Emporia, Kansas is eight hours away, as the crow drives. Let's say you wanted to go there in order to see whether you could, in one sitting, drink twenty-four beers. When your friends and family found out what you were going to do, here are a few things they might say:
1. That's a good way to make yourself hate beer.
2. Can't you do that at home? Colorado beer is far better than Kansas beer anyway.
3. Wouldn't you rather drink one fantastic beer than twenty beers you won't even taste?
4. It's important to do things that are difficult. It's difficult to do things that are important. Does it follow that drinking twenty-four beers in a day in Kansas is actually important?
5. That sounds like the worst thing ever.
6. The hangover won't be worth the achievement.
You may know that the Dirty Kanza is a 200-mile gravel race that happens annually in the flint hills of Kansas. You may also know that you don't pronounce Kanza with a "short a," as in "Kansas." If you do so, people will step forward to correct you. Even if you are alone on an Emporia street corner in the middle of the night and you whisper, "Kân-za," someone in lycra and an aero helmet will materialize beside you to wag a finger and say, "Ah, ah, ah, it's Kahhhhn-za." Therefore, you might want to pronounce Kanza with a schwa--like Captain Kirk:
Or, if you enjoy irritating people, call it the Dirty Iowaza.
When you tell folks you've signed up for Kanza, they'd say many of the same seven things. I myself have said many of them in the past. Now that I'm older and wiser and deeply, exquisitely tired, my opinions have changed.
That's a good way to make yourself hate beer.
No it isn't.
Can't you do that at home? Colorado beer is far better than Kansas beer anyway.
Sure, I could ride 200 miles at home, but I won't. I'd get tired and stop at a Mexican restaurant after fifty miles and then call somebody to pick me up. Months of pageantry, anxiety, and logistical hurdles and then an eight-hour drive gives one an incentive to finish.
Kanza is an individual event, but it's steeped in community. Riding 200 miles with 1000 people is not an experience you can choose to have at any given time. It's an experience worth having, and if you want to have it you have to participate. You can't do that from home. It's good to travel beyond what you know and see things you haven't before. Like this:
Also, while Colorado singletrack is indeed superb, there is much to be said for sampling the delicacies of other locales. I'm not going to move east any time soon, but I do secretly enjoy riding gravel roads. Don't tell anybody.
Wouldn't you rather drink one fantastic beer than twenty beers you won't even taste?
But see, though, I've savored fantastic beer. I've not had a case of fantastic beer all at once. What's that like? I don't know. Do I want to know? I don't know that, either. Only one way to find out.
It's important to do things that are difficult. It's difficult to do things that are important. Does it follow that drinking twenty-four beers in a day in Kansas is actually important?
Yes and no.
We're not feeding the hungry here, nor are we negotiating a peace treaty. We're spending a self-indulgent weekend riding bikes. So in that way it's not important at all.
On the other hand, it is important. Every now and then, it's important for me to ask a lot of myself. Sometimes, things in life are difficult, and there's a voice in my head that urges me to quit difficult things--even mildly difficult things, like cleaning the garage. I need to shut that voice down now and then, or it will immobilize me and I will succumb to the void.
It's important to let the dirt in. It's important to be outside all day. To distance myself from screens, from distractions, from paperwork, and from the mundane. Riding a bike all day makes for aches and pains, but it never stops being pleasant. Well, unless you forget to check your bottle before you stick it in you mouth--that's unpleasant.
A long, beautiful day turned into a beautiful evening. Right after this sunset, I saw fireflies for the first time in my life. As I age, the world surprises me less and less often. It's a real joy when it does. To know that it still can.
The hangover won't be worth it.
Yup, I felt bad for a day or two. I dropped a few things on the ground and I did not pick them up. It was totally worth it.
Thanks to everyone who helped me make it to either the start line or the finish line or both. Bobby and his team from District Bicycles provided amazing support--I couldn't have finished without them. Tobie and I trained together by eating cheese and drinking alcoholic beverages. Adam from Slo-Hi Bike and Coffee, along with his friend Scott and dad Andy tolerated me all the way to KS and all the way home. Chad told me what to expect (and he was right--especially about my improper gear ratio). Phillip helped keep the bike shop afloat with my ever-tolerant staff, Scott and Brian. As always, thanks to Rebecca for putting up with shenanigans.
Now that I'm home and won't be able to sit on a bike for awhile, I have a curious eye on that case of beer over there...