Miles to Go Before I Sleep

This isn’t just a story about a bike.  It’s not just a story about what I did today.  It is a story that is all of ours, yet at the same time it is also a story that is uniquely my own....and with special consideration to the inspirations of Robert Frost.

Today is the day before the day of my birth.  It’s the day before the day I began an independent journey of what would be called my life.  Today was a warm and sunny day and it was a day for me to explore, to think, to reminisce and a day to think about tomorrow and the days ahead.

My spouse, Joanne, was dealing with a painful backache and so my day today, on this Sunday, was free for me to do as desired.  Deciding on a bike ride, I quickly changed into my bike tights and top, donned my helmet, and extracted my bike of choice from it’s perch on our Barn’s wooden walls. On this day the bike of chose was my steadfast and trustworthy 12 speed touring bike.  I thought it appropriate on this day, for this bike, but I'm getting ahead of myself in the story and so we will just say that this was the bike chosen, and the reason it was chosen will soon be very clear.

I had intended to bike my usual 20 mile loop, but having done this loop just the day before, the choices made along the trek that day became an entirely differnt path…. another route.  The first hour or so of my trek was simply taken in just admiring the scenery and the views of the serene and tree lined country road.  The river, occasionally visible off my right shoulder, caught the sunlight and glimmered in speckled blues reflected back upon me.  Hillsides were now, this late in spring,carpeted in a forest of freshly new green leaves and the undulating hills and mountains beyond gave contrast to the rich blues of the river beside me.

After an hour or so of biking, I veered off onto a road that was even smaller and quieter then the one I had been riding upon.  Here and there were houses hidden in the forest along either side of the road and cars there were few as I made my way through the twists and bends.   Somewhere in that near silent soliloquy which my bike and the birds and sounds of the forest around me made, I began a thought.  It was the first of a series of mental musings which would accompany me for the rest of that day.

In time I happened upon the turn in the road I had planned to make.  It was a road that would lead me down, and across the river via an old wooden covered bridge and hence to the other side of the river where a quick turn onto a parallel road on the other side would lead me home.  Only it was that when I came upon this turn, a sign had been placed marking the bridge as closed and so the road as well.

I was disappointed.  Now it was necessary to maintain a course of many more miles to find another bridge to cross.  At first I was quiet angry - angry that the highway crews had not erected a sign at the last junction and river crossing, that this next crossing would be closed.  And I thought to myself then, how very much like life this was.  There were thoughts of the times I wish I knew or had been told that something would prevent or bar my way in life at a critical junction.  I was angry with the road and I was suddenly angry with the myopia and inability to see far enough ahead in my own life with its twists and turns I could not have suspected.

A few expletives were uttered as I pushed on past the junction of that closed road and settled in for a long ride, continuing on past some beautiful streams, some historic white steepled churches framed by tall pines as from a Normal Rockwell Painting.  Passing a cascading waterfalls, I listened and watched as water bounced off shelves of rocks into seemingly bottomless pools far below.  I saw things that I would not have seen if I had made the turn I had planned, the turn I had intended. Thoughts arose of my life and how many turns I have missed, been unable to make and of how I still found wondrous things that I could not have imagined had those turns been made, those choices, those decisions in life chosen.  It was, perhaps, in some small way, a bit of a revelation.

Continuing on, now with nearly 20 miles under my feet thus far, I considered perhaps to continue just a bit further from my intended turn-around point to visit a place I had spent many years of my life.  Now at the southern edge of the White Mountain National Forest, it was here, in a quaint New England Town, that J and I had bought our first place away from our then home in the city.  It had been a small, one bedroom condominium that became our weekend escape from Boston.  To me, at the time, it seemed like it was the most amazing place, but perhaps it was most amazing because it was the first place I, and we had ever owned.

I recall the excitement on Friday Evenings each weekend, of getting the car packed with all of the essentials for a weekend away from the responsibilities of work and parents… to our own little place.  It had a view out of the living room window onto the majestic mountains beyond and although tiny in size, it felt like a castle.

Riding my bike on and through the small village before me, I made my way to our old condo.  With only slight exception, it seemed as though 5 years time had changed nothing in this New England Village…. Yet somehow, as I rode through, it just felt different in some way, and in a way that my finger could not be set upon.  Up to the parking lot entrance to our old condo I rode, squealed my brakes to a stop and dismounted my bike.

The condo complex looked the same.  The pool was still there like it always had been.  The Tennis Courts looked as if they were brand new.  Everything looked the same, yet I felt as if nothing was the same.  It was a place I knew well but felt, in that instant, like I hardly ever knew.  It was like it was a place that was a part of my life but also like a place that never was a part of it at all.  It was like a ghost of the past and a vision before me of something that is, yet really simply just only was.

It was like in my own life and probably not unlike anyone elses, to stand in a place they have known their entire life and yet to feel like it never was.  It was an eerie feeling and it sent a shiver down my spine to linger.  I don’t know what it was, but my thoughts of the memories there started to bring back much more from deeper within.  When we owned that condo, it was my escape.  It was escape from my life and from the depression I know only now that had my entire life.  It was the place of refuge from others and a place of refuge from myself.  It was a place for me to be myself in ways that I could only be there and no other.

I recall how I would be able, upon arrival each weekend, to be able to dress as my female self and to be able to express my true self  for the short time we were there.  The frustrations and the anger which I kept inside as I tried to hide who I was for the sake of maintaining continuity for the rest of the world were allayed for that short time.  Looking at the complex from where I stood with my bike, the realization now was that it was simply that… a refuge and an interim hop that served its need during a time in life when I needed it the most.  I no longer needed it, and I no longer needed this place.  Time and my evolution of  my own life had seen to that.  It was now just a ghost… just a memory… just an integral facet in the pieces of my own life that I had needed to be who I am now.  It was time to press on.

