cycling utah August 1999
Annual ride becomes a metaphor of life
By David R. Ward
There are times when an event takes on larger dimensions than the happening itself, when it becomes a meaningful metaphor for something deeper. Such was this year's ride in the Seattle to Portland (STP) event which I rode on our tandem with my daughter, Rachel.
You see, Rachel is getting married on August 20. Since she is my first child to be married, I am experiencing thoughts and feelings that are new and deeply felt. As with each of my children, Rachel has been my partner for the last twenty years.
Last year, I rode the STP with another daughter, Marielle, and it was a great experience. When Rachel became engaged, I decided this year's STP would a good way to have one last grand experience with her before someone else became her primary partner.
We went on several rides together as we trained for the STP. Much like when she was growing up, our own tendencies were sometimes at odds, and we had to adjust to each other's style, strengths and limits to optimize our work together. Doing it on the tandem was certainly less stressful and more entertaining than doing it in the more dynamic context of a father and daughter teaching each other through our developing years.
With time together, on the road with the tandem in the one instance and on the road of life in the other, we found each other's rhythm and became a good team. She provided me with strength and good company on both roads, and I took her places and provided her insight that she would have otherwise missed.
This year's STP started out with several miles through a parkway along Lake Washington. It was beautiful and pleasant spinning as we enjoyed the sights together. It reminded me of the first years of Rachel's life, when times were simpler and Rachel was, as a baby and young child, mostly along for the ride.
As the road to Portland stretched on, however, it became more challenging. Later in the first day, it became hotter and more fatiguing. The second day brought the early morning freshness, but also hills and valleys to grind up and glide down. Along the way, however, the fields and forests provided a scenic backdrop to our journey. Finally, on the last segment into Portland, we picked up a tailwind and smoothly cruised to the ride's finish
My years with Rachel have been like that. We have had heated times when we needed to cool down, and hills to challenge our teamwork together. But we have always stuck together as a team, the countryside of our lives has been lovely, and the downhills have been exhilarating. And as Rachel reached toward maturity, we also seemed to cruise along more smoothly, having refined our common technique for working together.
The STP is now over, and once again it was a grand experience, one which Rachel and I shared with 7000 other cyclists. It is both exciting and exhilarating to complete a long journey on which we have combined our efforts. It is also sweet emptiness when it is over: Sweet because of the effort we shared, yet empty because that common effort is now completed.
Such is the bittersweet anticipation I feel, on a much deeper level, with Rachel's impending wedding. The last twenty years have been full because of the effort we have shared together. The love I felt at her birth has grown in depth and complexity with all we have said, done and felt together over these years. Now, as this stage ends and she moves on to a new stage with a new partner, I can already feel the emptiness in my life.
In this year's STP, we had a wonderful journey together: Lots of sunshine, moderate temperatures, and no rain. Our ride together through life has not always been so pleasant. But it has been full of excitement, discovery, deep satisfaction, and love. What more can one ask from a ride?