Gravity

Does anyone want to buy a new-in-box Garmin 530? Because I have one and I am selling it cheaply.

A weird thing happened to me today, something called Strava. It didn’t happen the way you might expect. It happened because of gravity.

Change means you have to defy the ultimate gravity, the gravity of habit, thoughts and behaviors dug deeply into the fabric of your neurons and the way they connect with each other. For various reasons I’ve accepted that henceforth I will no longer ignore gravity and submissively give into its irresistible pull.

I will defy it.

Gravity, however, has other ideas.

Do you want to buy a new-in-box Garmin 530? Cheap?

Boozy P. had invited me out for funerary tacos. Tomorrow Kristie and I are beginning my ride to Houston, and Boozy thought it was maybe the last time we’d ever see each other so, tacos. “Heck yes,” I said, substituting “fuck” for “heck.”

Hanging out at the Dropout Cyclery but clearly not paying rent was Wily Greek, who loves the bike shop. It is just like home in so many ways, only more cyclists, bigger TV, infinite Nescafe coffee pods, and someone else cleans the crapper. Wily may not always react but he is always listening.

That’s when I dropped the bunker buster. “I think I want a Garmin,” I said.

JP looked stonily, sternly, reprovingly. “What?”

It was the “what” of a thousand disappointments. The “what” of “inconstancy, thy name is Seth.” It was the “what” of WTF writ triply large.

“Never mind,” I said, embarrassed.

We walked around the corner for tacos and got to talking about the benefits of having GPS rides and how it would enhance THIS VERY BLOG. Just think! At the end of each post I could stick a link to the ride. Then people would get more than a rough idea of what 13 hours stuck in the wind on the plains of the Central Valley meant. They’d have data, numerals, digital thingies to comparalyze, complicize, that would allow them to climb so deeply into the warren of wormholes that all would finally be understood and revealed.

Kristie looked sour. “I don’t think you need it.”

“Fah,” I said. “Think about the engagement. People can go seamlessly from one interface to the next, enhancing their user experience while redefining the virtual reality of an online social media interface.”

“You just used thirteen branded dumb words in a sentence that couldn’t have had more than thirty.”

Boozy P. nodded. “It would be cool to actually see some of these routes. That stuff you were doing in the Cascades and Sierras looked pretty interesting.”

We finished lunch. I was now fortified to overcome JP’s disappointment at seeing me throw my principles to the wind as his disappointment churned against his elation at selling a high dollar gewgaw. “Show me the Garmin,” I said.

He smiled like the crack dealer whose customer has come back groveling, and opened the case. “This one would work well for you, seeing as you’re a total hypocrite. It can even help you find your way home when you get lost.”

“Perfect,” Kristie said. “He once wrote a blog about the beauty of getting lost. We can go back and delete that one, too.”

By now Wily had finished his fifth free coffee pod. He glanced up. “No more ‘Timex is good enough for me,’ eh?” Then he went back to the TV.

That really stung, but the thought of not having enhanced engaged socially media stuff stung more. “Fuck Wily,” I thought. “What does he know? He’s just the fastest guy on the Hill.”

“Yeah,” my conscience said. “And he ditched his Garmin because of YOU.”

JP then drew out the needle. “This is only gonna hurt once,” he said as he pulled up Strava.com on the screen. There it was. My nemesis. Everyone watched as I typed in a user name and opened an account. The gravity was irresistible. I hit “create account,” JP synched the unit with my phone, and it was over, like that test I once had for syphilis.

It wasn’t painless, but going forward nothing was going to hurt. That’s how it is when you give up what you believe in. Nothing hurts anymore. It’s only holding onto what you believe that hurts.

What I believed was that riding my bike to rediscover my life would be inhibited, not enhanced, by more data and more “engagement.” What I believed is that bicycling needs less electricity and more humanity. What I believed is that I didn’t need no fuggin’ Garmin to tell me where to go. And what I believed most deeply is that I was right.

But this is where I had wound up after only six weeks back in LA. Gravity is that strong. It doesn’t want you to leave, to jump the bonds and see the stars from the dark side of the sky. It doesn’t want you to see the earth as a marble, the sun as a third-rate glimmer, your place in space as a nattering nothing. Because once you jump the arc your mind jumps with it. It’s a place called freedom, and it’s not a bumper sticker on a pickup truck or a slogan on a flag.

Gravity wants you in the trajectory of its rainbow, bound, where you will accept the arc as it is given to you, never demanding more, never refusing to peer beyond, believing that you are who you are told to be.

When you really decide to buck the rainbow’s arc it is hard. Everything strains to hold you back, because it always takes the most energy to escape the field of gravity, even though moving outside the field takes hardly energy at all. To get the savings that come with living outside the arc, you have to burn through some fuel canisters, the biggest ones you’ve got.

Maybe you have to burn through all you’ve got and you never even break free, you only tumble back to earth spent. Maybe you burn through so much that even when you break free, there’s nothing left to propel you forward anymore. Maybe, and this is what I had always believed, you really can break free and be free. I believed it. Hard.

I got home. Still hadn’t packed. Still hadn’t even organized my stuff. It was just a few hours from liftoff, but I knew what I had to do. Desperation again. I deleted the Strava account and erased the Garmin app from my phone.

Anybody want to buy a new-in-box Garmin 530?

It’s new but it has been slightly used. The scuffing around the edge?

They’re the burn marks from tearing that hole in the rainbow.

END

9 thoughts on “Gravity”

  1. Seth – I wish you’d consider taking select writings from your blog, from the beginning and include samples of each phase, chronologically, and put them in a book. I think it would be great and I can guarantee you’d sell at least one (if reasonably priced) that’s for sure. Or just tell me how many times people have told you this.

  2. Being the information junkie that I am, I loaded a hypodermic with route info from your previous ride every time you made a post and injected it into the largest vein I could still get raised. “Great! Seth has a 530, and now I can see where he goes much easier!” NOT.

    Have fun. Looking forward to your journey. I hope your bag is warm.

  3. Have a great ride Seth. And for a few seconds I was one of those readers who got a little excited about being able to plot your route…

  4. Jonathan Phillips

    At least give us a map reference at the end of each day so we can live vicariously through your journey

  5. “There is no real direction here, neither lines of power nor cooperation. Decisions are never really made – at best they manage to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all around assholery. ” – Pynchon (from Gravity’s Rainbow – but of course)

  6. Maybe this is stating the obvious, but you don’t need a Garmin device to share your route. The Garmin app on your phone will allow you to do that. I also like the Road ID app. Its specialty is letting someone of your choice know where you are at any time, so they can send the meat wagon in case you end up in a ditch somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

    1. Mike has a good point here. The only thing I’d add is that how you use / share the data is up to you, not the device or website, of course.

      Wishing you comfortable temps and a steady tailwind along the way!

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