My commute to work is about an hour long by bike. The trip is only 11 miles, and if you can do math, you know I roughly travel at 10mph. Yup, I'm slow, also downtown eats time like crazy, making up a good 20 minutes of my commute, so maybe I'm not that slow. In fact, to non-cyclists, I'm insanely fast.
Coworkers and friends are constantly marveling at my speed. Other cyclists seem to have no patience with my pace and race to pass me. Its cool, I left with plenty of time, because there's so much to see. There's wildlife on the trail, art in the city, the smell of coffee just brewing in every little shop along the way. Bakeries are just venting out the scent of their first loaves when I make my commute. Geese are squawking, waking up to the dawn and as anxious as a human commuter.
But non-cyclists remain awed by my "endurance" for going 11 miles. Its not like I bike the way back, I'm not a kid anymore by any stretch of the imagination, and I suspect most of the awe comes from the well known fact that I'm not exactly the most healthy person in the world. Its 11 miles, but its one of the best hours in my day.
For an hour I am free of the oncoming bus ride (I have a somewhat antagonistic relationship to my afternoon commute, that's another post), for an hour I am in another world entirely. For an hour I am listening to a podcast, for an hour I am listening to a book*. For an hour I am dancing to music, yes, dancing on my bike, its not hard on a steady stretch. For an hour I am watching the sky change, for an hour I am enveloped in mist that gives an eerie glow to the rising sun.
Its only 11 miles. Its only an hour. But that hour could not be more mine if I was at home reading a book. I could not tell you the times I have traveled with a character in body and spirit across worlds spanning time immemorial. My bike has been a horse, a ship, a spaceship, and countless other modes of transportation. Its only 11 miles, but I travel galaxies in those 11 miles.
I used to bike 24 miles a day, back in Alaska, because I made the returning commute. Here, in Shoreline and Seattle, you can opt out of one way of commuting, whether you choose the way there or the way back. Which is nice considering the way back is uphill for me and I'm not terribly eager to go the other way up Greenwood having done it a few times. Its just my opinion, but you can only go uphill so long before its a slog, and to be honest I don't find the north parts of Greenwood all that fabulous a vista. Oh sure, sometimes I just get off the bus on Northgate and ride my bike the rest of the way, compelled by forces within and without, but not that often.
Moreover, it makes that morning something special. Those 11 miles can be beautiful, scary, ethereal, and absorbing. Pretty much the definition of sublime. That hour could be the only one I get to myself some days, and given my druthers I wouldn't spend it any other way.
*I do not have the sound up as loud as it could be, I need to be able to hear horns, bells, and calls to pass. So do you.