A Smile a Day Keeps the ER Away
by Jeff Cravens:
I got home from work while it was still light. I had been neglecting my bike trails. They were lonely and needed me. I told my children not to play with the knives or drive heavy equipment for at least 15 minutes. I hopped on my bike and shot down the trail at full, liberating speed. I had a grin on
my face the whole way across Boarder Trail, up the Balsam Root Spur, across Birthday Bridge, down Arrowleaf Trail and out Maple Lane. As I rode out onto the gravel road and started the long slog back up to the house, I was chuckling to myself. It had been a glorious ride. Mucho mojo. Groovitude on two wheels.
At home, I went inside and found that my children had not damaged anything or anyone. Lap 2 was calling my name. I went back out, put on my game face, and set my mind to break the speed record. After all, I was on fire. My previous run was the best I’d ever had. I had hit all the banks high, tossed my bike underneath me in the curves, and nailed all three jumps. What could go wrong?
I shot down the trail determined. I wasn’t going any faster, but I was working harder. Half way down Boarder Trail, the front of my bike decided to take a short cut down the hill. I hit the ground like a blunt Yard Dart 10 feet down the bank. Neither the bike nor I was broken, and the dirt bath was not going to interfere with the rest of the lap, so I dragged the bike back up on the trail and took off again. Before the next intersection, my subconscious wanted more dirt in my pants, so off the trail my tire went again. On this blooper, I managed to contain the wreck to the trail.
Back on the trail, I wobbled over Birthday Bridge and tried to conjure up some mojo for Arrowleaf. As I gained speed on the downhill, I felt better, then hit the Arrowleaf jump hard and sloppy. I barely held on in the big bank, and fought the bike through the S curves. I needed to get the flow back, so I released the brakes on the high bank to let it ride.
As I once again drove my bike off the trail (this time at high speed), it occurred to me that I suck. This wasn’t a dirty wreck. This one put me square into a batch of choke cherry bushes and weeds. I clawed out of the choke cherry, dragging my bike and apologizing to my shins, while checking to see if my eyes had been poked out.
I finished the ride with a bit more humility. Even so, I was shaky on the last bridge, and almost hurled my body into the woods on the Maple Lane jump. I coasted out to the gravel road with a little less skin and a lot more dirt than I started with.
As I meandered up to the house, I pondered the remarkable differences between the two rides.
The first ride was thoughtless and wonderful. The second ride was purposeful and horrendous. As I replayed the first run in my mind, I realized the real difference in the two laps… the smile.
On the first run, I had felt joy. I was simply happy to be out there. Happy to be alive and on my bike. On the second lap, I mucked it up with the idea of breaking a record, which wiped the smile off my face.
I think it’s the same way with every hobby. Whether you are a runner, a skateboarder, or a champion horseshoe thrower, we have to stop keeping score sometimes. We have to stop thinking and pushing. We have to do the things we love for the joy of doing them.
The joy is enough.
The joy is the reason we keep doing it.
The joy is pure gold.
(Ed. Note- You can see the video of the trail he’s describing HERE.)