Essay: On Being Glad to Be Here
(2016) Much like cycling teams this weekend, somewhere in the United States another team, the US Navy's Blue Angels, meets to talk about their goals. It’s a ritual that is paradoxical. The team critiques itself all the way down to a personal level. Most performers tend to rely on confidence-boosting footage to pump them up. The Blue Angels take the team meeting to a whole new level.
Sure cyclists ride close enough to put a hand on the rider’s bars next to him/ her. Flying eighteen inches apart at hundreds of miles per hour is a bit riskier though. With danger comes a necessity for bluntness. If the weakest link can’t get it together, the whole team is weak. It also puts the team at risk. Hence the heavy dose of honesty. Yet through their meeting of stating shortcomings and lambasting, each pilot sums up his/ her comments with a positive statement.
Looking back on my cycling journals I realized that I remarked about how a ride went, with whom I rode, whether a route was planned or not, and whether a ride went as expected. I feel most people would remark the same observations when asked to recall a ride.
I would be hard-pressed to find an instance where a ride added to my daily stressors. Short of having a full bike failure I feel there is at least one moment per ride where I experienced something new. Even riding the same roads yields new moments.
So imagine my epiphany when I realized I most always ended my ride notes with something similar to, “Glad to have gotten out.” The ride could have remarked more than one puncture. Those are frustrating. I could have stated the ride encountered heavy rains. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Every once in a while I could record the ride wasn’t up to expectations. Change can be hard. However it almost always ended with the happiness of getting on the bike and taxing the body.
Perhaps I inadvertently picked it up a few years ago when watching a behind-the-scenes television show about the Blue Angels. It showcased the immense effort the team puts in when the audience is nowhere to be found. I used to witness their efforts when the Willow Grove Airshow would feature them. All of the traffic around the area would stop on Friday afternoons when they would practice. Yet something stuck from that show when each pilot summed up his flight summary with the same sentence: “I’m just glad to be here.”
Every ride, whether I mean to or not, cultivates a happiness of riding a bike. Many people don’t understand how a bike can provide so much enjoyment. For those of us who do understand we could all gather around a table, air out what we could have done better in each ride, but we should make sure to always end with, “I’m just glad to be out here.”
*Cover photo by Chuck Rudy