Smelling the roses, by bike and hike

by Raymond Parker on August 9, 2012

in Adventure, Cycling, Touring

Bikes & Blossoms

I’ve just started driving again after 4-years on, or rather off, the wagon.

Last weekend I drove further than I have in more than 5-years (1200 km), to a “getaway” on a remote beach on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. But I was reminded of a fact I’ve written about more than once: the automobile, with its controlled climate, host of seductive environmental modifiers (aside from CO2 emissions) and powerful power plant engaged by the mere application of foot plantarflexion, steers us away from reality.

I envied the occasional cycle tourists I passed, who reminded me of my own up-Island trip, 18-years-ago, to catch the ferry to Prince Rupert and, ultimately, Skagway, Alaska, the beginning of a two-month cycling odyssey through the North.

On that trip I wrote at length in my journal about the “counterfeit” of motorized travel, how it robs us of observation, a critical component of human survival.

But the ultimate intention of this outing was a to adopt a means of transportation arguably superior to the bicycle, which is after all a step away from natural locomotion.

Unfortunately, the incident that has curtailed my cycling exploits has made walking, especially on uneven ground, even more challenging than turning a crank.

Thankfully, the relatively short and well-groomed trail to San Josef Bay afforded panoramas and macro-views haste invariably wastes.

Highway travel, whether human-powered or motorized, brings with it the unfortunate burden of sharing the road with people whose purpose has nothing to do with sight-seeing and everything to do with “getting ahead,” lost as they are in the herd.

It is possible, even probable, to meet on hiking trails the Conquering Hero, but he will not be driving a Dodge Ram. Though clever machines tempt the weak and the impatient—it’s the story of Our Age—ultimately, we decide on highway or byway whether to smell the roses, or pass life’s most precious pleasures by, on the road to nowhere.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

ofoab August 9, 2012 at 9:26 am

The use of a cane or one of those British folding seats suitable for watching the Derby can put a little swagger in your stagger. Charlie Chaplin, Arte Johnson. I have a selection of props due to my bad foot so I use canes or those lovely nordic walking sticks. Go forest bathing!


Raymond Parker August 9, 2012 at 10:39 am

Yup, I just bought my selves a pair of aluminum walking sticks. Why didn’t we think of using those things off the cross-country skiing trails? Glad someone had the idea.

It seemed everyone we passed also had them. The wooden bridge decks and boardwalks were pock-marked by their tungsten tips.

I also have a tripodal Derby seat (perfect for perching behind the camera for extended periods) but the heavy camera tripod (a good argument for carbon fibre) won out in the battle of the photo gear.


Sam August 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm

When you’ve exceeded your ability to see, speed is all you’ve got left, though smell, in the form of a dead skunk, will linger. But even speed has its limits, as proven by the mothballed Concorde fleet and the dearth of jetpacks at my local hardware store.

Still, it’s handy having a truck in the driveway to lean my bicycle against before and after the ride.

Query: Is anyone else surprised over how big they make mothballs these days?


Raymond Parker August 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm

I like this poem.


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