Essay: On Thoreau’s Plea
(2016) In Henry David Thoreau’s Essay “Walking” the naturalist attempts to convince his audience about the greatness of the outdoors through the art of walking. He further develops his point by making the age-old claim that people have gravitated too far from nature by migrating into the concrete jungles of the city. All Thoreau wants people to do is spend time out of doors.
I couldn’t help see the similarities in his plea with the purpose - and art - of riding a bicycle. While he states people of his era take the to the highways without looking around, he is referencing those who are merely worried about getting from Point A to Point B. Looking around is not part of the equation. Had Thoreau been able to hop on a bicycle, I believe he would’ve covered greater distances of off-piste exploration.
His essay parallels the life of a cyclist’s. Instead of taking the main thoroughfares to get places, cyclists naturally gravitate to the roads less traveled. Where he pleads with his reader to explore and look around, the cyclist can’t help but nod his/her head, maybe even quietly stating, “I already do that.”
Imagine the enjoyment felt today when, riding down the same country road I use to get to other parts, I witnessed four bike riders and four runners. Each person was unknowingly pursuing Thoreau’s desperation to get people off the couch, away from their electronics, out of the cars, out of bed, etc. to have a look around. It was his argument that propelled me out the door today, too. I decided to have a look around.
When paired with Eddy Merckx quote on when the perfect moment is to ride a bike, there is little room remaining to argue against riding. Sometimes it will be hot out, sometimes it will be raining, but those are the moments most people choose to stay indoors, to talk themselves out of interacting with nature. With fall around the corner, the sightseeing will only become more interactive as riders try to pack it in before winter throws some extra hurdles for cycling.
Imagine my enjoyment when, just last week, as I was seated at a coffee shop with the Missus, a man walked up to me asking for directions to Ralph Stover State Park. I rattled off the roads to him, and he took it all in. He followed up his understanding with, “See? I always ask a cyclist for directions. They always know how to get somewhere.” Without a doubt, that’s from Thoreau’s directive to get out and have a look around. If he asked how many town signs were nearby, I could’ve told him there were two just beyond the bridge next to Ralph Stover Park. It’s where you can sprint for two town signs points. But usually I look around.