Blue sky sprawled overhead like an ocean. Red-brown dirt and stone rose to meet the blue in a harsh collision. I was lost in the expanse and enormity of it all. Small and insignificant, I pedaled through the desert. It felt empty and desolate, but only from afar. A detailed inspection told a different story. One of teeming life, activity, and variety. I had already ridden many miles, and I had miles yet to go. But I was content to once again be in the big, empty, spaces of the American West.
Life is simple on a bicycle. The din and tinder of busyness and business vanish behind the horizon. Charlatans are rarely found at the bottom of canyons or on the tops of mountains. Confusion cannot go where clarity reigns. On a bike, one just need pedal to know he is right in the world. No politics or head games. No promotions or gossiping. Only pedaling. Only progress.
The modern man is encumbered with generations of misguided expectations. Go to college. Grow up. Get a job. Work all day. 50 years later, a gold watch.
And a life misspent.
Unless those expectations are tempered with self-powered exploration of wild places.
The fight between security and freedom extends far beyond vitriolic debate stages and newsroom echo chambers. Indeed, the false choice between freedom and security plagues the heart of each of us. We can live securely, we tell ourselves, by toiling at mundane things. We sacrifice the freedom to roam for a steady paycheck and a $15 co-pay.
But that choice–security or freedom–is false.
Indeed, freedom is how security is achieved. To be free is to be secure in our rights as individuals.
Riding a bike is freedom. Especially a bike loaded with a sleeping bag, shelter, and other such things to keep one alive in the mountains. What could be more secure than a well-designed, lightweight kit, a reliable bicycle, and a trail that never ends?
The simplicity of it all is liberating. When the manufactured worries of modern productivity are replaced with the stark realities of ride, pedal, rest, one remembers what freedom is. And one learns how independent he can be.
The sun was low in the sky now. An array of color stretched out across the sky and earth. Ahead, the trail bent upward and over the glowing horizon. I stopped pedaling. Nearby I laid out my sleeping bag and bivy in the soft sand. Soon, a fire crackled against the cold of night. Stars winked in the night sky. Ahead of me was another day on the bike. Another day of freedom.