Ride Again

Bald Solomon |

Jeremiah pushed hard on the pedals, his mind riddled with doubt. The mountain trail ahead offered only sharp turns, steep climbs, and rocky descents that mirrored his chaotic life. College was supposed to provide answers and direction, but all he could see was more struggle.

The sun climbed in the sky, casting shadows across the trail. The morning light filtered through the dense canopy of trees, dappling the path with patches of golden warmth and shadowy coolness. Jeremiah’s legs began to burn as he powered up a steep incline, the loose gravel shifting beneath his tires.

As he crested a hill, he stopped to catch his breath. The Ozarks stretched out before him in a series of rolling hills and irregular peaks, the terrain both beautiful and intimidating. He wiped the sweat from his brow, his thoughts drifting back to his lost friend. They had often talked about their future, making grand plans that now were only distant dreams.

The next descent was brutal. Jeremiah gripped the handlebars, his knuckles white with tension. He navigated the rock garden with precision, each jolt and bump resonating through his body. The trail demanded his full attention, offering no room for distraction.

He hit a series of switchbacks, the sharp turns requiring quick reflexes and steady control. His bike skidded on the loose dirt. Jeremiah leaned into the turns, his body moving as one with his bike. He had learned to trust himself on the trail, even when everything else was unclear. The rush of adrenaline sharpened his senses, pushing his doubts aside.

The climb that followed was relentless. The path narrowed, hemmed in by thick underbrush and sharp rocks. Jeremiah’s legs screamed in protest, each pedal stroke a battle. His breath came in ragged gasps, the air thick with the scent of pine and earth. A hawk called in the distance, its cry echoing in the hills.

Jeremiah’s mind wandered as he climbed, the physical exertion blending with his inner turmoil. What was he doing out here, miles from anywhere, alone, struggling up a mountain? What was he hoping to find?  His future was a never-ending climb, full of rocks and turns. He missed his friend, missed their talks, missed their sense of shared direction. Without that anchor, he was lost, drifting through life without a map.

The trail leveled out, offering a rare opportunity to rest. Jeremiah rounded a bend and found an older man adjusting his bike by the side of the trail. The man was in his mid-sixties, with a weathered yet vibrant appearance. His bike was well-worn, but it was clear he was an experienced rider.

“Need any help?” Jeremiah asked, stopping his bike.

The man looked up and smiled. “Just fixing a loose chain. But thanks for asking. Name’s Jethro.”

“I’m Jeremiah,” extending his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Jethro said, shaking his hand. “Where you headed?”

“To the mountaintop,” Jeremiah said. “I want to get to the top.”

Jethro chuckled. “That’s a great view, but there’s another place up here that’s even better. How about a little detour?”

Curiosity piqued, Jeremiah agreed. They began biking together, Jethro leading the way. The older man navigated the mountain trails with ease, and as they rode, they chatted. Jeremiah found himself opening up about his struggles and uncertainties.

“I’m just drifting,” Jeremiah said. “I don’t know what I want to do with my life, and it’s affecting everything—my studies, my motivation, my friends.”

Jethro nodded. “I’ve been there. Life is rarely a straight path. Sometimes, the detours are where you find your true direction.”

Jethro picked up the pace. 

They rode in silence now, listening only to their tires crunching on the gravel and their own heavy breathing. Jethro raced ahead even harder. A tight turn. A steep climb. Another turn. Jeremiah lost sight of Jethro and was now riding alone.

Rounding a bend, Jeremiah realized his choice ahead. The well-marked trail to the mountaintop.  A narrow, less-traveled singletrack path into the woods. Or turn around and go back down the mountain. 

Jeremiah looked for Jethro. Jeremiah was alone.

. . .

Standing at the crossroads, Jeremiah made his decision. He pushed on his pedals and rode into the unknown. After only a few short minutes of hard riding the singletrack, he came to a clearing with an overgrown old cemetery nestled among the trees.  

“This is it,” Jethro said, smiling at Jeremiah. “A hidden gem. It’s peaceful here. I am glad you chose to look for it.”

Jeremiah leaned his bike against a tree. They walked among the rows of weathered headstones, the sunlight filtering through the canopy above. Jethro stopped by a magnificent oak tree, its roots surrounding a worn family gravestone.

“The Blunt Family.”

“This place captures history,” Jethro began. “People who lived full lives, faced hardships, celebrated joys, and left their mark on the world. Every headstone tells a story.”

“Henry Schoolcraft. Father and Explorer.”

“Liddy Tygart. Healer and Helper”

“Albert Pike. Soldier and Freemason.”

“Minnie Holloway.  Teacher of children.”

“Nancy McGarrah. Friend to all”

Jeremiah listened as Jethro shared stories from his own varied career. He had started as an engineer, switched to marketing, tried his hand at sales, and eventually found his calling as a teacher and mentor.

“I made plenty of mistakes,” Jethro said with a smile. “But each one taught me something valuable. The key is to stay curious and open to new opportunities. Your life isn’t a destination; it’s a journey filled with experiences that shape who you are.”

“How did you stay positive through all those changes?” Jeremiah asked.

Jethro pointed to the headstones around them. “Perspective. Remembering life is short and precious. Each phase of my career was a chapter in my book of life. Some chapters were harder to write, but they all are part of my story. And like any book, it’s the twists and turns that make it interesting.”

They sat under the oak tree for a while, discussing various paths Jeremiah could explore, from internships to volunteer work, and even taking a gap year to travel and gain new experiences. Jethro emphasized the importance of following his passions and being open to where they might lead.

The sun began to set, casting a golden glow over the cemetery.

‘Thank you, Jethro.  You do not know how much I needed this.” Jeremiah said, realizing this unexpected detour had given him much more than he had anticipated.

“Remember, Jeremiah,” Jethro said as they mounted their bikes and started back. “Your journey is yours. Embrace your path, learn from the climb.”

The two bikers parted ways, each taking their own route.

“Go find your next ride,” said Jethro.

. . .

With his future still cloudy, Jeremiah started down the mountain.

“Watch out!”

Jeremiah’s bike hit a rock garden, his tires sliding on loose rocks. He regained control, his body tense with effort, his mind refocused.

“Just a bump. Send it.”

Jeremiah reached the trailhead. He dismounted and stood at the edge of a rocky outcrop, looking out over the vast expanse of the Ozarks.

He inhaled, filling his lungs with the crisp mountain air. His tired legs reflected his achievement, today’s silent victory.  He now knew he needed a new challenge, his next ride.

“What’s next?” Jeremiah said out loud into the wilderness.

Jeremiah reached into his pack and pulled out his phone.

“Hello…. Jeremiah?” a voice answered.

 “Yes. It’s been a while. Let’s ride.”

Jeremiah stood tall and pushed his bike forward.

Make it be so.

Proverbs 16:9 – “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

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