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Lending Wings to Your Stride

There was a time when I seriously feared and hated the onset of Dry Heat in Yuma, usually in March. Experience and old age have turned the experience into what could almost be called 'appreciation' and 'good humor.' It's not that I no longer feel the misery of heat; but now I can see past the temporary misery, and playfully romanticize it as noble suffering. Think of the dramatic religious procession in Bergman's "The Seventh Seal."

Besides, what fun can there be in leaving a place unless you really, really, want to leave? And it is getting like that, now.

But before I crawl out of winter's chrysalis, and stretch out my new wings of travel, let's think about what was accomplished this winter. It is 1/4 to 1/3 of the year, after all. I realize that most readers have no interest in bicycling, but they might be interested in the general principles that the cycling experience can illustrate.

Furthermore I will assume that the reader has a certain amount of sympathy with the noble quest of making outdoor exercise non-puritanical. Let's take Duty, Guilt, oppressive repetition, and drudgery out of it.  Let's look for reasons for outdoor exercise other than 'because it is good for you.' So then, no more goodie-goodie; nor do we really need to be  'bad'; but let's be a little bad-ass at least. 

When William James discussed the "moral equivalent of war," (Lecture XIV, The Value of Saintliness in "Varieties of Religious Experience") he argued that courage-with-poverty could fit the bill. My thinking runs in a different direction: towards intense outdoor sports as the moral equivalent of war.

There were supreme moments of excitement during this winter cycling season: moments when I ignored everything, including my self-consciousness; everything except half-crazy, bloodthirsty, male, tribal, hunter/warrior feelings. Sometimes this happens when the cyclist takes a noticeable step up in his athletic performance.

The feeling might be intensified by simultaneous competition and cooperation amongst the cyclists. The cyclist is most aware of the snapping heels of the cyclist ahead of him. He is also only a foot or two away from touching tires. If that happens a fairly serious injury (messed up shoulder or broken collar-bone) will usually result. Therefore the paceline of cyclists shares much of the psychology of a platoon of combat troops.

But even more, I've come to appreciate the synergy, the feeling of enlarged corporate tribal power, that comes from moving along, aggressively, with your mates.

Hill Climb on annual Tour of the Gila near Silver City, NM

By luck I found the book, "The Culture of War," by Martin van Creveld. In Chapter 6, "The Joy of Combat," he quotes a well-known historian, W.M. McNeill, on his military experiences:
Almost half a century after leaving the army, a famous American historian also recorded, not without surprise, how much he liked "strutting around" on the parade ground. "Words," he wrote, "are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the prolonged movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of pervasive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in a collective ritual."
Anthropology, assuming that it is more than conjecture, is real nature, rather than the PC, bowdlerized version of nature that is presented in coffee table books. Can you think of a constructive use of human anthropology in your outdoor activities? This isn't just a rhetorical question.

The last thing you want to do is get solitary and unsociable, and start up another of those travel blogs that writes paeans to "Nature", sacred solitude, peace and harmony, and the rest of that sickly drivel.


edlfrey said…
Great post Boonie! You have described the FEELINGS of riding in a pace line as well I have ever read. You can read a lot about the technique and the reasons for doing so but rarely do you ever see written how it FEELS to do it.
I think you have also given non-riders a better idea of why the professional ' domestique' enjoys what he does. He never gets much credit for what he does, except from his team leader (if he is any kind of leader) and from the team manager. He does it because he loves his work!
Randy said…
Well said Boonie: And surprising coming from you---eroded my loner image of you---made me want to go march--or someting.
"travel blogs that writes paeans to "Nature", sacred solitude, peace and harmony, and the rest of that sickly drivel."
Some day you are going to drop off the edge of your "holier than thou" flat earth and there won't be anyone around to catch you. If you behaved in public like you do on this blog, you would have few if any friends. Thankfully you don't…and thus are quite likable in person. Your blog alter ego (emphasis on EGO) however seems to be compelled to denigrate people who are not like you. It gets tiresome, your anti postcard mentality. Does it take disparagement and distain to make you feel adequate? People who hold different viewpoints…are we getting it all wrong? I knew guys in high school who acted this way…know-it-alls, bullies. Did you get beat up a lot in high school? Are you trying to make up for it now?
I don't get the negativity. I think you need help. One would think "Peace, harmony and solitude," not to mention coffee table books full of postcards, would be good things. You've been reading to much James and not enough Dale Carnegie. Emote, just once…prove there is a heart beating in your hollow chest. Say something positive about something…anything that people do different that you, and do it in a way we can understand… something other than parables with big big words. Start by clicking "Like" on one of my "postcards"…it's a ten step program, tho…
Now I need to go for an un-noble run, just for the sake of exercise and exercise alone.
Loner, hell, I got some damn kid honking on a saxophone outside my rig, right now. My dog doesn't know what to think.
edlfrey said…
"I realize that most readers have no interest in bicycling, but they might be interested in the general principles that the cycling experience can illustrate."

No truer words were ever spoken nor a bigger failure trying to convey the general principles that cycling can illustrate. Perhaps I 'got it' ONLY because I was once a bicyclist and also had exposure to the psychology involved in the culture of war.

