Last week, I whined about how having breaking news always at our fingertips has left little room to reflect on that news. This reminded me of a piece I wrote in 1993 for the newsletter at the nursing home where I worked. It was about riding my bicycle on the Outer Banks, slowing down, and discovering what I missed at sixty miles an hour.
“From the Chaplain: Life at Fifteen Miles an Hour,” July 1993
The rain started just as I set out on the first of four days of bicycling that would carry me 185 miles up and down North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I had driven my car from our rented house on the northern end to Avon — 33 bike-miles from Ocracoke at the southern terminus of the Outer Banks. Just as I was unloading my bike, the rain started.
It was 7:00 AM, and I had come too far not to ride. It was also July, so I wasn’t worried about being too cold. But, how often do I get to Cape Hatteras? If I didn’t start on that day, then my goal of riding the length of Outer Banks would be in jeopardy.
Let it go
I put on my rain gear and headed south. I fought the urge to turn around (“This is so stupid!”). Within fifteen minutes, I was soaked through and through, rain gear or not. I found I was much more comfortable being drenched than fighting to stay dry.
It was one of those “let it go” experiences. I figured I might as well give in and enjoy the scenery.
After an hour, I took off my parka and rain pants and peddled in what had become a light drizzle. By the time I reached the ferry bound for Ocracoke Island, the rain had ceased. I still had the bulk of that day’s ride ahead of me.
The distances between points on the map have a feel to them when you go by bike. Each day brought new stretches of highway. The old cottages at Nags Head and new resorts at Duck. The long distances of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. On that day heading to Ocracoke, I got to know each village (Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras) as I passed through at fifteen miles an hour.
Are we really better going so fast?
I had vacationed several other times on these islands. But, I had never “experienced” them before like I did biking the entire length. You see and hear and feel a lot from riding a bicycle at fifteen miles an hour.
I could read historical markers that are only a blur from a car. (Did you know the first musical notes over the radio were broadcast on Cape Hatteras?) You can look pedestrians in the eye and say hello. Try that at sixty miles an hour.
What else do I miss by not slowing down?
Living in the D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia sure makes a slower pace difficult. Are we really better because we pack so much into our days? My bike told me, “No, not necessarily.”