solo: slow roads
“We'll fix it in time,” proclaimed a rusted sign on a half-rusted bench. I had to stop and check the route to see if I had taken a wrong turn. I had studied the route to the Austrian border in advance, wanting to drive as intuitively as possible. Yes, a very ambitious plan for a chaotic person with a lousy sense of direction in any terrain, but luckily my intuition didn't fail me. Of course, I took a wrong turn. But at least I reminded myself that I usually have to wait for the good stuff. Even for the right roads.
Tempo giusto, I calm down and try to spin the pedals again. The bike is probably the only time of the day when I don't listen to music, so my legs have to find the rhythm themselves. I try to imagine each landscape as a distinctive melody, recognizing the individual rhythms and tuning into its genre and character. The German musician, theorist, and composer Johann Philipp Kirnberger argued that performers should rely on their intuition to find the best tempo for a piece. Use their experience, take into account the structure and parameters of the song, and intuitively guess the right tempo. Tempo giusto. I guess it's not gonna go fast tonight.
Maybe it's because I don't think of bike rides as training. They're just bike rides. If I want to go fast, I go fast. If I need to stop, I just take a picture of the scenery around me. I then often throttle at my experiential pace and consider that to be my perfectly satisfactory speed, which, of course, is very much at odds with the modern western standard of living. Always chasing something.
As if high speed is the only trophy of our time. “How much did she do it for?”, they always ask, and I have a hard time finding answers. I don't consider time to be an appropriate value of the experience. We live fast and we're always running behind. For that, we can't cope with the excess of insomnia, fatigue, and burnout. We live with the obsessive belief that we don't have enough time and we need to really step things up and make up the difference. Even on a bike ride, a running trip, or a simple Sunday walk with the grandparents. It's called temporal neurosis, and it's said to have been medically described 40 years ago. I wasn't born 40 years ago, so I tell myself that the clock is still 60 minutes long. I won't catch up on anything on the hill, so instead, I stop at the top and enjoy the scenery. Today, I guess I'll answer that I made it in three deer running through a glade, a pretty scary sight of clear-cut forests, a few drops of rain, and a little more sweat.
I follow the outlines of villages and towns, sometimes just the recesses of my thoughts. There's a hill in every mini-village, I don't know if I like it. The roads often have potholes. Although, maybe it's just me because I can feel every one of them. I can see what's lying where, and what shouldn't be lying there. Roadside litter certainly hasn't disappeared, instead discarded masks and mask wrappers have joined it in recent years. I don't like it. I smell a forest. Even though there're only remnants of it lying around, it smells. It's starting to rain, so I slow down. I listen to the sound of the square, the random passers-by, and my own voice in my mind. This time it doesn't scream. It's not freaking out over the below-average speed, instead just letting itself be carried away by what's going on around it without remorse.
Setting your own pace, doesn't that sound like a privilege? It awakens harmony in me, a sense of independence and peace. You set your own rhythm. You decide how you ride. You live. You set the rhythm of your life. You decide how you live. You ride. It's a privilege! I'm checking the map again and thinking maybe it's a shame that the tempo guisto has gradually disappeared from the music world. Sometime in the mid-18th, composers began to favor more tempo terms and metronome markings. That is, even before the world of bicycles took off. Perhaps this “correct tempo” would remind us more that we don't have to rush through space and time. We don't have to keep wanting more, faster, and now. Life is about different speeds. About our personalities and personal experiences. Maybe we'd be more pushed to turn off the bike computer and our egos and just ride intuitively sometimes.
For the beauty of slow roads.
P.S.: This also applies to drivers.