There are a lot of different things I enjoy doing with my free time. On the rare occasions that I'm home, I enjoy brewing my own beer, which includes growing several strains of my own hops and I've also recently started venting my own wines. I'm quite proud of what I've been able to cultivate on my properties over the years, and my hops, in particular, are pretty amazing... the things have now gotten so large and dense they look like pretty little pinecones on the vine and their wonderful citrusy smell keeps all the bugs away during the summers.
I also spend a lot of time out taking pictures with one of a dozen or so cameras I've collected through the years (I rely pretty heavily on my Nikon D750's or Sony A7RII's for most of my photography, as well as my iPhones with added lenses), and I'm sure you'll see a lot of those photos of my travels here. However, theres one thing above all that I absolutely live for--mountain biking.
When I was young, you couldn't pry me off of a bicycle. A bike is something that gives you a lot of mobility and lets you expand your own personal sphere of experience, and for a child its pretty substantial. I used that to my advantage as I was growing up and took every opportunity to go explore the world around me. I'd be quite safe in saying I spend more time away with my bike than I did at home.
At some point though, life happened and once that did cycling sat for a decade on the back burner. At some point I started realizing I needed to get back in shape, and because of some personal concerns of mine, the gym just wasn't an option. I could have easily chose running-- it'd be a lot cheaper in the long run--though I really hate running.... I mean I really hate it with a passion. Even though I was really good at it, I just despised the idea of running down the street. What fun is that?
So I ended up getting back in to cycling. I started out with a pretty nice hybrid bike, that in retrospect probably was pretty under equipped for what I would eventually end up doing despite having a lockable front fork. I eventually realized how much I missed riding and decided to pick up a road bike. One of the big things that drew me back into putting time on the road was a way to escape from the world around me. When I ride, I tend to be grounded in the present instead of being dragged into the past by my own demons, or anxious about whatever the future may, or may not, bring. It also gave me an opportunity to ruminate on all the little things rolling around in my head and gave me an outlet to use as a way to solve problems free from the influence of the outside world.
Being out on the road, free from phones, the internet, and any concerns I may have had ended up being a significant contributor to the betterment of my mental health and overall physical wellbeing. It turned out to be an much larger shift to a more holistic and balanced approach to life. It forced me to eat better, cut back and eventually quit smoking--thats been an ongoing battle I've still struggled with--and a way to give myself the space I had absolutely avoided to process all the things happening in my life.
My PTSD--combat trauma... I'm a multi-tour combat veteran as well-- manifests itself in a myriad of ways in my life, however one of the largest ways it does is a quite damaging avoidance of most things that cause me anxiety. My cycling gave me an outlet where I could do three things: drone along without any thoughts but "just keep peddling", processing of my anxiety, and freedom to explore the natural world. I could go between droning along and letting my senses soak in the world around me whenever I touched a topic that was a bit more than I could handle at the time.
To be honest, there were a quite a few occasions early on where I likely spent just as much time crying on the shoulder of some back country road because I had been overtaken by one of my battles with my personal demons. Though as time went one and I started to build my endurance and stamina in the saddle, I had more time to admire the world around me instead of a constant push to keep myself going. I pined for the days as a young child where I was carefree and able to focus more on the experience than riding almost purely as means of escapism. I needed to get off the road, and I though a new segment of bikes--cyclocross--would be able to achieve that.
So I went out and bought a top end cross bike and instead of hitting a gravel road or double track trail, I immediately ran to the most difficult single track trail I could find, which was completely out of the realm of riding the bike was designed form. I transitioned back and forth between the road and the trail and rediscovered just how much being lost in the woods really meant to me.
To be continued....