Earlier today, John of onespeedgo.blogspot.com posted a few photos of storm clouds billowing over Phoenix, AZ. I'm not sure why, but they filled me with an incredible longing to ride in that place, a place so foreign from anything I've known.
If classified, I think that my various homes throughout the years would firmly place me as homebody. My parents never moved from the farm that my father and grandfather had grown up on. I went to a small college 60 miles from home, and got a job in the same town as the college, where I have lived ever since. I've never been out of Iowa or Minnesota for more than a week, never been in any other country than Canada (a few hours I spent in Tijuana does not count).
Now with two kids and steady employment for both my wife and myself, it seems unlikely that we'll move anywhere anytime soon.
I've spent much of my time this past year reading anything I could about cycling. Along with the technical reports have been multitudes of ride and trip reports to places that I'd never even thought of or knew existed. Now filled with a longing to explore these places, I find myself in a position where achieving those trips is borderline impossible.
Now that cycling has filled me with desire that I cannot satisfy, it may be strange to hear me say that it has also provided an outlet.
Last weekend I led a small group of cyclists on a gravel ride down to a local pizzeria in the microscopically small town of Carnes (3 houses, an abandoned elevator, and the pizzeria). The food was excellent, but the ride back was sublime. Pushed by a cooling tailwind, we glided back, the setting sun no longer roasting us as it had in the afternoon. We spoke calmly of many things, or rode silently as we felt the need. We moved as a loosely defined organism, no sound louder than our laughter and the swish of gravel under our tires.
We explored and experienced anew a land that has been radically altered from its original prairie state. That may be a tragedy, or it may be a manifestation of the potential of the land. We moved slow enough to experience the undulations of a subtle land, a land that does not shock, but can still surprise. It's a land where you can see a person a mile off, but be startled by a dust colored dove winging out of a ditch.
Iowa is a land transformed into a near mono culture of corn and soybeans, dotted liberally with cattle yards and hog confinements Few come here for vacation unless family calls them back. I will live here for a while, I may live a whole life and be buried here. It can be an ugly, crushing place if you try to rush though it. I may want to be elsewhere, but what I need is here. I want to move slowly enough to see its beauty, because slow is seeing.