The Prune: Biking hills, both ways, is a metaphor for life

THE PRUNE AND a friend marvel at the rewards life brings when one is willing to navigate steep hills, both ways. submitted photo

by Todd Sharp

My friend Susan and I met on this road 5 years ago. Each year since, we have taken an adventurous week-long bike ride.

The ride is called the GRABAAWR — GReat Annual Bicycling Adventure Along the Wisconsin River. I think it should be called RAW BUTT —  Ride Along the Wisconsin-Been an Ultimate Tush Test.

Along the ride, we pass through Aldo Leopold’s sand country, where I was reminded of a quote of his: “There are two things that interest me: people’s relationship to the land and people’s relationship to each other.”

I contemplated this thought as Susan and I traversed the State north to south.

There’s a healthy heartbeat rhythm to riding a bike over the gentle hills between Eagle River, St. Germain, Sayner, Boulder Junction and Rhinelander.

Rumba bum bum.

Up one side, down the other, generating enough speed to glide half way up the other.

A few quick bump bump bums, then over the top of the next hill, easily pedaling back downhill, getting ready to shoot back up the next with the momentum gained.

The heart-beating rhythm of rolling terrain coupled with manmade gravel, tar and asphalt roads.

The rhythm of life.

Flying through the diaphanous light of the summer leaves leaves nothing but a joyful contemplation of the perfection of humans with nature.

Balanced — in tune with the glorious freedom physical movement creates in our minds.

Susan and I joked and laughed, and took time for serious contemplation: biking is symbolic of life — we move forward and create a positive path for the future; whether it’s the next uphill to conquer or descent into a calm valley.

After the comfortable rolling hills of the northwoods we rode through the relatively flat lands of the Sand Country.

We thought this terrain would be easy, but nice and flat is a fallacy.

The predictable nature of the flats left little break or fluctuation in pedaling, absolutely no coasting.

Although the expense of energy and amps to get up the hills were absent, the reward and restful easy glide down the other side of a hill was, too!

I got tired, sore and bored. The never-ending need to blow against the wind, never letting up for fear and disappointment in losing momentum was much more difficult than steep hills.

After the flats and humongous thunderstorms of Mauston (nice town by the way) we started riding toward the hills of Baraboo, The “Rockies of Wisconsin.”

Riding on roads with names of “Skyline Drive” and “Ski Hill Lane,” hearing the screaming brakes while descending an 18 percent-grade hill, Susan and I reflected, wondering if, in life, we would prefer the shocks and thrills of vacillating hills and valleys to the smooth, prudent path.

We realized, too, we’re only occasionally given a choice.

The roads along Wisconsin River south of Baraboo are left untouched by glaciers.

Undulating, similar to the northwoods, only the rises steeper and the descent longer and faster. The southern driftless area has low traffic, great coffee, organic farms and beauty around every corner, hill and valley.

It was hard to eat enough to fuel the final few days of the ride. My legs were tired, my butt was sore. Yet, I was finding strength to keep climbing the hills and grit to pedal downhill when coasting would have been easier.

Susan is unstoppable.

She was feeling sick and, uncharacteristically, ­ got off her bike to walk up a hill, and yet, after a rest, powered past me toward the overnight rest stop like a locomotive.

There was nothing I could do but push on, taking even this drudgery as an opportunity to vanquish the foe of my own self doubt.

By the end of the week, despite what the landscape was like, we found our tempo faster, our riding times increasing and the miles flying by.

We got better at hills, valleys and daunting flatlands as we dug deeper into each other’s thoughts about how to beat them all, and what we enjoyed about each part, encouraging each other when we found things we didn’t enjoy.

By the last day of our RAW BUTT ride, we didn’t want it to end. We found ourselves well balanced in relationship to land and the wellspring of friendship.

Thanks Susan.  See you next year.

Editor’s note: When not gliding down hills and swearing as he climbs, Todd Sharp is an advertising sales prune for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.