Superstition and Serendipity

Long-distance biking has a balance component to it. Well, really, all biking has a balance component to it, because you perch yourself on a straight line in the ground and move forward from there. But add to that the panniers (maybe Jerry and I each carry between 30 and 40 lbs…?) and the “clipless” pedals (misnamed, since they do clip you in, essentially strapping you to your bike) and the whole enterprise should be an act at Fanueil Hall, commanding $5 tips from every passerby.

The first time I ever fell, after beginning to ride with clipless pedals, was actually a good month into my using them. I’d been doing fine and was very proud of myself. We rode to lunch in Richmond with our friends Joe and Gale. Over lunch at Toscano’s restaurant, I must have mentioned the fact that these pedals were fairly new to me. Jerry, Joe and Gale all told their “first-clipless-pedal-fall” stories. Apparently, like labor and delivery stories for mothers, every biker has a first-clipless-pedal-fall story. It’s usually just like the Arte Johnson skit from Laugh In. You’re up, and then – BAM – you fall over. Over lunch, I smugly announced that I’d been using my new pedals for weeks and had had no trouble – no trouble at all!

We left lunch, crossed the street, and clipped in for the ride home. And I fell over. BAM. Arte Johnson.

Moments like this one – moments where saying something out loud seems to invite a somewhat apt outcome – have made me a little superstitious. Not that I’m truly superstitious. I don’t really believe in all this stuff. But I do knock on wood a lot. Because – why not? I’m superstitious because it seems wildly hazardous not to be. As soon as you announce your good fortune, it can be pulled out from under you.

On the morning we left our first hotel to begin the long ride out of Key West, just as I pulled my bike out the front door of Azul (our hotel), a man rode his bike down the street twenty feet in front of me. As he wheeled by, he was shouting – really loudly – “My wheels are just going to keep rolling and rolling and rolling. I will not get off my bike. I will NOT. I’ll keep pedaling and pedaling and pedaling and pedaling…” He kept shouting in this way until he disappeared around a corner and was gone. For the moment, let’s pretend we don’t have to talk about this man’s sanity. I can’t comment from this one event, but he didn’t seem quite right. Apart from whatever could or could not be assumed about his state of mind, I have to say that hearing what he was shouting pleased me in just the opposite way that bad luck displeases me in a superstitious way. I liked seeing him, and his somewhat skewed resolve, as I was about to try to start a 2000+ mile ride. It meant nothing – just as superstition really means nothing – and his moment was not about me. I can understand that intellectually. But I enjoyed the serendipity of the moment.

Not entirely sure those two stories are related, but they feel related to me. Sometimes an event feels loaded; it feels aimed right at you, for better or worse.

So Jerry and I will try not to crow about tail winds on this ride. (Well, he wouldn’t anyway, because he has more humility than I do.) We won’t brag about speed, improved biking prowess, navigation skills and whatever. Hopefully that won’t leave us writing down nothing but complaints. And – fingers crossed, knock wood – we’ll manage to keep our balance.

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5 Responses to Superstition and Serendipity

  1. Jennifer says:

    And she kept pedaling and pedaling and pedaling and her wheels kept rolling and rolling and rolling all the way home to Vermont…

  2. Jesse Elin says:

    Don’t forget to throw some salt over your shoulder and, while spitting between your index and middle fingers utter kayneh-hurra. That yiddish expression is (as you know) only said upon saying something good, lovely or hopeful… and you’re afraid the Universe may take it away. The spitting is a sign from you back to the Universe that it’s unworthy to be taken from you. Snatched from the jaws of defeat…. so to speak.
    Sending you warm and encouraging thoughts, all the way home.

  3. HOward says:

    I like the Arte Johnson reference. Roll on…

  4. nancy alexander says:

    yes, the Chinese gods will get jealous.

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