I have a personal riding mantra — don’t rush, go slow, be present. It’s in my head during the ride and reaches into the rest of my life.
Do you have a mantra?
After a long work week, I was looking forward to a ride on the Vespa. Waking to rain on Saturday morning was a disappointment. In part, because I wanted to do some work in the garden and around the house. But mostly because I couldn’t ride.
Or so my brain was telling me.
When I have the chance to sit still and think, I can often see the tricks my mind plays. Like fueling assumptions about weather and riding.
On the road, my riding mantra calls on me to slow down and step away from the more frenetic pace that’s so easy to drown in. Not rushing is important in making clear decisions. And when the roads are wet.
Riding along the silver threads of pavement winding through the central Pennsylvania forests is always a pleasure. Especially when I’m not in a rush.
It’s hard to go slower than stop. Bringing the scooter to a halt along the road gave me an opportunity to witness the lush growth all around. Especially the fiddleheads unfurling in the rain. Can’t remember ever seeing one through the windshield of the car. Or even on the scooter unless I stop to look around. A friend and experienced photographer once told me you don’t see anything unless you’re traveling less than 35mph. I’m not that good and have adjusted the speed to 25mph or less.
Except for limited access highways the maximum speed limit on Pennsylvania roads is 55mph. And most small secondary roads, the ones I love to prowl, the limit is even lower. Learning to ride slowly is an art. I know few riders who have mastered it.
Everyone seems to be in a hurry.
Alone on the road, traveling at a pace that allows a bit of time to digest the surroundings and entertain thoughts, often leads me to think about who I am as a rider. Slow going, loner, keeping to the little roads and consuming time rather than miles. At least for now.
Don’t rush, go slow, be present. That works. So does the scooter.
The places I ride, like this road in Rothrock State Forest, afford a slow and ambling pace. Saw a black bear loping along the road once.
In my first age of riding the Vespa was fun. Still is. But over time it has become much more. Anyone who’s advanced past the occasional rider stage knows how addictive it can be. And it’s not just about movement or speed. There’s a blossoming of the senses that lay dormant in most other vehicles or places.
I ask myself if I would pick my way across a stream if I didn’t have a camera. Just to look around? Would I stop at all? Yes, maybe, I don’t know. What I do know is that I see things while riding. And I see more when I’m going slow.
As a kid I wandered and explored the woods nearly every chance I could. Now, 55 years later, I still am. A big old kid. One signal that I’m not a kid is the increasing difficulty I have climbing up the bank along the road. As a kid I would never worry about twisting my ankle or breaking a leg.
It’s hell to get old.
But it’s good to still have the desire to explore and be present in the world. And my life. As best I can.
Or Dame’s Rocket in this case. Hesperis matronalis for the botanists who read Scooter in the Sticks. It’s blooming everywhere here now and drapes the already beautiful roadways with white and purple flowers.
Can’t say I’ve ever seen another scooter or motorcycle along the road with the rider stealing a sniff of any of nature’s fragrant gifts.
Have you ever stopped to smell the roses or am I turning into an old eccentric rider?
Among the vices I feel comfortable writing about are cookies. Small round rewards for the good ride, the ride where for a few minutes at least I’ve dwelled attentively in the world. Tea, cookies and a few scribbled notes in a journal provide a non-moving way to connect with life.
Perhaps it has it’s own mantra — don’t rush, go slow, be present. Otherwise I’d make short work of those cookies…