Tilting at Windmills: The Dalles Mtn 60

There is something ridiculous and absurd about what we do as bicycle riders.  While many of us use our bikes for transportation or utility - riding to a job or school or the store - most of us just like to go out for rides.  Sometimes it's an out-and-back route but we prefer to ride loops, to curve around in a big circle before returning smelly and tired to our destination.  We might be out on the bike for two, six, ten hours or more, but we don't get anywhere.  Why do we do this?  Why do we expose ourselves to the elements and push our bodies and machines to the limit, even though we're not getting anywhere?  The pioneers who settled the western United States had a goal and destination that gave their journey meaning and got them across the rivers and over the mountains.  When a wagon wheel broke or an ox died, they had no choice but to press on.  For some, they were headed for the promised land.  For most of us out on a ride, we're just headed for the pain cave.  While riding just such a pointless loop this weekend on the Dalles Mountain 60, I rambled along a dirt road among the windmills on the rolling plains above the Columbia River and was reminded of Quixote, everyone's favorite absurdist hero, tilting at windmills, caught up in a dream.  Perhaps that is part of why we dress up in foolish costumes, spend our hard-earned money on bikes and gear, take hours and days away from our regular, sensible lives to spend them inflicting pain on ourselves in the saddle.  We're caught up in the same dream.  We've tricked ourselves into believing that there is glory in our self-imposed suffering.  We don't have to climb the hills and mountains that we force ourselves over.  We're not headed for a Grand Tour mountaintop victory.  No reward waits at the top, no compensation for the effort required, only the dream of greatness.  There is little of substance that we stand to gain, and much to be lost, but something romantic inside drives us to do these things, compels us to leave our comfortable homes and seek out the challenges - real or imagined - that we find on the road or trail.   Most of us only glimpse the dreamlike glory of Quixote in flashes - often when we're at our worst - but those flashes keep us coming back for more.  So we keep seeking those moments out, believing that there is meaning and nobility in suffering, preparing our bodies and machines so that they're ready to rise to the challenge when the time comes to push ourselves further than we've ever gone, deeper into the cave to search for the light of the dream, somewhere down the road.


  1. "dulcius ex asperis" - Ferguson family moto


  2. Beautifully said my son! I embrace my suffering cave!