Yesterday was an interesting day in my staycation. As I’ve mentioned I’m here alone for a few days and so yesterday I never left the house nor exchanged in any interaction with any person. So other than a bit of talking to my cat who is complaining bitterly that I don’t get up early enough to feed her on her usual schedule I’ve been silent. Now I suppose I can’t refer to the entire period as ‘silence’ since I did a marathon of watching old West Wings as well as some music, but passive listening is certainly not the same as interactive communication. Nonetheless it also isn’t quite the cell as a monastic cell with total silence.
Without any distractions this allowed me to spend much of the day on stationary bicycle thus blowing away my previous daily ride record (68.0 miles) with a new record of 80.5 miles. That was accomplished over much of the day (about 13 hours elapsed but only about 5 hours of peddling time). I have previously done a century (as well as many metric centuries) ride on a real bike and certainly 80.5 miles on a stationary bike is easier (and more boring). But I’ve only previously done a couple of rides in the 80+ distance: a) the completed century in Marin County, b) the failed century (a collision leading to bike damage and thus needing sag ride back) in the California delta (about 90 miles before the collision), and, c) a out-and-back ride to Golden Gate Park from Los Altos, about 85 miles. But, of course, those rides were about 20 years ago so I figure it’s not too bad to be able to tick over 80.5 miles, even if easier on a stationary bike, at my age. Despite my legs having the oomph to go that distance real riding and the hard saddle (plus all the vibration from road) would toughen my gluteus maximus a lot more than the soft seat (and recumbent position) of the stationary bike so I seriously doubt I could do an actual road ride of 80.5 miles. So no long real biking trips for me.
An actual bike ride is better for getting my head into a more “empty mind” state. Road riding requires some concentration on the mechanics of riding but not much else. And if you’re doing that alone, especially then also without any real destination (just boring road itself) I do find myself in a completely different mental state than I achieved yesterday. It’s a bit too convenient and easy to just be peddling in my only house, meanwhile having all the usual conveniences.
The reason I mention all this is that I actually have a strong interest in the altered mental state that a vigorous physical event, especially alone triggers. Concentrating most of my mind’s energy (and physical energy) just on the event itself, plus requiring the long period of time without any ordinary interpersonal contact is a state of mind I have achieved before and wish to achieve again. After watching multiple West Wing episodes naturally I was pulled back to Martin Sheen and so watched The Way again (probably for about the 10th time). That idea of pilgrimage where the physical ordeal of it plays a role in mental state is interesting. However, The Way is all about the relationships of Martin’s walking companions not the solitary pursuit. Last year’s camping trip to Wyoming left me disappointed that I spent too much, although enjoyable, time with other campers – the solitude I sought never happened, at least in big doses. So yesterday’s 24 hours of solitary activity is the first for quite some time (previously only achieved on other camping trips, but now some years ago).
The idea of doing a long trip, either hiking or biking, has strong appeal to me, but the logistics discourage me. I have done weeklong backpack trips, thus requiring no other support and I’ve done one weeklong bike camping trip. But those trips are not entirely solitary (in fact the bike camping had enjoyable casual contact every night with other touring cyclists since the California campgrounds pile all the cyclists into a single spot). My days of physically carrying enough for a week+ solitary trip are over, so any trip I’d take today would have to be “supported”. Plus with more joint pain, especially knees, and a few other limitations of age the creature comforts I require these days effectively eliminate the possibility of self-support (i.e. I now need a much bigger tent than I’d want to move my muscle power alone). So despite getting into relatively good shape (sans gluteal toughness) I still don’t have any plan for any solitary trip. So peddling away in the basement may be the best I can do.
I can’t say yesterday was all that special but I’m glad I had the opportunity but less distractions would have been better for the altered mental state one can achieve on a pilgrimage.