Sometimes I start a ride with no particular destination or itinerary in mind. Believe it or not, every multiday tour I have ever taken was such a ride. I would buy a plane ticket to Paris or San Francisco or Rome or some other place and bring my bike, bike luggage and whatever I planned on carrying in the bike luggage with me. Then, upon arriving at Charles de Gaulle or Fiumicino or SFO, I would decide to ride in one direction or another and decide on destinations—or, more precisely, a series of destinations—some time after checking into a hostel and looking at a Lonely Planet guide or a Michelin map.
It’s easier to do such things when you’re young—and male. Although I never stopped riding altogether, save for a few months after my surgery, I don’t have nearly as much strength or endurance as I did when I was still living as a man. Also, because of the circumstances of my life, I don’t have as much disposable income as I did as a male in my thirties. (It must also be said that I was in my thirties during the ‘90’s, when the dollar went so much further abroad as well as in its own country!) But I sometimes go on day rides when without a set route, or even destination in mind. It gives me, however briefly, the same sense of freedom I used to feel when embarking upon those multiday tours.
More often, though, I find that I start a ride with a destination or route in mind and find myself changing my mind when on the road. Call me fickle if you will, but sometimes external factors—or a simple turn—can cause me to change my ride. The latter is what happened to me today.
I intended to ride to Somerville so I could see the races. And I had a vision of riding home as the late-afternoon early summer sun descended the Watchung hills on my way back to the city. That last vision came to pass, but for reasons I hadn’t planned.
For one thing, I started riding a few hours later than I intended. I still could have made it to Somerville in time to see some of the later criteriums. And, although I was pedaling into a wind blowing out of the west, from the hills I was ascending, I was still making fairly good time. I was riding up more hills than I did on previous rides to Somerville because I took—part of me says unintentionally, but another part of me would claim or credit my subconscious—a slightly different, and unfamiliar, route. In spite of my relative unfamiliarity with the route, I knew I was going in the right general direction.
Neighborhoods that haven’t quite recovered from riots nearly half a century ago gave way to suburbs and, finally, rather charming little towns with real old-time shopping strips and, in one town, an “opera house”.
Late in the 19th, and early in the 20th, centuries, nearly any town of any significance had an “opera house”. Now, those places weren’t staging productions of Tosca or The Marriage of Figaro. Rather, they showed musical plays or vaudeville acts. When “moving pictures” came out, they were often shown in such halls.
Some of those “opera houses” were merely workmanlike or had a kind of sentimental charm. But others were, if not masterpieces, at least interesting works of architecture. Sadly, some were lost during “urban renewal” or other “development” schemes. But others, like the one I’m showing in this post, were converted to everything from art galleries to concert spaces to restaurants.
My ride included that opera house as well as hills and meandering river valley. Somehow I lost my incentive to see the races; it became very, very satisfying for me to ride through moments, light and the warmth of the sun on my skin. I didn’t see any place exotic. Perhaps that will come again another day. But for today, I was happy. I didn’t take the ride I’d planned, but perhaps I took the one I needed.