Hopping back on my bike, I began ambling my way home.  Along the way, I passed by other pieces of my life as I continued south along the river.  At one point, I came upon a bend in the river and of the road, where an eddy had carved out a beautifully white strand of powdery sand beach.  Suddenly, I was 17 years old again and I was standing on bank of that river with my dad.  I had wanted to have some father and son time with my dad and so as we had been driving along this road so many years ago, I saw this place and asked my father to stop here.  I recall that although I had wanted to enjoy this time with my dad, he was not all too interested in being where we were and so the day was cut short.  But I remember it as if it were yesterday.

And as these memories came to me as I pounded the pedals, mile after mile, I looked down at my bike and realized one very amazing thing that tied each of these memories together.  Of all the possessions I have ever owned in life, it has been this bike, the bike I was riding today, that had been there for all these events.  That, in my mind was an amazing thing and the bike itself held a special significance…. A very special one.

This bike was special as it was the first multi-speed bike I had owned.  It came to me at a very critical time in my own life growing up and it was probably my most treasured thing I had ever owned.  To understand this, one has to go back to when I received this bike…back 33 years ago to 1980.  I was in high school then and having a very hard time in life.  My gender dysphoria was out of control and I was finding myself unable to socialize with anyone.  The girls thought I was incredibly shy and the boys thought I was just totally weird.  I was quiet and recluse because of how I felt my body changing in ways that only angered and depressed me.  So angry was I for not being able to be who I knew I was meant to be created a realm that made it very difficult to be able to socialize with the other boys as a boy would.

I recall that I would be beat up by the other boys several times per week on my way to or from school, or even during.  Many times it was just rough-housing and name calling but it still hurt.  Sometimes it was more and I recall being gang-tied and carried off to be tied up to a lightpole on the local highway.  The boys just thought I was queer or gay and I let them do what they wanted to me.  I was just hoping that someone would just end it all for me because I didn’t have the guts to do it myself.  And every time I was rescued or lived to survive another day, I cursed God for allowing me to go on.  I did the only thing I knew how to do and recoiled into my books, studies and hobbies.

Well, what of my bike?  Where was my bike in all of this?  Well, you see, my bike was a gift from my dad back in 1980 when I was going through such a terrible depression and self loathing.  My bike was like a godsend to me.  It was, for me, a means of escape and of freedom.  It allowed me to take control of some piece of my own world by being able to travel through it as my heart desired.  Each day, when school was out, I would take my bike out for long rides, sometimes intentionally getting lost, so that I might lose myself for that short time in a maze of streets and roads I had never before been.  For a short time each day, I felt free.  My bike….this bike…had been a slow part of the transformation which allowed me, through the escape it offered, to slowly gain confidence in myself to get through.  Mind you that it was not the ultimate or even the penultimate piece which helped me assemble my life, but it was a piece that without, my depression would have continued for so much longer.

Peddling homeward, I realized that I had been losing track of the time and the miles as my thoughts and memories rushed in.  I recalled the one memory, perhaps only a year after receiving my bike, that suddenly came to me in a flash that startled me as to how long it has been.  It was perhaps in 1981 that I was up with my parents at their weekend cottage in the area where we now live today.  I had been biking on this SAME ROAD I was peddling upon now and happened to see a house.  It was not just any old house but, to me, it was a house that just truly stood out.  Even as just a teenager, I knew that this was just the perfect spot and the perfect house for me.  Each time during that summer when I passed by, I thought to myself how I would love to own that house.  Peddling today, I chuckled as I could not have realized then, that this house I nonchalantly and casually saw upon my rides that summer, would one day be the house I would buy and live in today.  My bike today, is housed in a barn that 32 years ago, it had only rolled past with a very troubled teen riding upon it.

I know that my own life has had many twists and turns, like the road of life.  I know that there have been road closures and detours which I could not plan for.  I know now that any road closures have never meant a dead-end and a terminus to my journey in life, but only to a new path and a new direction to follow.  I know that the detours I have made angered me at the time for their arising, but that in the process of making that detour, I have come to see many new and amazing things in the journey of life that I would not have seen if I had stayed my intended course.

I thought about how many miles I have put on my bike (and all of the bikes I have owned in my life) and how many odometers replaced along the way.  Adding it all up, I have ridden well over 25,000 miles…. enough to encircle this planet once and to come back to where I started….. only  I’ve never really come back to where I started… and the journey really just keeps on and continues.  The 40 miles I rode today seemed like such an effort, and so tiring….. just as each segment of our lives can seem to be so difficult and so tiring…yet, when peering back at where I started from and the many thousands of miles I have come in all, those 40 seem like nothing now.   It is sometimes amazing to ruminate of where I have come from, how may miles in life I have traveled, and how many more miles I have yet to go before I sleep.  I plan to keep my bike and journey with it until the day comes when I can travel no more, and then, perhaps, it will become the vehicle I bequeath to someone else, to be a part of their own journeys upon the road of life.


  1. As I wrote on FB, we have eerily parallel lives. The Bike as a key to freedom...etc.

    Where we differ is that you still have yours... whereas mine was stolen around the time I stopped dressing for 20 years or so.

    The metaphor works...

  2. and perhaps just perhaps once again you have and are traveling upon "the road less traveled... and that has made all the difference"

  3. Beautiful. Thank you.


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