012' posts. -Kid
Writing this, I’m sitting in a cheap motel room in Colorado. The lime sheets don’t quite match the olive drapes, which clash with the asparagus wall paint, and coincidentally, none of these quite match the slightly dressy harlequin shirt I’m planning to wear to a friend’s wedding tomorrow. I’m now second-guessing the color choice. Hues of green aside, it has been almost exactly a year since I upended my comfortable graduate student lifestyle in Boulder, Colorado to take a faculty position at Prescott College, a tiny, slightly kooky liberal arts college in Arizona.
The new back yard...
Reflecting on the past twelve months, I have realized that I am slowly discovering what’s important in my life – what I need to remain sane. Here are a few highlights to which my fellow adventurous cyclists may be able to relate:
Time. Let’s be honest. Why do you ride your bike? I challenge you to list ten reasons. Then cross off each item that is even moderately selfish. I’m willing to wager that most of us would have rather short lists once this is done. I’m no exception. I ride because it makes me happy. It calms me. It helps me to see the world. It keeps me healthy. And the more I ride, the happier, calmer, worldlier, and healthier I become . . . sort of. The point is I live to ride. I’ve learned over the past few years that there’s nothing more valuable to me than having ample time to devote to riding and exploring. I grappled with the decision to take the job I now have. The pay leaves a lot to be desired, but my schedule is quite flexible, summer commitments are minimal, and I still get all those great breaks that I did when I was a student. And heck, my Geology Through Bikepacking course for next fall was just approved. I could have probably landed a job that would have paid considerably more, but I would have lost out on countless hours and days of “my” time. Frankly, I don’t think such a deal would be remotely fair. Apparently my time is worth far more to me than it is to most potential employers.
Places To Explore. When you strike out for a long ride, where do you go? Is it your favorite trail? The toughest climb or descent near you? Or do you aim your front wheel at a place you have never before been? On or off the bike, discovering and investigating new places is incredibly fulfilling for me. It’s the draw of the unknown and the process of gradually filling in a mental map of my little corner of the world that often guides me. I stare at maps and satellite images for hours on end, conniving and imagining what special places must be out there. These locales can vary in scale from an isolated mossy sandstone shelf beneath a haunting sycamore to a secluded canyon network that extends in all directions for tens of miles. Colleagues that have lived in central Arizona for years remark about how much I’ve seen for having just moved to the area. Conversely, I’m in fact a bit frustrated that I’ve only seen as much as I have in that time. But more importantly, I can confidently say that it will take several decades for me to explore all there is in my new backyard, as long as I can call my backyard anything within a four-hour driving radius. This enthuses me almost beyond belief. I can’t imagine what I’d do living in a place that didn’t have such opportunity.
Public Land. Where do you ride? Who “owns” your favorite trail? There’s a very good chance that we all own it. A small factor in my decision to initially move to the West was the abundance of public lands. This is now perhaps the primary reason I now cannot see myself living many places in the U.S. other than out here. Sometimes the signs read “Welcome To Your Public Land” in an outdated, 1970s era font. City. County. State. Land Department. Game and Fish. USFS. BLM. NPS. NWR. The list of agencies and abbreviations could go on. Management aside, these lands are my playground. These lands are most likely your playground. We own them, we share them, and we need to take a more active role in planning their future. Right after moving, I found myself on the board of directors of the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance. I’ve ridden for years, but never before had I become involved in any of the legwork required to promote, maintain, protect, and increase recreational opportunities for mountain bikers on public lands. The work is far from glamorous, many of the meetings anything but enthralling, and negotiations with other groups can be downright depressing. But trails and access exist for us because someone else put in the time to make something happen, and it is particularly satisfying to actually help in this process. Management decisions made today often affect policies for years or decades to come. Support your local mountain bike advocacy groups so they can be our united voices through these processes. If you have the time and energy, get involved.
Perhaps I’m finally growing up after 30 quick years. Or maybe I’m just realizing what it takes for me to remain a curious, excited kid at heart. I’d like to think it’s the latter. I’m guessing it will take another decade or two to figure out, but I think I learned a few important things in 2012.
Read the previous Continuing Education 2012 posts: