After miles of tough climbing, even getting off the bike once to walk a bit, I finally felt the terrain level off. Our friend Joe and I, neither of us in especially good shape, had fallen well behind the rest of the group. This was back in the 1980s, when Brent and I had lived in Phoenix, Arizona for a few years. A bunch of us had driven up on the Mogollon Rim to escape the desert heat, most of us taking our bicycles along. Then two of our friends drove “sag” while the rest of us did a long ride. I don’t recall just where we started, but we were currently cycling toward Payson along Highway 87. Our route would take us down off the Rim through the little towns of Strawberry and Pine. And possibly one or two other car air-freshener fragrances.
Sure enough, the flat stretch did not last long. The next minute I was gaining speed, the smooth road sweeping downward around nicely banked turns. I got down on the dropped ends of the handlebar, glancing down at my computer every few seconds. 20 miles per hour. 26 mph. Air whistling through my vented helmet almost drowned out the noise from the few cars that passed. 33 mph. 38 mph. By now I had “spun out,” unable to pedal fast enough to apply any resistance even in my highest gear, so I just hunkered down and coasted. 41 mph. 43 mph. The wind curled around the right side of my sunglasses, making my eye water. A quick swipe with my glove, then I grabbed the bar end again. At these speeds, even a little wobble could spell disaster. That slight edge of danger infused just a tinge of adrenaline, keeping me alert both to the feel of my bike and to everything around me.
Hard effort, thrills, a bit of risk… all the essential elements of adventure were there. I highly recommend it.
Of course, you don’t always have to risk life and limb to have an adventure. Anything you decide to do that takes you outside of your routine can qualify. What if you were to walk half a mile instead of riding your usual shuttle bus? Or pay a sincere compliment to a classmate or co-worker that you don’t know very well? Learn a new skill? Order something for dinner that you’ve never tried before?
We all made it to Payson, though it was NOT downhill all the way. In fact, we did some significant climbing after coming down off the Rim. I got so tired that when I reached the edge of Payson, I got off the bike and went over and kissed the City Limit sign. I’m telling you, I earned my dinner that night.
As I have grown older, I have enjoyed many adventures — even within the relatively quiet life I lead. It’s fun, it expands my horizons, and I have gained confidence. The successes are rewarding, and the failures at least make for some good stories. (In a few instances, the only reward has been learning NOT to try something again!)
But my favorite adventures still involve a bike and a long, steep downhill.
Thanks for reading!