I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but last year around this time, I bought a second-hand bicycle and I’ve only ridden it once. Barely once. I think Denny had all but given up on the idea that I might actually use it as more than just a cute trophy in our storage area! Well, day 16 of My 30-day Challenge has rolled around and – surprise, surprise!
Guess who rode her bicycle!
I determined to set out shortly after breakfast, so I wouldn’t get involved in doing things around the house and yard, and then lose the will (or the wind in my sails) to follow through with my decision. Unlike the hot days we’ve been enjoying, today was a bit chilly, so it seemed just right for a ride.
I headed down our little lane to its intersection with the EN 125 – the national road that runs west to east along the entire southern region of Portugal. It’s a busy thoroughfare but it has a fairly broad shoulder on both sides, making it well-suited (in most points) for walking or cycling.
Something I love about Portuguese roads is that they often appear to have been slapped down with little fore-planning. Almost as if some engineer sitting in a distant office just drew a wandering line on a map from point A to point B and said, “OK, let’s go pave it!” This makes them such fun places to explore. The particular route near our house is dotted with everything from shops to warehouses, farms to open fields, abandoned houses to villas and anything you can imagine in between.
I made my way westward, huffing and puffing just a bit, my thigh muscles reminding me of our stretching date yesterday. I had to concentrate quite a bit in the beginning because – I suppose I failed to mention – I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in, oh, at least ten years. Well, I had once last year. Sort of. Right after I bought the bike. But you already know that.
As time passed, I began to relax more and gasp less, and that’s when the fascination of exploring on two wheels began to overtake me.
You see, I drive this road several times a week and I’m quite familiar with its windings and meanderings. But the fact is that when I’m in a car, riding along, my mind wanders to a million places. And everything kind of flies by quickly… the houses with their quaint, flowering courtyards, the shops, the graffitied walls. I can barely take them in with my eyes before I’ve passed them. And the same experience keeps repeating itself.
Sometimes, I intentionally slow down to try to get a better look at a particular field or patch of wildflowers, but I’m ever-conscious of the flow of traffic behind me, begging me to keep with the pace. But on a bicycle, my friends! Oh, on a bicycle, everything is different!
I love feeling the wind in my hair, the sounds of all that’s going on around me racing in my ears. The colors appear brighter, fragrances zestier! Everything just seems… MORE! I guess it’s because rather than careening down the road in a big metal box, I’m meandering along with little that separates me from the world around me.
Just those two wheels propelling me along. And I can stop and smell the roses whenever I fancy.
So I did.
I rode for an hour and paused every time I came across something I’d missed before. Or something that I’d always wanted to get a better look at, but the flow of traffic hadn’t allowed for it.
I admired gorgeous plants and feasted on the deep purple of wildflowers. I pondered the tired arches of an old aqueduct in an overgrown field.
I stopped before yet another ruin of a house, standing barren, its outer walls crumbling.
I rested at the corner with the wonderfully graffitied building – the one that always seems to call my name.
And I decided that I really must explore this way more often. Because there’s so much beauty all around me, and my soul is richer when I take the time to drink it in.
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or let the fish in the sea inform you.