• Mike Walters

The Ride

Updated: May 17

A while back, a co-worker asked me if I wanted someone to ride the mountain trails with me in the mornings before work. I responded without hesitation. “Um, no, I Ride Alone.” Another co-worker, surprised at the speed and directness of my response, jerked his head back, grabbed at his stomach with a reactive hand, and laughed. An honest, joyful laugh. The type of laugh we all yearn for. Unmitigated happiness—It suspends time allows an escape of life’s burdens we sometimes hold on to out of frustration and fear. Not because we want to—most of us don’t know how to let go and capture moments. I felt an instant reaction of, damn it. Was my response harsh and cold? The simple answer and forgive me, mother. Hell No! My journey was long, the challenges real. Potholes, small mountains, bumps, bruises, turns a child didn’t want to take but forced to out of a seemingly odd necessity. The necessity of growth—learning—sharpening the stone. Life Lessons I am fortunate to have had placed in my path. This moment, this story is about the joy coming out of the other end of shame and pain. This is about stubborn determination, grit, and an understanding of the challenges of life. It is being alone. Or is it? I had, we have, no rescue by a loved one. No rescue by an angel or a god. We must rescue ourselves. We can all have help, but the struggle, path, and fork in the road are ours to navigate and control. None of us are helpless.

A Schwinn rescued me. A bright Orange and Black crafted piece of steel with a banana seat and motorcycle-style handlebars. It was glorious.

It was my first bicycle. My escape and my rescue. A chance to run from the world over asphalt, dirt, and gravel. Clubs, hearts, diamonds, spades, and baseball cards, clipped on bicycle spokes, providing a beautiful guttural noise. Probably a damn Nolan Ryan rookie card torn to shit, worth $250000­­—but I digress. I ran away on that bike countless times, always to realize the foolishness of the journey, always walking back through the front door in time for a homemade supper. A strange thing, I didn’t know how important those rides, those hours, those days, those attempts to run and find something meant—would mean so many years later. I don’t know how many miles I have ridden in my life. Somewhere between Lance Armstrong, you heart-breaking bastard, and my beautiful brothers who never ride. I have learned that the miles don’t matter. It’s the moments in the saddle that matter. Each time I saddle up, I escape. I roll down long stretches of chip-sealed pavement, smooth asphalt, gravel, dirt, Madrone, and Manzanita root-crossed trails, always cautioning me and reminding me to slow down—enjoy the journey.

I get to stare at the Russians, the Marbles, the Siskiyous, and my beloved Cascades. Bald eagles, hawks, and doves are what I ride beneath. I move slow-moving turtles off the road, chase dumb-ass turkeys, and race squirrels. I ride in the shadows of foxes, cougars, bears, and among lava fields, pines, fir, spruce, and scrub oak. Shasta and McLoughlin always watch over me. Please enjoy the journey. Enjoy the ride. Thank the angels, God, the universe. You pick—and yes, even life’s abusers. Now, wait for it. . . . Understand, life is like clay pottery. It must go through friction, shaping, molding, turning and turning—and heat.

Intense heat—for a long time. At the end, strength and beauty—but only after time. I am clay. You are clay. I am a product of nearly everyone I have surrounded myself with. They are products of me as well. Lives influenced by anger, bitterness, desperation, fear, joy, encouragement, strength, and love. Always in motion—always in flux. Grab your moment. Take control of your choices. Hike, walk, bike, swim, paddle, jog, run, lift weights, sweat it out in yoga, pick your activity. Then, sit on your porch with your favorite beverage and stare at the beautiful sky. The clouds, the sun, the moon, and oh, those stars. Do it by yourself or with a loved one. Make it happen, no excuses. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

I still may ride alone, but not always anymore. I have a loved one who had a unique journey, like all of us, as well. We met on bicycles. How beautifully appropriate now that I think about my life and where I am.

There is no place I would rather be on earth. Then this precious moment. This present special moment.

Every bump, bruise, scrape-filled crash, never-ending climb, or knuckle-gripping flight down a mountain. Every high and low wasn’t without support. I never was alone. Every caring person I have met along the way molded me—continues to mold me. You know who you are. You are all with me and will be forever. Thank you for The Ride.

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