Growing up, my home was never my home and I knew it, and once I left it I never searched for a home and never thought I needed or wanted one. I just enjoyed or not where I was without considering if I was home. That’s changed.
Though some have yet to find theirs, and some never will, all cyclists possessed of any love of any real measure for the sport have a home.
Mine is Emmaus. Hills and valleys rippling out in all directions. So many churches the spire of so many steep ascensions. Dirt and gravel and broken asphalt farm lanes that let us ride three across and that so many times take the course they do simply because hundreds of years ago some goat going somewhere went that way then returned and others followed the hoofprints and wore in a path that became a trail that became a thoroughfare. The horrific ecstasy of the Sunday Derby and the Thursday Night Crit. The joy of the Saturday Shop Ride. Mennonite pelotons, with men and boys in chunky boots and hard faces, and women and girls in long dresses billowing and blowing about them, and, trailing, the straps of their bonnets. The BMX groms, cooler than us not in the way they think but in the ways they cannot at their age know or even imagine. And me. Somewhere in there: me. After all the rides and commutes and meanders and races and sprints and climbs and descents and crashes and naps and breakdowns and friendships and rivalries and enmities, and after all the exploring and remembering and forgetting and rediscovering of roads, and while I was being happy and miserable and mostly in between with my life off the bike, and in those years I lost to riding because they were taken from me or I willingly gave them to parts of my family or my job or my own whims—after all that, I became part of all this, which I suppose just might be what makes Emmaus my home.
Nobody was out in the parking lot last night, so I rode over to the first crit of the year alone. I don’t think I did that once all last year, and I’d kind of missed it. I was in shorts, embro, armwarmers, one of my favorite combinations. I had a headwind mostly, and I pedaled soft against it. I stood up for the few little hills to stretch my legs. I wondered what race number I would get this year. I had been away recently, on a great trip, and had just gotten back from Europe the day before and could feel the flight in my legs. I get to travel as much as I want, and sometimes must travel more than that, and just about everywhere I go, I get to ride at least a little. In some of those places, many of them really, the riding by any objective standard could be said to be better than here in Emmaus; there are always grander and nicer houses than the one that happens to be your home, and luckier and more beautiful people living in them.
I pedaled soft against the headwind and I stood for a hill, and I was wearing shorts and embro and armwarmers, and I could feel a long flight in my legs and, in my heart, some good miles on cobbles and hellingen. I did the crit and I did okay and afterward in the parking lot a bunch of us were standing and sitting around like we always do, a few with cheap cold beers, and as we always do we lived again and again some of the moments of the race, telling each other how it had been. A few times, as the sun dropped, we asked each other how we were getting home. We’re here, I almost said once.
At the end of a day at work or after a bicycle ride or a trip away, we say, “I’m home.” I’m home: I am home. If we are blessed, we just might mean it—not that we are someplace, but that we are that place.
Originally published in The Selection, April 4, 2014