Write and Cycle: The Joys of Biking

by Ed Davis on September 14, 2016

The storm struck as I crossed Jacoby Road on the Little Miami Bike Trail, four miles south of Yellow Springs, heading home from Xenia. The sky roiled, rain began pelting me and a cannon blast of wind flattened trees lining the trail ahead—or seemed to. I felt caught in something surreal, simultaneously insular and exposed, but exciting as hell as I rode right into the blustery heart of my own personal tornado. Leaves and limbs crashing around me, I wondered if I’d make it home alive.

It wasn’t really a tornado, just a pop-up storm that, if you’re a fairly long-distance biker as I am (maximum distance 30 miles in a day), is always possible in Ohio during summer. Though this was the worst storm I’ve ever ridden in, it wasn’t the first and won’t be the last. Why, you might be wondering, do I court disaster by venturing off into weather that can change faster than you can put on sunscreen?

  1. For Serenity. I always consult radar as well as the sky before taking off, so it’s rare that I get caught in anything like the above storm. Many of my rides are simply part of my spiritual practice that includes meditation and prayer. No purpose other than floating north or south on the trails where, depending on time of day, the only traffic I’ll encounter includes squirrels, rabbits, deer, chipmunks and the occasional cardinal swooping inches from my face.
  2. For the body. A former jogger who had to finally quit due to aging knees, I needed an exercise to replace the one that kept me fit for twenty years. If you do it right, biking can be much easier on bones, organs and joints than other sports, but you’ve got to increase your mileage slowly, carefully monitoring your body’s response. I bought the wrong bike at first, one requiring me to bend forward; the result was neck pain that might’ve ended my cycling career before it got started. But after I tried a recumbent, upright with a comfy seat, I’ve never looked back. However, my bike’s tiny front tire “feels” every crack and crevice, so it performs much better on smooth trails than on roads, a limitation that suits me fine; trails are safer and a lot more serene.
  3. For Desirable Destinations. Soon after the rails to trails bikeway system became well established, my wife and I regularly rode south to Corwin, Ohio, where for awhile there was an ice cream parlor, now gone. Then we discovered Stoney Creek Roasters (now Telemetry) in Cedarville, with its welcoming half-moon deck above Massie’s Creek, cool beneath the sycamores on even the hottest day. Lately we’ve added Table of Contents Café inside Blue Jacket Books at 30 South Detroit Street in Xenia, where you can enjoy gourmet lunches (served 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday), including such delicacies as African peanut soup; grilled cheese sandwiches threaded with scallions on potato bread; and key lime cheesecake. Feed your body and mind simultaneously, surrounded by 50,000 books!
  4. For Companionship. I’m both a solitary and social biker—each has special benefits. And while I do sometimes visit destinations alone, I’m usually there with my wife. On the trail, she sees (and hears) a lot more bird species than I do, invites me to look up and appreciate the sky more than I would by myself, and, most importantly, talked me into riding at night. There’s nothing quite like gliding down the bike trail from Xenia to Yellow Springs, especially in October, light on and dressed warmly. Passing silently down that long, dark tunnel, I feel the earth around me even more than in daylight, the closest I’ll ever get to flying on the ground. And it’s thanks to my wisely adventurous companion. I’d never have done this alone.
  5. For Writing Opportunities. I try not to write in my head while riding so that I won’t miss the fields, clouds and orioles, knowing that when I arrive at one of the above destinations, I’ll turn it into a writer’s retreat, where, somehow under less pressure to produce, I’ll hammer out that review or blog that might’ve distracted me earlier from fiction or poetry. But that doesn’t mean you can’t interrupt if you see me with bowed head above journal or laptop.
  6. For Practical Transportation. The bike is an earth-friendly alternative to the car, especially in a bikeable town like Yellow Springs. But my town isn’t the only one encouraging bikes. Nearby Xenia even allows biking on its wide sidewalks, and Dayton has recently instituted Bike Link, an easy, convenient bike rental system where you can pick up a bike at one location and either leave it at another near your destination or return it to its place of origin. Recently Springfield completed a trail connector to the heart of downtown, where bikers can enjoy the Heritage Center, Frank Lloyd Wright House and soon-to-open Winans Chocolate and Coffee on N. Fountain Avenue. With biking becoming ubiquitous, motorists are a lot more accepting of sharing the roadways these days.

So:  see you at Blue Jacket, Telemetry, Winans or maybe on that blissful stretch of trail between Cedarville and Xenia—you know, that spot where you can glimpse lamas in their fenced compound back through the trees.

In case you’re wondering, I made it home just fine through that storm; in fact, I wasn’t even soaked until the deluge struck . . . two blocks from my house. But that’s biking. 🙂

Upcoming Lit-Events 

The Dayton Metro Library is now accepting entries for their annual poetry contest through September 30th. First prize of $100, second prize of $75 and third prize of $50 in both adult and teen categories. Complete rules and entry form available at http://www.daytonmetrolibrary.org/poetry. DML is also offering a series of free workshops on writing at various locations throughout the fall from such luminaries as well-published local fictionist Katrina Kittle. More details at Dayton Metro’s website.

Also, the next monthly writing seminar offered by Antioch Writers Workshop at Books & Co., 4453 Walnut Street at the Greene in Beavercreek, Ohio, features Kate Geiselman, AWW board president, Sinclair English Department faculty and editor of Flights. An excellent speaker, Kate will discuss “Finding a Venue for Your Work,” whether it’s a poem, essay, book or novel.

Finally, the Dayton Christian Scribes are hosting a Christian Writers’ Conference on September 24, 8:30-4:15 p.m. at Apex Community Church, 5800 Far Hills Avenue in Dayton. The ten instructors include Katrina Kittle. For more info, contact daytonchristianscribes@gmail.com.

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