While I was gallivanting through the wilderness this summer, Adventure Cyclist published a story of mine about riding the Trempealeau, Wisconsin area, which quietly has some of the best road riding in the country. Normally I try to avoid riding paved roads, with their rush of hurtling metal death traps, but I'd go back to ride Trempealeau in a heartbeat. (The cover shot was one of only a few dirt patches of the trip — a service road through the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge at sunset.) Most roads there are beautifully paved, roller-coaster rides through impossibly idyllic countryside. It's all bluffs, farms, and narrow river valleys. The roads are more like bike paths — narrow and twisty with barely a car to be seen. I might even start riding them if more roads were like that.
So Trempealeau County is not only one of the best kept secrets in American cycling, but it also happens to be where my father's ancestry comes from. So we went there together to ride and explore the landscapes of our past.
Ended up writing a story about mortality, which I then had to turn into a cycling story. I was a little worried when I first sent it in. It was a relief when the editor said he liked it; I half expected him to call and say, What the hell is this bizarre thing you've sent me and where's your real story? I suspect it's not often people send in stories that open in cemeteries...
Speaking of cemeteries, anybody else enjoy riding or walking through them? I've always thought they were a good reminder that we're not here forever, which is easy to forget when you're preoccupied with the busyness of life. Cemeteries remind us to savor being alive.
A few pictures from our trip follow. The first few are from our one sunny day, when we were joined by my father's friend. After that it was nonstop biblical rain, but that didn't stop Dad and I from riding...
I wrote two different endings for this story. I was fond of both (but I'm biased), and only one can make the magazine. Here's the one that didn't get used:
The rain started falling again, but we didn’t care, not at this point. We could have bagged the trip after the first day, when we saw the storms coming, but we decided to embrace the rain. We were here to ride together, father and son, through the terrain of our ancestral past. A little water wasn’t going to stop us.
I’ve always imagined time as a current, with the present being a wave — a wave that carries us into the future, and that will continue on long after we’re gone. We can let the wave submerge us or we can ride it, surfing atop its crest, recognizing that this is our moment, our time to be alive in this world. Eventually our time will pass, and we will slip into its wake with all those that came before, and it will be time for a new generation to ride the wave of life.
What we choose to do with our time, with our brief lives, is up to us. Sometimes the best thing to do is to ride a bicycle.
One thing I know for sure is that if we hope to honor those that came before, we will seize these moments and live with vigor and relish. This is what we chose to do those two wet and beautiful days in Trempealeau County. We chose to live.
Anyone interested in reading the entire story and seeing the ending that made the magazine, can see it here.