It happened Saturday morning. The night had been unexpectedly chilly and wrapped the roads, cars and roofs in icy whiteness, but by 10 or so it was all gone. It was one of those perfect invitations to hop on the bike and go.
Since I moved here in September I have been reluctant to ride my bike because of big trucks speeding by, and on the two occasions I did, I stayed close to home. Unsatisfying at best.
This time I was told of a good place to ride; many cyclists go there: Barnhartvale area. You could say I went on assumptions: Park here, take this road, go. Not a doubt in my mind that I was going the right way.
But, it is a steep uphill. The sun can conceal steepness though. Sunny roads have a certain lure to them and you just go. So I did. There was still snow not far from the road, and the chill was still wrestling with the morning warmth, knowing it will lose anyway before noon or so.
The uphill was treacherous. A soul cleanser of some sort. And just when you think you’re done climbing, more uphill is coming. To conclude that the road is wicked is only logical.
I stopped twice, drank water, looked behind, looked ahead and hopped on. I cannot just stop and turn back, I thought, if this is a route then so be it. A few trucks roared past and I admit to short bursts of engine envy. Well, they make the climb fast and effortless, but that’s not where it’s at.
As I rode around the bend, I came upon houses and shops. Not a human in sight, Barnhartvale seemed to be populated by loud birds imbued with the sunshine the sky was throwing in buckets at them.
Then the road was all flat, quiet and sunny. You see the warmth hovering over it like it does mid-summer and that alone is enough to burn the pain of the climb and turn it into joy. That’s when you know you’re where you should be.
I rode past horse farms; past a field with three llamas that stared in unison as I rode past them. After a few more kilometers I stopped. I lay the bike down in the dry weeds by the side of the road that seemed to have been built just for me, and I sat beside it.
Thoughts tried to barge in like kids do after a day of playing that was so exciting they forgot to eat. Loud and rambunctious, they all wanted to be heard and paid attention to. But I allowed only one: “I am here.”
A whole lot of world rolling from that road in all directions. Hills, some still snowy; birds, loud and cheeky as one would expect in early spring, and the simple realization of having all of that, right there and being in no hurry to go anywhere else.
The way back came with a perk: An exhilarating downhill ride. No engine envy at all. Upon my return I found out that I took a different route than I was supposed to. The harder one. Be it so; to me, when I hopped on the bike, the Barnhartvale road was the only one I knew of.
Perhaps six kilometers or so of uphill are not an invite to riding. But to me they are a confirmation that when you think of the way in front of you as the only one – be it easy or tough – you just do it. Because deep down you can.
We have all it takes to do it. The only reason we choose an easier way is because we have the option. But what if we didn’t?
Easy does not make us grow. It makes us stall in a place where we become complacent. There’s a deep throb of “I can do this” that follows such deeds and that open the way to “I can do whatever I set my mind to.”
My mom used to say that when you really don’t want something that you stumble or opt out. When you want to make it happen, you take the road, and if steep is the only option, you don’t call it steep. You still call it the road.
Because when we challenge ourselves, somewhere in between catching our breath and looking how far along we’ve come, we catch a glimpse of what we can be: better and stronger versions of ourselves.
I want my boys to know that.
(Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on March 16, 2013)