“I went to the [cottage] because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
I was first introduced to Henry David Thoreau at university and, readily identified with some of his thinking. I liked solitude. I enjoyed walking in the woods. And, I wanted to pursue a simpler life.
As an adult, I have very often visited the cottage alone. I do it deliberately. I enjoy the peace and quiet. The solitude. And, I enjoy listening to my inner voice, a voice that too often is suppressed when busy with making a living, providing for a family and listening to others. Time alone makes space for this voice. The cottage has been my cabin in the woods.
The cottage has always been a place for me to regain focus. A place to open new doors. It is where I retreated to plan, repair a broken heart, study for final exams and examine new ideas.
This visit, like many before, has been part holiday, part work. I came this time with two objectives. First, and perhaps foremost, I wanted to examine the possibility of selling the property. I have been thinking about this for 10 years and have teetered back and forth, not making a decision one way or the other. I wanted to finally decide so I could make plan. Move forward. Second, I wanted to cycle daily without the usual daily distractions, increase the work load and focus on technique. I wanted to train for a fall audax.
I live simply at the cottage. I eat simply, mostly local, fresh vegetables. Read a lot. Cycle a lot. Repair whatever is in need of repair. Clean a lot. The floors. The windows. The linen. I sleep a lot. And, I watch the sun rise and set on the water, sharing breakfast and dinner with this ever changing specatacle. It is mesmerizing.
This trip is almost over. I have a few more rides to look forward to but am beginning the fourth, and last, week at the cottage. It is time to reflect on what I have learned.
- Although sometimes inconvenient, travelling with a bike is rewarding. The bike has enabled me to explore routes I may not otherwise see and travel at a pace that I not only see but hear, feel and smell the experience and, at a pace I can meet and talk with others along the road. Cycling engages all of my senses and I experience the surroundings differently than by car, foot or boat. I know more about the Bolsover area today than I ever have.
- Cycling into a headwind is not easy. I expected to work on speed given the relatively flat terrain. Not so. I had wind most days. I learned that by gearing down, dropping down on the bars and maintaining a high cadence I cut through the wind without becoming excessively tired or discouraged.
- The Roberts steel frame is ideally suited to the rougher, country roads. Steel is more forgiving and the longer wheelbase absorbs bumps better.
- It is important to travel with a complete kit, to expect a variety of weather conditions. Heat. Cold. Sun. Cloud. Wind. Rain. I came prepared with a wind/rain jacket, bibs, jerseys, leg & arm warmers, booties, wool socks and sunglasses with interchangeable lens (dark brown, yellow and rose). I needed all of it.
- I thrive on a simpler diet. Fresh, local vegetables and fruit. No sweats. Very little dairy. Very little bread. No meat. I enjoy cooking and carefully planned meals – lentil soup, vegetable salads, breakfast cereal, pasta, veggie burgers, frittatas … It is a calorie reduced diet but I never felt cravings. I didn’t snack during the day or evening. I ate 3 balanced, nutritious meals a day, slept well and had a lot of energy for cycling.
- Solo training builds both physical and mental strength. I got much stronger because of the wind. I had no opportunity to draft and relax. My pedalling technique improved, became more efficient. And, the only reason I missed a workout was because of rain. Rainy days became rest days. There were a few more than I would have liked but I never avoided a ride because I was tired or unenthusiastic.
- I may be late to the party but I learned that current technology enables me to access the internet wherever I have a cell phone signal. This allowed me to work and post on this blog without having to leave the cottage. This has opened the door for many other possibilities, many other trips I have considered.
- And, perhaps most importantly, after spending almost a month alone at the cottage, I realize I can never sell it. It is as much a part of me as the Roberts bike and, because of my lengthy history here, can never be replaced.
These findings are not earth shattering. They are not new or, profound. But they will shape the days ahead.
I will welcome headwinds. I am comfortable in a more aerodynamic position for long periods of time. I will keep my weight down knowing that a reduced-calorie, natural, meatless diet actually makes me feel better and more energetic. I will travel more with my bike knowing that I will see more, enjoy myself more, easily stay in touch with my family, post to this blog and, actually work effectively. And, I will return to the cottage. Next time for an extended period of time. The summer months. Time to have family visits. Time to get on the water more. And, time to finish the utility room.
And, a lot of time to enjoy my early-morning rides.
“An early-morning [cycle] is a blessing for the whole day.” – Henry David Thoreau