The drive seemed endless. It was my first trip to Cape Cod and though it was mid-morning on a Thursday with hardly any traffic, it still felt long. That’s one of the joys of anticipation, the overwhelming feeling that you can’t wait to get there. Earlier when we were packing up the car for our day trip, Carolyn offered this suggestion: “Let’s just ride like little kids.” Oh. You. Bet. This would not be a problem. The only problem would be holding back my inner child so I could play nicely with others.
This particular bike ride would be on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. In total, the bike path goes for 22 miles stretching from Dennis to Wellfleet. It’s a flat ride and today’s actual training was already completed — an interval run earlier that morning back at vacation home base. So this ride here? This was a bonus ride. Let that little kid out to play. I got my bike and started riding, slowly at first to try and keep with the group of women and children. But thankfully, I was given permission to ride on ahead at my own pace. The plan was to ride for an hour and before I knew it, I was by myself, riding along this fantastic trail.
Paved and well-marked, the physical condition the trail was perfect for bikes — no big pockets of debris or pavement in disrepair (thank you tax payers of Massachusetts). Intersections with cross streets were well-marked and get this, cars actually stopped for bikes in the crosswalk. Turnoffs from the path were marked in places for side routes to reach beaches or other tourist areas. Signs (some official, some from local businesses) indicated where cyclists could pull off for food, drink and bike repair (yes, there were signs indicating where one could get emergency bike repair). A few areas were tagged with graffiti, but there was hardly any trash along the path as it wound through wooded areas and past sparkling ponds.
Cyclists of all kinds were on the trail — families of grandparents, parents and children on rented hybrid bikes, young parents carting their small kids in bike carriers, tourists out for a leisurely ride and serious cyclists in small pace lines whizzing past everyone else. Me? I was somewhere in the middle, riding strong but not pushing myself. It was glorious. Heck, it was so much fun that the congestion in certain areas of the path didn’t come close to bothering me. Slow up and wait for an opportunity to pass this overweight couple on ill-fitting mountain bikes? No worries! Offer an “on your left” so the pre-teen boy would move over from riding side-by-side with his dad? It’s all good! I had entered a state of happiness in the moment and nothing was going to wipe the smile off my face.
In fact, a tune by Great Big Sea came to mind as I was riding: “When you’re love there’s time and no space. There’s a permanent smile on your face. Your friends all complain that your going insane. But the truth is they’re just afraid.”
OK, so the band wasn’t talking about being in love with bike riding, but I was loving my life in that moment and the smile never left my face — even when I glanced at my watch. Perhaps if I was trying to work a training session, I would be more annoyed by the other people on the trails and the intersections where I needed to slow down. But maybe, just maybe, I’ve grown to realize that some things I had right as a kid — and doing something that was fun with only the faintest outline of a plan (with no long-range thought whatsoever) was one of those ways of being I needed to return to. As I glanced at my watch, I noticed that my ride was going longer than previously agreed upon. Oops! I quickly sent a text to let them know I had lost track of time and was on my way back. Ah, but I didn’t apologize. This was my bliss. Why would I apologize for that? In fact, I showed great restraint. I could have easily kept riding the full length of the trail, making it a 44-mile round trip kind of day. Part of me wished that had been the plan. But the rest of knew I could carry this moment, this zen feeling of joy, with me wherever I went for the rest of the day.
Actually, this moment is one I will carry with me even once I leave my vacation. It’s one of those moments which imprints on my heart, giving me a touchstone for my joy, my happiness, my peace. It’s not so much that I work hard and deserve time to play. It’s that time to play is crucial for me to be who I am.