Yesterday was one of those days. You know the kind I mean, a day when you have to go out but can’t find any motivation to get going. Sometimes on those flat-as-a-pancake days I just give in and drive to my destination, but yesterday I didn’t. Against the odds, I somehow made myself ride Kermit to Okehampton where I had appointments at the doctors and a less formal one with the supermarket.
I needed to leave by 1000. At 0930 it felt impossible that I might even consider cycling, as I cleaned my teeth reluctantly. I was trying to make the time pass so I needn’t think about riding. By 0935 I had to make a decision, something my mind couldn’t contemplate. By 0940 I was stood in my kitchen unfolding my trailer, ready for my weekly assault on the grocery store. The only motivating factor was the fact that I have a history of doing this on Thursday each week for quite a few years.
I turned my mind from the negatives thoughts that bounded around like baboons in my head. I put my cognitive chimp back in its cage and just carried on readying myself. Before I knew it, Kermit was also unfolded and ready. How it happened I’m not really sure, it just did. Somewhere deep down I was on auto-pilot, aware of how hard it was to make myself ride, but doing it anyway. All of those days when I’d done something similar to this were taking over, propelling me forwards and out of the house. I didn’t think at all, just stretched, sat down and started pedalling.
Leaving the close where I live, the struggle stopped. My mind hadn’t quite figured that I hadn’t just sat down on the sofa. Being recumbent means that it takes a while before it realises that my legs are going around at all. I took full advantage of that as I headed for the dreaded Park Road and the hill that lies in wait for people who have just left home and aren’t ready for it. Anywhere else and it would be fine, but it’s a case of first hill of the day syndrome and it has to be faced.
Trevor the trailers clever brother, Tim, (he folds flat without removing anything so you can remove his bag and store him between train seats) rattled and chuntered along behind with a reassuring noise, sounding as though his teeth were chattering. It’s quite distinct and easily discernible from Trevor’s machinations. As we rode I waved to Albert, a Hatherleigh old boy, who grinned and said, “you must love that thing,” as I passed by. I do and let him know that with a yes and a cheesy grin.
We made it up Park Road. We always do. It’s just a matter of plodding along in a lowly gear and trying not to think about it. Up on Hatherleigh Moor, I stopped. As I settled into cardio-recovery the silence of the place rushed in to fill the gap where my breathing and mental effort had taken all the space a few seconds previously. I drank it in like I hadn’t had a drink for days and then set off again in the warmth of ever increasing sunshine.
I stopped several more times before Okehampton, just to take in the sensation of having the peace pouring into me through every pore of my skin. This was the reason I cycle. This was why I had forced myself to get out. It’s all about feeling things you just can’t feel when ensconced in your house, locked in your mind, as I have undoubtedly been lately. This was the first time in weeks that I’d had this feeling, a kind of glad to be alive moment that sprung suddenly from the dark trap of my mind. No wonder it felt so good.
Although my legs felt good, my mind felt weak, almost distressed. That isn’t unusual. I’ve had a creeping awareness that I shouldn’t push too far or too hard at the moment, a kind of external acknowledgement of the internal struggle. It was duly noted and stored somewhere accessible for later reference. I continued slowly and happily to my destination, the medical centre, which lies at the top of a long and reasonably challenging hill.
Arriving here is always a bonus. I sit and watch cars pouring in and out, all vying for somewhere to park, preferably as close to the entrance as possible. I have time on my hands and take a short walk around the nearby streets. It seems a long time ago that I lived in one of the cottages that I’m now walking past. My memory of life there is quite poor, but at the time it was a good move, one that saw me having to interact more with people during my daily rounds and one that ultimately led to the house I live in now.
Meanwhile, back at the medical centre, a traffic jam had formed. There is a pinch point on the entry road and all four possible directions had vehicles in. All of them wanted to move but the drivers apparently had no idea how to unstick the situation. It was amusing to watch, having rolled in on Kermit and parked up without a thought. This is one of the main reasons I enjoy cycling into Okehampton to shop. It’s just so much less hassle than queuing to park at the medical centre and then fighting through the town to the supermarket in a car.
I left the doctors having maintained the status quo. We are both happy to play ‘wait and see’ for a few more weeks with regards to my various medications. Outside, the madness had settled a little now as I rolled down the road towards the town centre. It always feels good to turn into the road clearly marked NO ENTRY. The cycleway runs down there in contradiction to the flow of traffic, which is only allowed one way. I certainly get funny looks from those who don’t see or realise the cycleway exists.
Over the rickety, wooden, foot bridge and I’m in Lidl’s car park. I do love good cycling infrastructure. It feels so effortless in comparison to sitting in heavy traffic and queuing endlessly to get into the car park. Like the medical centre, I sneak in, this time from the opposite side to everyone else other than those walking. I feel completely unruffled and manage to park by the main entrance to the store. Shopping couldn’t be easier than this and it seems to take no time at all before I’m hitching up the, now bulging, heavy, trailer to Kermit for the return journey.
Back onto the one-way street, the wrong way, the cycleway leads me away from town. I follow the effortless valley for a couple of miles before a long and reasonably steep hill reminds me that a week’s shopping weighs a fair bit. Down through the gears to a more comfortable place. Note that I said more comfortable, not comfortable, there is a difference. Cycling uphill is always hard and you just have to find a rhythm that works for you. With this kind of load, anything much more than walking pace is too much to ask, so we plod away slowly, reaching our goal in due course.
Glimpses and glances through gates and hedges provide instantaneous snippets of the wider scenery, a patchwork of rolling green, brown and yellow. I feel alive and glad to be hauling my shopping home by trike and not car. A few drivers pass me by, eyes glued to the tarmac and ears fixed on radios. I’m glad today that I’m not one of them. Cycling is so honest. It demands you make an effort and then rewards you exponentially for making it. I like that aspect to it.
I arrive home physically tired and ready to sleep, but that’s okay as the task is complete and I’ve smiled more today than in a while. In all honesty my body is shattered, in a happy sort of way. I barely eat and shower before I feel the pull of my bed calling me. I ‘m asleep within seconds and remain that way until early evening when I wake with the thought of a strong cup of coffee playing on my mind along with warm memories of my morning excursion.
Forcing the issue like this is a thin line. It doesn’t always work. Today, for whatever reason, it all fell nicely into place. On another day I may well have not got as far as unfolding the trike before realising that it wasn’t going to happen. Even small victories like this one can be hugely rewarding, especially when you are struggling with low motivation and energy. The key for me was in recognising the need not to rush, to stop and go as required and simply enjoy the journey.
Until next time………………