Mind Games for Miles

What do you do when you’re riding your bike hour after hour after hour? How do you keep your mind from going numb or mad? I have a few tricks. Singing of course is one of them. There’s a saying that you should dance like no one is watching. Well, I sing like no one is listening, because they aren’t.

What would you sing? I suppose it depends on the day and the conditions. One Sunday riding alone out in the middle of North Dakota or Montana, I started singing Sunday Morning Comin’ Down. It kept my mind off the tedium. And when I couldn’t remember the words, making up new ones gave me something semi-creative to focus my brain cells on.

Of course you can do this for any day of the week – I Don’t Like Mondays (Boomtown Rates), Tuesday Afternoon (Moody Blues), She’s Leaving Home (Beatles), Friday on My Mind, (Easybeats), It’s Saturday Night (Proclaimers). Thursday’s a bit of a problem though. One problem with this mind game is that you can give yourself an earworm that will last for days. (I’ve had a Beatles Real Love ear worm for a few days. The recording is speeded up and they sound like the Chipmunks. Thanks a lot, Jeff Lynne.)

Another mind game that I use, especially near home, is the Leave It To Beaver license plate game. As I recall, the Beave got in trouble one evening when he didn’t come home for dinner. He was counting out- of-state license plates out on the highway near town.

If the Beave had lived near DC he’d never have been late for dinner. Today, for example, on a 31-mile ride, I spotted 31 state license plates: NH, VT, CT, MA, NY, NJ, PA, DE, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, LA, TX, MO, KY, WV, OH, IN, IL, IA, MI, WI, NM, AZ, CO, WA, CA, and AK. For what it’s worth, Alaska and Hawaii plates are more common around here than Wyoming and Arkansas. Go figure,

The abundance of license plates hereabouts is probably related to three things: tourists, Congress, and the military. Ride near the National Mall in DC and you’re sure to bag a half dozen distant plates. I live about 15 miles from Capitol Hill so I suspect the large number of distant plates around my neighborhood is related to Congresspeople and their staff. (Every so often you walk into a store and see a Congress person. I once bought a TV with a former House majority leader. My friend Klarence once bought booze with a Supreme Court justice.) I can easily find Alaska and Montana within a short ride from home. Ride in neighborhoods with apartments near the Pentagon and you’ll find plenty.

When Fort Belvoir, about six miles south of home, was open to civilians, I’d go riding there. They had some exotic plates. The Panama Canal Zone, American Samoa, and Guam.

I don’t count DC because it’s not a state (it’s a gimme anyway). Nor do I count Canadian provinces but I’ve bagged Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba this year.

The license plate game is a special case of the list game. Top ten rides ever. (I’ve written a blog post or two about this one.) Names of people who have ridden the 50-States Ride with me. (I really should write one about this. I think Michael B. and Kevin W. have the done the most states with me.) Best people to ride with. (I’ll never tell.) Worst people to ride with. (Ditto.) People (good and bad) I’ve encountered on my tours. (2019 included a coffee fiend, road raging Kansans, and French people back to back.)

I’ve tried meditating while riding but it seems redundant. (Nothing says Sa Om quite like a day riding across the prairie.) Praying can come in handy especially on epic climbs and fierce descents. (Going down Hoosier Pass I was praying not to die – that is if you consider “Holy F” bombs prayers.)

Most of the time I’m riding I let my mind go. There’s a video online where a teacher holds a glass of water out and asks his class “How heavy is the glass?” The students guess various weights. The punch line is the glass gets heavier the longer you hold it. It’s a metaphor for life’s worries. Don’t hold onto the glass or it’ll weigh you down and make you miserable. Set it down. My bike rides are my way of putting down the glass.

2 thoughts on “Mind Games for Miles

  1. Songs sung while riding…I definitely have more than a few posts on that. Nothing like the sun breaking through the clouds to bring out “Here Comes the Sun”. And “Sober in Nebraska” is a given (“I hate to wake up sober in Nebraska/Them miles and miles of empty plains shake my sense of time” – and that was written by someone driving). The terrain brings up lots of them. A handy one for hard climbs – or long slogs in headwind – is “The Wheel” by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter – “Every time that wheel turns ’round/Bound to cover just a little more ground”. I’ve reworked the alphabet game for things seen that start with a given letter, not signs; and a conceptual version of things seen (like “A” is for “asshole”, but that one’s usually too easy)…oh, and Thursday comes up in Lady Madonna – “Thursday night your stockings needed mending – see how they run.”

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