There were several places last week while I was biking down Highway 101 on the Oregon coast where I would glance over the railing to my right and catch a fleeting sight of the surf pounding the jagged rocks directly below me. My heart jumped with each glimpse, which lasted no more than a second or two. The speed I was traveling (at least 25 mph) added to the intensity of the sensation, in addition to knowing that it was only a thin layer of lycra that separated me from a hundred feet or more of open air and some very hard ground. It’s as close as I will ever get to what it must feel like to fly.
|It was sunny and mild while|
we biked south of Humbug
Mountain (in distance) and
approached the Pistol River.
Coming as it did at this point in my life, this bike trip was the elixir of life. The older I get, the fewer the opportunities for transcendent physical thrills. The body simply doesn’t permit them. God’s spirit can move my soul while I sit embedded in a recliner in my study, hands folded and eyes closed, and for that I’m grateful. But his spirit also descends on me occasionally while perched on a bike seat of synthetic leather. This is what I believed happened three or four times during the bike tour when I caught glimpses of heaven in the timeless collision between land and sea .
Perhaps this was but a physiological response to the adrenaline in my bloodstream, but I suspect it was more than that. There are times and places where we intensely experience the life force within us, and it’s generally not something we can induce. God simply gives them to us as an act of his grace. The sensation of moving through the world under my own power in a place of extraordinary beauty gave me a sense of immortality. It doesn’t last. The feeling would be long past by the time my friend Dave Hayne and I reached our destinations each afternoon, and we went about the mundane tasks of showering and setting up camp. Even at that, we found ourselves buzzed by the exertion and excitement of the ride. It’s amazing how good a cheap bottle of wine can taste at such moments.
I’ve traveled thousands of miles by bicycle, but no route is comparable to the Oregon coast. I know people who don't like sharing a busy highway with RVs and log trucks, but that element adds to the experience for me in a strange way. It’s a reminder that we are people of culture in addition to being children of nature. The danger of a lethal encounter with a careless driver exists, but so does the risk of flying over the guard rail to those basaltic outcroppings I mentioned above. Life is full of risks, and of pleasures. I’m satisfied to live in a world where there are both in abundance.