It was perfect! I had dusted off the bike a few sunny days ago and rode about 8 miles down the shoulder of a treacherous highway. Although adrenaline is good, the kind produced by tractor-trailers a few inches away -- not so much. But this road was perfect. A few steps from my house, following the Commencement Bay, I drove it in the car first to see how far it was: about 7.5 miles -- 15 miles round trip. Maybe an hour and a half ride total. I saw lots of cool vistas and scenery as I sped down the road in my car. I could hardly wait to get on my bike. Canopied shade, gentle hills, and a smooth, quiet road. I was going to enjoy this. Water bottle in hand, I grabbed my bike to set off for an adventure.
At first, it was amazing. Nice and shady, easy roads that were just the right amount of up and down. Straight as an arrow, I powerfully pedaled. Wait, where did that hill come from? Powering through it in the car, it was invisible. No matter, a little work and I made it. Can't wait for the next bend! Another hill, even steeper. Huff and puff, a bit of side-to-side and it was crested. Not much downhill, I thought. As the road twisted and turned, it seemed way more uphill than down. How long is this blasted thing anyway? Rubbery legs cussed at the next hill. I am never going to make that one, I thought. I should stop, but I don't want to spoil my perfect day. The way back is going to be amazing, I tell myself: It has to be all downhill!
Of course it wasn't all downhill. It seemed that there were just as many ups as there were downs. How did I miss all this coasting on the way here? Huff, puff, huff, puff. Wait, could it be? One more, no wait, two more... Made it! I wanted to raise my arms in victory like I just finished the Tour de France!
When we try to imagine our life journeys they seem pretty predictable. School, graduate, job, married, family, kids, retirement... Seems pretty smooth. Of course we know that there will be twists and hills, but nothing we can't handle. We imagine the path to be beautiful and fulfilling. Scenic byways, shady stops, and lots of downhill after our accomplishments.
Until we find we are staring up at yet another hill. The straight path becomes impossible as we go side-to-side, standing up and pedaling with all our might. And around each bend, it seems there is always another steeper hill to climb. There never seems to be as much time to coast as we want. This thing called life is hard work!
But if you take the time to look around and enjoy the landscape, you'll see that the path can be pretty, and tranquil. The more you pedal, the stronger you get. Powering through it in your car you miss both the beauty and hardship that awaits. When I look back, most of the hard stuff has long faded from memory. But the sense of accomplishment remains. Made it so far! I am sure in a few weeks I'll be smiling at how easy the ride is.
Until then I'll just keep peddling along. Always forward, never back. Although the next hill might be steeper than the last, at some point I'll get to coast. And if it gets too hard, I'll just take a quick break and admire the beautiful scenery for a while. It really isn't a race anyway.