Mark wants you to emote and that is what I thought you were doing in the paragraphs "There were supreme moments of excitement during this winter cycling season... But even more, I've come to appreciate the synergy, the feeling of enlarged corporate tribal power, that comes from moving along, aggressively, with your mates."
1. Guilty as charged. The phrase "sickly drivel" was too emotional. I should have chosen something truthful, but less mordant.

2. You are ignoring 97% of the post, and fixating on a side issue. This post is about the link between martial virtues (perhaps part of our anthropology) and the enjoyment of an outdoor sport.

3. You aren't discussing ideas and reasons. You are taking the ad hominem approach. Shame on you. You can do better.

4. But the real problem is that when I say that some IDEA is crap, you hear me saying that PERSON (who has that idea) is a "craphead." It would help if you stuck to ideas and stopped personalizing everything.

5. Weren't you complaining recently that bloggers are not so terribly honest, and that they do too much cheerleading? But when they give an honest opinion -- which usually bites to some extent -- you think they are being an old meanie.
Thanks, Ed. If I demand "satisfaction" from Box Canyon, that is, challenge him to a duel, I will ask you to be my "second."

Sorry we missed each other in southeastern AZ this year.
XXXXX said…
It is with hesitation that I say anything here that really isn't my business but, from my perspective of observing both blogs, I conclude that you are both positive forces in this world. That you both live with the intention of creating greater happiness and neither of you wishes to do this at the negative expense of anyone else. You both have your distinct paths and this is the way of the world. It does seem that it is a challenge built in human nature to accept and honor those of a different path, even if they are hurting no one along the way. You can see this same struggle if you read the writings of the ancient Greeks. It is the internal journey that is the greatest heroic quest of mankind. You keep right on publishing your photos. You have a very appreciative audience.
I was right there with you for 97% of the post…feeling the road, the tension, the joy...drafting so close. I actually bumped your tire. But then you just couldn't resist taking another jab at what you consider to be mindless pretties, peed on blogs that are photo based…like mine, and ruined a perfectly good "ride." That's when I dropped out and went home. Who want to ride with such people? You could have ended the post at "unsociable," but you didn't, and I think your analogy was lame and mean spirited.
Ad hominem Mark
XXXXX said…
Well, I can see your point and it would be nice if Boonie could (notice I said "could" and not "would") be big enough to recognize your feelings and refrain from continuing a behavior that he knows is offensive to someone whom he considers a friend. Is it more important to badger your point to death, Boonie, or to honor a valuable friendship? It may be true that Mark is responding to a small point within the larger picture TO YOU, but not to him. The mark of a true friend is being able and willing to experience something through that person's eyes instead of continuing to demand that the only thing that matters is your take on the matter. Friendship is not a one way street.
Allison said…
You said “My thinking runs in a different direction: towards intense outdoor sports as the moral equivalent of war.” Maybe we should ask a wounded veteran about sports = war.
I've been riding pace lines off and on for close to forty years, without being exposed to the culture of war. I’m told, by those who have, that the purpose of drill and ceremonies is to instill the instantaneous and unquestioning response to command, without which a military unit would likely disintegrate under the stress of combat.
Bicycling is fun, it's exercise; it might be a job, but it's in no way comparable with military drilling. Sports are fun, and life improving, war is not. I think your comparisons are wrong on so many fronts.
You do have a tendency to disparage people who choose to live differently than you. Not all of us want to boondock, some of us watch TV, and many of us read fiction. Vive la difference, and why can’t we all just get along, without you telling us what we’re doing wrong. I personally enjoy a good post card from anywhere.
John V said…
I like my nature to solitary and antisocial. Nothing mucks up a sweet boondocking spot like too many homosapians! Besides, aren't you boondocking right now with a guy who just did a blog posting about the joys of "enoughness" and the solitary boondock site? (~:

You are failing to make an important distinction: when I disparage RV parks, television, fiction, ad infinitum, I am disparaging things, not people.
You are always surrounded by a tribe with three other members in it.

As for my campmate, I am always trying to convince him that there is such a thing as "enough" Mobility. No luck so far.
Jim and Gayle said…
But, by inference it is a reflection on those people. That said, we all just need to kick back and remember that 50 years from now, for most of us, none of this makes any difference. Which raises the question, why am I chiming in? I suppose it is because it is human nature to express our opinions and to be judgmental.

I am reminded almost everyday that no one really cares what I think and yet I can't help caring about what people think about me. Why is that?

I long for that day when I wear loud clothes and think nothing of it. I am getting there slowly.

XXXXX said…
An interesting read on the nature of friendship is to google Aristotle on friendship. He was quite concerned with ethical behavior and so are you, Boonie. You have made reference to "noble behavior", "manly" behavior several times in the past. You also like philosophical readings. The reason I think this piece is of great value is that it was written so long ago, so is 100% free of any contamination from our culture and society. Of course, one can argue that European culture derived from the ancient Greeks, and that is true. But it is successful at hitting at the core of what actually is the appeal of a particular friendship, suggesting for consideration self-serving motives and the selfless kind, which is rare as we all might agree.
edlfrey said…

I think this fellow expresses well what you said.

Funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me than what I think of me. - A Vietnam Navy Fighter Pilot
Walden Creek RV said…
Wow-- you have been boondocking way too long!! You and mobile Kodgers are a pair of egos over the edge-
Perhaps so, but you didn't even try to explain why.