By Matt Hansen
Photo by Bob Ward
Plugged in. Connected. It’s the digital age and I’m surrounded by screens. Too many screens. The average kid watches television or his computer something like 50 hours a week. It’ll be a sad day when the shovel becomes obsolete because no one knows how to use one. If Facebook were a country, it’d have the third highest population in the world, behind only China and India. That’s a lot of photos of drunk people floating around. Currently on television, the two most popular
shows are called The X Factor and The Voice, talent shows that stand as monuments to superficiality, America’s most distinguishable trait. In asking—no, demanding—audience participation, these shows draw millions upon millions of viewers. It’s all built for ratings, which drives advertising, which drives our consumption habits, which drives us to the
store, which drives up gas prices, which drives holes into the ground and pollution into the air.
I’d rather just be on my bike. There’s a trail near my house that climbs 1,000 vertical feet through thick woods of ancient oaks. It starts mellow
then goes up over several steep rocky sections, big boulders covered with orange lichen and green moss. It’s a grunt, and the blood rushing through my ears helps clean out all the bullshit in my brain. I always see a bunch of turkeys, maybe some deer, rattlesnakes and vultures.
A few months ago, I had a stare-down with a bobcat, which surprised me as I came hauling ass around a blind corner at dusk. He was just bigger than a house cat, with huge paws, grayish fur, black dots on his torso and a few black stripes on his head. He crouched on a branch a few feet off the ground and looked at me through yellow eyes. When he finally bounded off through the forest, he made no sound at all.
Sometimes I’ll stop just to stare at the rocks and trees. It helps me remember where I am, that I’m not always surrounded by the trappings of our mechanized world. When was the last time you looked really hard at something that doesn’t move? You might be surprised by how much you can see, and it might even change how you ride.
Sometimes I’ll take a trail unknown—one of those not on the map that just branches off into the darkness. Sometimes it’ll simply evaporate, leaving my tires running over the raw landscape, branches clanging around in my spokes and my wheels popping up and over clumps of roots, rock and dirt. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but you’re not supposed to watch so much TV, either.