I had started off on a dirt road that turned into deep sand and then morphed into rocks and then big rocks and then broken pavement and then a jagged asphalt lip and then a proper road that led back to the highway.
All in all a bust, as I’d been looking for a dirt route that would follow the river all the way to my destination, four or five miles hence.
After a half-mile on the highway I spied a dirt road down below that looked like it might parallel the river, so I took a USFS trail and almost went over the bars going down a slope that Manslaughter would have taken at 30. The dirt road was good until it wasn’t, becoming sand then mud then dead-end into the river. I bushwhacked for a while until I got tired of hike-a-bike, as the foliage kept getting denser and the nonexistent trail kept not appearing.
I walked back to another dirt trail and to the highway, rode for another mile, and had another stab at it. Again, I found a nice dirt USFS road that became a plunging fall but I didn’t even try to ride it. More walking. One thing about not being in a hurry and about being old (they’re related), and riding with sneakers is that I don’t really mind getting off and walking. It’s the cyclist’s version of multi-modal transportation.
Eventually I wound up in someone’s backyard, which was butt up against an abandoned mill filled with arsenic, mercury, and lead tailings. “KEEP OUT: CANCER AND BIRTH DEFECTS” it said. I did. No pregnancy of mine was going to be endangered by mill tailings.
I rode on the road a bit then skipped off into an abandoned golf course which took me through more sand, more mud, more walking, more pushing, and finally to the river, where a redneck bridge spanned a tiny, gushing, beautiful stream. There were some bright red stockings and underwear and a bra hanging on a bush. Someone had reached that moment where she had to tear everything off asap and didn’t care where it landed.
It didn’t look like there was going to be a Northwest Passage. I had to climb through some brush to get back on the highway, went another minute or two, found another trail, and rode it til it petered out. It was bumpy and jarring. My old bones didn’t exactly love the rattling.
On the way home I stuck to the highway and passed a Catholic church outside town. The spire was rusted but they had a marquis that said, “Live Your Faith.”
What is your faith? Catholicism? Protestantism? Islam? Sikh? Buddhism? Science? Money? Racism? Cars? Bikes?
That sign reminded me that everyone has a faith but few people live the faith they espouse. Most people’s faith is money but they try to live it according to some other faith like religion or morality. But morality and religion cannot be reconciled to the faith of money, so such people end up being hypocrites and miserable.
If you believe in money, live it. Proclaim that money is your solution, your grail, the standard by which you judge yourself and others. Let money be your guide and it will guide you. You will be a lot happier than claiming to care for the poor and the afterlife when, in the privacy of your own home, you are cutting every corner on your taxes, pinching every penny, scheming how to make more, or doing everything you can to show others that you are MAKING IT.
Same for the other faiths, whatever they may be. That church marquis nailed it. Live your faith.
My faith? Bicycle. I believe that my bike is my solution and riding it is my grail. It’s how I judge myself. Did I ride today? Then I lived my faith. Did I use my bike to improve the world today? Then I lived my faith. Etc.
I had to struggle a bit to get home; it’s a 1.2-mile climb up a bitterly steep hill. I was sweaty and tired because, well, I’m not that strong. But I didn’t have any trouble, really, getting up the hill. My faith, you see, was with me all the way.