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Organized, Competitive… Explorer?

See that porch, off in the distance, past the trees? That’s the Cottage House, near the Neosho River, in Council Grove, Kansas, where I’m staying tonight. I currently have the porch all to myself.

I don’t have to talk to people when I’m riding bicycle by myself down some gravel road 20 miles from the nearest town. But on my various stops, I’ve heard some interesting questions:

  • From the bikeseller in Marysville: “Do you do organized rides?” I haven’t done much organizing on this ride. I didn’t know where I was going to stop, yesterday or today, until my legs said, “That’s enough!” I’d probably feel penned in on an organized ride with start times, checkpoints, and a hundred or a thousand other riders bouncing along the same trail as me.
  • From the bookseller in Council Grove: “Are you a competitive or casual rider?” Is there a “neither of the above” option? I’m not competitive, not formally, at least (or I’d’a’ been climbing San Luca this weekend, right?). But I’m not sure casual is the right word, either, for riding 180 miles this weekend and planning another 300 or so for the rest of this week’s vacation. And casual probably fails to capture biking to work almost every day and getting groceries and running other errands on two wheels. I bike for fun, for health, for daily practicality, so I’m… what? Integrational? Bike-immersed? Vehicle-nonconforming? Obsessed? How about just happy? The more I ride, the happier I am.
  • From the young waiter in Council Grove: “Are you an explorer?” That question caught me short-worded. I’m no Jacques Cousteau—I get seasick. I’m not even sure how to define that word in the 21st century. Exploring suggests going to terra incognita and replacing the world map’s “Here Be Dragons” with actual coastlines and mountain ranges. But until we get going again to the Moon and then Mars and find wormholes or warp drive to the rest of the cosmos, all our terra is pretty much cognita’d. Still, there’s a lot of world I haven’t seen yet, and I’ve never seen it as I did this morning from the Booth Creek Road or as I do tonight from the porch of the Cottage House. So, yeah, I guess I’ll get up tomorrow morning and see some more things that I’ve never seen before. Thanks for the question… and for the alfredo and breadsticks that will fuel that exploring… or re-exploring… or me-exploring.
Booth Creek Road, east of Tuttle Creek Lake, south of Olsburg, Kansas, Sunday morning, June 30, 2024. Photo taken from the saddle of Cory’s bike.