The Bike Path of Life

Many of you have written me and asked me: “What do you mean when you talk about living in the moment?  And what do you mean when you say that people are avoiding living by losing themselves in a fantasy?”  I’ve decided to use an analogy here to illustrate my point. 

Graveyards aren’t the only places I like to stomp. I bike ride.  A lot.  Five times a week you can find me on my mountain bike on a nearby trail  in the woods.  The path is beautiful, hilly, expansive.  It has a lot to offer—a lot of secrets.  And lot to teach.  It’s an incredible place to go and hike, jog or bike and just be in the moment.  And all moments have something to teach us if we’re present in them.  When you’re paying attention, you start to notice patterns on the bike path: types of people and their habits.  The path is like life—see?  And the hikers show you the types of people who are just letting their lives slip past them… Maybe you’ve seen these people in other areas of life.  On the road.  In the grocery store.  At work.  It’s true that these characters populate all our lives.  Which do you think you are?

The zombies:

This is by far the largest group on the path.  They stumble along, alone or in couples, completely unaware of where they are or their surroundings.  Lost in some fantasy.  They zig zag on the path in front of you and you never know what they’re going to do, because they never know what they’re going to do.  There is no purpose to their being there—they’re just there, victims of “fate” hoping something will amuse them, bless them or curse them. 

When you’re a rider you MUST announce your presence to these people otherwise they will step in front of you and get mowed down.  It’s astonishing how many are startled when you slowly ride up—you have to approach them slowly, if you clip past they will throw themselves in front of you—and gently call; “Passing on your left, please!” 

Some of them jump.  Some gasp.  Other’s grip the person next to them in fear.  On several occasions—and this is the truth I swear it—I’ve seen women, run in circles not knowing what  to do.  I’ve had to stop my bike and wait for them to decide where they wanted to go.  In one case a rather hefty woman dove for the side of the trail and fell on her face.  I have to admit, I wish I had video of that one.  It would surely take the Gravestomper blog viral.

These people are a bit of a menace to those who are out riding.  In this case their lack of being in the moment is a danger to themselves and others.  Note too that this group—like every other group on this list, will blame YOU for their lack of awareness.  And they are by far the largest group out there.

The tech-addicts:

The first in this group is just amusing.  They are the phone users.  These are the hikers who are on the path, surrounded by green, wildlife, blue skies and scented breezes but who aren’t really experiencing any of it because they have a phone stuck to their heads. They chatter loudly with friends who are also somewhere else not experiencing their surroundings.  You can pass them three or four times on the loop of the trail and they’ll still be on the phone each time.  It’s true, sometimes you’ll see them still on the phone when they hop into their cars and drive away from the forest preserve, splitting their focus in traffic for the ride home. When you see them you can’t help but wonder if they’re terrified to be alone, or if they ever enjoy any moment because they’re so conditioned to want to be somewhere else with someone else at all times.

I’ll throw the smokers in here too—inhaling deeply on their cigarettes so they don’t have to breathe in the experiences around them. No fresh air for them!  The one’s who smoke while riding bikes are the funniest.  With every pump of the pedals they decrease their breathing capacity and their ability to ride.  Sometimes they’re blue in the face and hacking up phlegm: mmmmm… sexy!

The texters fall into this category too.  And they are the most dangerous of this group.  A few weeks back. I encountered a man and his two daughters riding on the path.  The eldest of his daughters, about twelve, was texting while on her bike.  She was swooping in wild arcs across the entire width of the path, unable to control her steering because she was so focused on her phone.  Her father was unconcerned, but then, he fell into the first category: zombie.  Guess his daughter was well on her way to that category too, as I had to shout for her to wake up to keep her from crashing into me, and she was so startled when I did that she almost fell off her bike.

You do have to be careful  with all of these people because they will wander in front of you while you’re riding and, unfortunately, they’re not concerned whether or not they take you down with them.

The clan mentality:

By far the most exasperating on the path.  Families who come into the woods.  Mother.  Father.  Three or more children.  They all walk abreast of each other, completely blocking the path.  They never hear when a bike is approaching because they are too wrapped up their family drama and dynamic.  For them no one else exists.  For them there is only their clan.  For them—you are an intrusion into their space that they feel entitled to  because they are a family.  Most often you will get a dirty look from one or more member who finds your presence in the woods an imposition on their experience.

In this case: I advocate bowling.  It’s really the only way they’ll learn the world is bigger than their tiny clan.

The pet lovers:

These guys are fun and friendly, interactive and usually they are aware that you’re coming because they want to keep their pets safe.  Unfortunately some of them walk in couples or trios while use those extending leashes and set up a road block across the whole trail, in which case they are no longer pet lovers, they are clan mentality (see above).

Joggers:

They’re out every day. Even with their headphones on they know you’re coming.  They stay to the right and allow you to pass.  They never hoard the trail because they know that there are OTHER PEOPLE who are using it for MANY PURPOSES.  These guys are usually in the moment have a purpose and goals.  They are, in fact, a delight to share the trail with.

The dedicated bikers:

Like the joggers these are the ones who are out there doing.  Practicing every day or so.  Present in the moment.   We are the smallest group in the woods and the ones who have to negotiate all the others.  But we’re also the ones who get the furthest, go the fastest, and who experience the most.  We also have the firmest asses.  But that’s another blog entirely.

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