When a ride shows you what to wish for
... and when it might be better not to have a picture
I went to my niece’s wedding in Virginia over the New Year’s holiday, and I took my bike, of course. I had mapped out a few routes through the farmland north of Richmond that would let me knock out some training for the Mississippi Gravel Cup series starting in January.
What I hadn’t expected is that the ride on the morning of the rehearsal dinner would be the inspiration for my toast to Elli and Rob that night.
I headed out for a 72-mile loop up to Beaverdam, Va., from the shopping centers and office parks of Glen Allen, a Richmond suburb.
But within just a few miles, I was in farm country. I saw a small farmhouse on the edge of a pasture and thought it was so pretty I should take a picture. And then a few miles later, I saw a road lined with leafless trees framing a gem of crystal blue sky. Had to get a picture of that. The classic little square brick post office in Beaverdam looks like every other rural post office of that vintage. Another picture. One picture was a selfie with a “rough crossing” railroad sign behind me. Another metaphor for marriage and life.
That night at dinner, I stood to give my toast. What I shared was my wish for their marriage, which had crystallized during my ride that morning. Miles, months, years … they’re interchangeable measures for a ride, a marriage, or a life.
I told them about seeing the farmhouse and taking that picture. And each picture after that was even more beautiful. Just when I thought it couldn’t be prettier, somehow it was.
On my way back from Beaverdam, I saw a small hunting dog chasing a four-point buck through the pasture, racing just to my left and parallel to me. I watched for just a few seconds, and then the buck abruptly cut right and sailed over the pasture fence toward the road I was on. He was spectacularly graceful, and it was completely unexpected. He crossed the road maybe 50 feet in front of me and disappeared into woods.
Like the pictures I took, my wish for their marriage was that each month or year will be better than the last. And just when they think it can’t get any better, something comes along and takes their breath away.
It’s also my wish for this upcoming year of rides: Each better than the last, and every now and then something so beautiful and unexpected that it makes you pause. And when you do, you realize that in both good times and bad, it’s possible for things to still be better than you could ever expect.
I’ve got lots of pictures from my rides in Virginia. Farm houses, wide-open pastures with shiny silos so distant you can barely see them, tree-lined country roads, horses, and long, white pasture fences.
But I don’t have a picture of that buck. And that’s all right. The experience was what mattered, and no picture could ever capture the surprise, magic and gratitude of being exactly at that place at that exact time. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t actually need a picture of everything.
The ride: Ride out to Beaverdam