“Distance measured with a pair of compasses is not precisely the same as when measured by the leg.”
–Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel
He’s right. It’s all in the perception. Point A to Point B. Here to there should be the same, regardless. But it’s not. We all think of time passing at different rates, depending on the circumstance. Some days just fly by while others drag on forever…
But we often don’t give that consideration to distance. Covering miles on the bike works much the same way. There are days when going 2 or 3 miles seems like an interminable (and insurmountable) distance. Think of the days when you’re really tired, or the time you “bonked” (for non-riders out there, that’s when you “run out of gas,” typically because you didn’t adequately nourish/hydrate yourself, or you’ve reached the limit of your fitness and just have no more energy to continue).
On the other hand, there are days when you get to Point B and feel like your legs haven’t even warmed up yet! I find myself experiencing distance in a different way now that I live in a city. The places I frequent are not so far away on a bicycle. In fact, in some cases, it seems like the distance is shorter on the bike, compared to the car!
OK, so New Orleans is small. It seemed to be a much larger place when I was a kid. But given the whole process involved in driving, it often takes less time to ride the bicycle than to drive somewhere.
But it really is more than time. I drove my bicycle to the New Orleans Bicycle Summit last weekend. It would have been weird to drive a CAR to a BIKE summit, right? Driving from my home to the summit location in a car involves getting on an interstate, finding parking, etc., etc., etc. Driving my bike took me on a relaxing route along tree-lined boulevards, aside a bayou, and then to the edge of City Park where the summit was held. I rode the bike right up to the door and parked in the bike rack, feeling relaxed, stress-free, and ready for the day.
I also found myself surprised that the trip didn’t seem nearly as far to me as it does when I drive a car to go get beignets and café au lait at Morning Call, perhaps a half mile away from the summit venue. Did it take more time than it would have, if I had driven my car? Yes, but just a few minutes. But what I gained was the day. The weather. Nature. Sights. Smells. Saying, “Good morning” to people I passed, and them returning the greeting. Freedom. The feeling of flight that only the bicycle can give. The lack of the stress of travel. The joy.
Yes, that’s it. The joy.