Cycling Stories

The Road Goes on Forever

July 5, 2020

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The Road Goes on Forever

Glance past handlebar hands grasping the long, faint shadow cast in front of your bicycle during the early morning sunlight. See the gray silhouette transform from a gaunt Giacometti form on two wheels, to a squatter combination of spinning circles and framed triangles as the sun rises higher in the sky. The shadow condenses, disappears as the sun reaches its zenith, and now follows behind like a faithful dog for the rest of the day. 

Look down and watch fading asphalt flow under rolling wheels. See knees and top tube and handlebars and arms joined in a curious stasis, and continuous revolution. The arms belong to the rider who belongs to the road that never ends. They’ve changed from smooth, strong forearms to tauter-drawn limbs; from the smooth skin of youth to the complex alligator map of wrinkles that so absorbed a young boy studying his father’s arms. See the knees, now scarred from surgeon’s knives, protesting as the road continues, but still faithful to the rider who knows them well. 

Look up and see parallel lines ever retreating toward the teasing horizon or the next hill, down tree-lined paths and corn-filled country roads, always approaching the next town or rest stop, always receding into thin memories as you rejoin the road. 

Roll past far-spaced farms, neat boxes of white houses, and rickety red barns. See sows and newborn calves. Smell hogs and fertilizer. Hear the sounds of tractors turning the soil for the fresh planting of crops, the sound of harvesters at season’s end as that bounty is reaped. Wave to, and be waved at by, the solitary occupants of farm combines as they rumble down our shared road. 

Pedal down stretches of towering green pines that coolly exude rich, resinous aromas. Coast and hear the tick of the freewheel in the quiet calm and stately silence of the forest. Hear the tap of woodpecker and watch the sudden flit of the cardinal. See the squirrel as it darts from tree to tree in never-ending, nut-carrying mission. 

Ride by the river and peer through early morning mists and rough-stalked reeds to see fish jump and fowl preen. Smell the curious, rich odor of decay where water meets the bank in a marshy confluence. Inadvertently inhale and swallow swarms of bugs that dance at the river’s edge. 

Careen down city streets, ever alert, always surprised at the car-bus-truck that leaps in front of you without warning. Immerse yourself in traffic sounds, and diesel smells, in potholes and pedestrians, in stoplights and swung-open car doors. Hear the constant honk and roar. Feel your hands grip the brake levers in a sudden stop. 

Places may change, but the road goes on forever. 

Feel the seasons roll by, the never-ending wheel of spring, summer, autumn, winter, the cycle of years that will continue long after bicycle wheels cease spinning.  

Pedal through new buds and the creeping green seen only from the corner of your eyes, until spring bursts forth in sudden surprise all around you. Creatures court and birds build nests among blossoms and slowly warming air that caresses and calls you back to the road after a long, lonely winter. 

Immerse yourself in endless wheat, which waves in summer winds. Watch black asphalt shimmer and dance in a distant mirage. Feel the sweat drop from your forehead to the top tube as you cycle, the heat making your skin glisten, sun’s rays darkening your arms and legs into that curious cyclist’s tan. Taste the lukewarm water as it wets dry lips and somehow satisfies a parched mouth. Sway in the saddle with Tiger Lillies and Queen Anne’s Lace that bow, roadside, in constant courtesy. Hear the whirr of locust choruses that sing their familiar song, rising and falling in Doppler mystery as you pedal past. 

Tilt your head at the hint of the first dropped leaf and be amazed at the abrupt autumn riot of orange, red, yellow, and brown. Arms and hands hide under jackets and gloves as you pedal through dimly lit mornings and frosty air. Watch your breath condense in moisture-filled exhalation. Hear ducks and geese honk over your shoulder as they make their way south. 

Worship at the window while winter snows blow and hide the road as it disappears in swirling fury, leaving you with only well-worn maps and fading photographs of remembered rides. Sleeping legs will phantom pedal, twitching curiously like a dog’s during rabbit-chasing dreams. 

The seasons change, but the road goes on forever. 

The road is a constant that’s ever-different but always the same, somehow new and somehow not. It’s a way through life with limbs moving in continuous revolution, endlessly approaching but never arriving. Whenever you look up from your handlebar hands and spinning legs, from burning muscles and labored breaths, from sudden thoughts or bittersweet memories, you always see the road that goes on forever.

Gerald Ryan is an award-winning freelance writer who has produced weekly cycling columns for the Courier Sun, and monthly cycling columns for Windy City Sports in Chicago, Twin City Sports in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Metro Sports in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. He's also been a cyclist for more than forty years.
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