Deb is an endurance walker. To create one art work she once walked 248km in a week, while doing her day job. Walking muscles are quite different to those for biking. She can walk me into the ground; I can (for a while yet) ride her to exhaustion. As a woman she will soon be able to wipe me off the road in an endurance ride.
Deb borrowed a bike and taught herself the rudiments of riding. Now, with a bike of her own, we set off on our first serious long ride together: 127km up to Clare and then 154km back via a different route the next day.
I set the ride up to cover a variety of conditions. We travelled sealed bike path, rail trails, unsealed gravel and corrugated back roads, bits of high volume country highways with B-triples in convoy, and lower traffic secondary highways. Once off the main highways where one concentrates purely on staying alive, long distance country riding is to enter a different world where speed is irrelevant. You immerse yourself in the landscape with part of the mind attuned to the sound of occasional cars coming from behind and another part delivering a steady "I can do this all day" rhythm to the pedals. This is a learned art, and for a beginner, it takes some time to capture. Life has taught us to hurry. Country riding reminds us that life is a long haul, yet in a world of startling beauty.
The second day involved wind, lots of it, cutting across our path and, finally, meeting us head on. This is like riding a constant uphill slope the whole time. It can sap the energy of body and spirit, or it can be embraced in a slow rhythm which, as you lean on the wind, manages a surprising distance despite the disruption.
Coming through Dead Man's Pass in Gawler, a lad in a hot Commodore roared past way too close to us and an oncoming car, far too impatient to wait a few seconds behind us. We were back in 'civilisation.' It is always a shock to discover how un-busy a long ride has been. It can take days to re-acclimatise to life at home; I often struggle not to become depressed. I wonder if acclimatise is the wrong word. Perhaps it takes days to build up some kind of immunity to the artificial busyness of work and city life. Or takes days to deaden ourselves to the spiritual realities that rhythm and road have begun to arouse in us.
Andrew Prior (2019)
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