There are times when the big picture is just too big. When it becomes a weight, makes you doubt whether you can achieve your goal. So it was on Saturday; fifty miles into the ride, 14 miles yet to go. The FO climb looming between me and my goal - home. And then there was the headwind. Strong, steady, pushed with the strength of a weather system bigger than the state in which I live. And I don't live in Rhode Island. It was getting to be too much, this big picture painted with broad strokes from a palette of distance and hills and wind on a background of the fatigue setting in from what was already the longest and tallest ride of the year. I lean forward on the handlebars, my head down, looking at the road in front of me gliding under my wheels, ever so slowly. How am I going to get through this?
I do know the answer. First, take care of the fundamentals. Have a good bike. Be in reasonably good shape. Make sure you know your destination and that you are on the right road.
OK. Check. Check (as long as we agree on the definition of "reasonably good shape"). Check and check. But there is still that big picture issue. I can't ride 14 miles, fighting the wind, climb FO...it's too much to contemplate. But, I know what I can do: I can ride to that spot on the road I'm looking at - that spot six feet ahead of my front wheel. Yes. I can do THAT. And, when I get there, I decide that I can do it again. Just six feet. Then, do it again. And again... So it was, riding into the wind, climbing FO, making my way all the way home simply by riding to that spot six feet in front of my wheel.
The whole experience (which I must admit I've had quite often on long, hard rides) reminds me of my personal approach to the mission work in Africa. The big picture is overwhelming. Poverty, culture, infrastructure, distance, personalities, economies, AIDS, finances, conflicting expectations. Too much. I can't do that.
Our small group went to Uganda in 2006 with the purpose of helping a young church that was struggling to get established. During the trip, we visited a school that had so very little of what we expect to see in schools here. Looked at all at once, it seemed to be just too much. But, we took care of the fundamentals. We have a good group of dedicated men and women, both here and in Uganda. We worked out a reasonable destination: education for the church leaders, a roof on the church building, removing barriers to effective teaching at the school. Then, we put our heads down and started riding six feet ahead of our front wheel. Scholarships for men and women of the church so they could receive the training they needed, fund raising here and in Uganda for a roof; bicycles, uniforms, water, electricity and a copy machine for the school. Three years it has taken to get these in place. And, there, just ahead, a library for the school. Books collected, packaged and shipped. Due in Uganda any day now. One more small measure on a long road.
So, if your big picture seems too much to deal with, remember the cycler's mantra - "just six more feet." Patience, persistence, a positive attitude and a weather eye on the road ahead. Before you know it, you'll be home.
There will be more hard rides as I prepare for the Glacier Park tour; and the "ride" in Africa continues as well. I've still got my eye on that elusive spot in the Ugandan road (a road where our Wisconsin potholes aspire to go when they grow up, by the way). It's a spot that, once it comes, is replaced with another, it too just six feet away. What do I see ahead? Advanced training for a few of the church leaders and the need to finish up the library at Aturukuku Primary School. And, if I sneak a peek a little farther up the road, I see more opportunities to help the church become a strong, local congregation. And I see another school. Out in the country. A school with 700 students and 7 teachers. Overwhelming if you try to absorb it all at once. Not so much so if you take it slowly, as you do on long, hard rides - six feet at a time.