March 2018. It’s my birthday and Felkerino and I are bike touring through California desert. Sand spreads out on all sides, the road undulates ahead. Cars and trucks zip by periodically, reminding us that we are not alone. Even so it feels like we are the only exposed creatures out here.
Nonstop sun pours down, and I suck on a Lifesaver to moisten my dry mouth. We’ve pedaled halfway through the day’s ride and begin to look for a spot to eat the sub sandwich we picked up that morning.
We had hoped to dine under shade, but after a couple of miles realize that desire was overly optimistic. No worries. We welcome the break anyway and pull the bike off the road.
As I munch my half-sandwich, I cast a look around and try to get a feel for this new year of mine. Disbelief and satisfaction intertwine. I feel a sense of wonder that I’ve lived this long, grateful that my body is healthy and that I have the resources to burn my free time tooling around the desert with Felkerino.
I remember being little and thinking that people my age were so old. How could a person be that old? And I am now that person, that old.
I’m lucky, I think. I made bad choices along the way, but somehow the good ones have outweighed the bad so far. I stand strong, here with my partner, and feel like I’m in bonus years already.
One year later, March 2019. A different road, another part of California. Felkerino, our friend Foon, and I have been touring the old Route 66, which is technically closed to traffic in some parts, and have spent much of the day chatting side by side. The day is overcast, cool, pleasant.
It was sprinkling, but the rain appears to have passed so we pause to delayer. I snack on a homemade blondie that Foon made and take in another birthday.
It’s different this year. The satisfaction of last year has moved aside as complacency has elbowed its way in. I’m dissatisfied somehow and it disquiets me.
This complacency is in such contrast to other years. I experienced so many exciting firsts during and after college. Then built up my professional life and paid off school loans. Achieved independence. Left my home state and moved to a big city. Became a more active cyclist and runner and met Felkerino. Settled down in D.C.
And here I am now – too comfortable. No real complaints to make about my life, yet these awkward sentiments nag at me now and I find myself paying attention to them.
Please don’t misunderstand, I appreciate comfort. Not everyone has it and I am and have been lucky to experience its luxury.
But I don’t want to stand in that space too long. Complacency will wriggle in and gradually diminish the sharp beauty of existence.
Our group mounts up on the bikes again, and we pedal forward together into an extended descent. I don’t know it yet, but a bitter 28-mile segment of unrelenting crosswinds with a steady uphill grade awaits us.
The tailwind will disappear, the road will slope, and the winds will turn against us. I’m ready. It’s a fight to the overnight of this 130-mile day. I’m ready.