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When I reflect upon a summer that has now been blown away by the chilly winds of autumn, I look back and see the magnetism this peninsula holds.
Writing this blog has given me a greater perspective on how important it is to connect with the outdoors, and additionally, given me a greater appreciation of the plethora of opportunities our peninsula provides those who are willing to simply get out and do.
Of course, I write from a biased point of view, but I believe my bias is rooted in reality and developed from genuine experience.
Embracing silent sports played a major part of my summer as I juggled the wonderful chaos of raising a toddler, waiting tables at a summer job, training for a century ride, and preparing for another year of teaching high schoolers.
My belief is that the time I spent hiking in the woods, riding on empty back-roads in the middle of the county, and paddling along the exquisite shoreline affected me in countless positive ways – yes, there were physical benefits, but more so, the mental rewards are what stand out most. And, while I continue to reflect, I simultaneously look forward.
I yearn to return to Washington Island and consume the quiet pavement on my bike. The feeling of serenity seems to float into the psyche as one crosses Death’s Door. Arriving on the shore of the island feels like going back in time, and cycling the entirety of the island is not only the best way to experience it, but also an exercise in peace of mind.
A post-ride paddleboard session at schoolhouse beach is on par with any form of meditation as both the board and mind drift into the sublime.
Back on the mainland I loved the simple freedom of locating a dilapidated old barn on the horizon and picking up the pace to that artificial checkpoint and then casually glancing over my shoulder to watch it evaporate in the mist.
I loved looking at a map of my home and picking interior roads I’d never seen and cycling them with gorgeous rolling fields of corn as my only companion. The discovery of so much beauty so close to home is something I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t experience earlier. But, it’s also something I look forward to sharing with fellow cyclists in the future.
The early morning rides in Peninsula State Park stand out as I could still smell the last smoky remains of fires lit the night previous. As campers slept snug in their tents and campers, remembering the silence of a ride up and down Skyline Road brings a smile to my face.
I learned to love the ever-present wind. Somehow, I miss giving my maximum effort straight into its heart only to see I was barely hitting 15 mph. I miss how the wind peeled away any notion that I was a fit, efficient cyclist, and instead returned me to a rightfully humble place.
The most meaningful experiences were the most simple. Walks on Sunset Trail with the dog leash tethered around my waist while pushing my little chatterbox son in the stroller cannot be beat. Putting my son in the bike seat and riding to the beach, or to get ice cream, or most of the time, with no destination at all are all experiences that I wish I could live again. For when they occur we don’t appreciate the blissful uncomplicated joy we are living. My hope resides in the idea that these experiences sow the seeds for more explorations in the future. My hope also resides in the sun hanging around to provide warmth for a ride even though daylight is beginning to dwindle.
Time is precious, and most of the time we feel as if there is no possibility to make the time to disappear for a few hours on a trail. What I’ve realized now is that when the feeling of being too busy and having no time pervades, the practice of making time is most necessary.
My belief is there is no better place to take advantage of that time than Door County, Wisconsin.
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