Reason to Ride I could tell by the miles on my Garmin, and the pain in my legs, that the finish line was near by: I needed it to be. Every part of me wanted to just lay my bike over lazily and fade into a cool shady spot under one of the many trees along the way. My lips were sunburnt and ached with that ever present urge to lick them for temporary relief. My large hands were stuck in the grip position and would shoot painful jabs up my forearms if I tried to move them. Cramps in my quads had stopped me earlier, but salt pills and pickle juice had alleviated the pain to tolerable levels.

But, you know what? I was smiling. Oh, I was in the privateer ride, not the full on 150 at Gravel Worlds.

I’m a forty nine year old salesman that looks awfully awkward in bike shorts and a helmet. My bike is an entry level bike that has been beat up terribly in my mid life crisis adventure in gravel biking. My gear is a Mish mash of Amazon sales and none of it matches. But, that doesn’t matter in the gravel world of which I am very grateful.

My reason for riding in Gravel Worlds was to have a purpose in my weekly riding around my home- beyond the immediate acetic and emotional reasons that I do it. Without a goal of some sort with a timestamp on it, I felt like I’d just be spinning my wheels………. The physical struggle of riding is a positive but secondary reason for me to ride anytime. The driving “ideal” that I crave in my riding is silence and the residual solitude.

Beyond the crunching of gravel, the shifting gears and my gasping breath, is the song of meadowlarks and irrigation motors on the horizon. There are the numerous herds of cattle that have grown accustomed to me cruising by them as they sit in shade by the water tanks. Deer never fail to startle me,as much as they are startled by me, as they dart out of grassy ditches and jump gracefully over cobbled together barbed wire fence. I’ve been stared down by a stubborn badger and chased by a wayward llama.

There are times, though, that I swear the only sound around is my heart pounding through my cheap and undersized jersey.

At the center of the silence outside, is the constant dialogue within me. I think that my brain goes into deep thought overdrive when the rest of me is busy peddling. Many times my bike ride is consumed with prayer, thankfulness and humility. I have shed a few years down my dirty face after Grace given catharsis. If I let myself think about how to approach a situation with someone, my initial emotional reaction is replaced with a more objective, rational and pragmatic response. There is one Universal truth with riding a bike: You cannot stay in a bad and self consumed mood if you keep riding.

Once I passed the finish line, I was surprised to hear my name and hometown on the PA. I stopped and got a “good job” pat on my wet back and a privateer patch for my accomplishment. My head was reeling with the sudden end of it all.

I walked my bike back to the YMCA parking lot because I was unable to ride it anymore. I felt like puking up all of the bloxs,bagels, Pepsi, Coke and Gatorade from the day. I was Miserable and just wanted a shower, Big Mac and a nap.

I was smiling mud filled ear to sand filled ear. What a great day.