A few days ago I came across a quote by Alan Watts that says: “The existence, the physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it’s best understood by analogy with music. Music differs from say, travel. When you travel, you’re trying to get somewhere. In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord; because that’s the end! Same with dancing. You don’t aim for a particular spot in the room to where you should arrive. The whole point of dancing is the dance. But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. First grade leads to second grade and so on, and then you get out of grade school, now you’re going to go to high school, and it’s revving up – the ‘thing’ is coming. Then you’ve got to go to college, and by Jove then you get into graduate school and when you’re through with graduate school you go out and join the World! And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make, and you’re gonna make that. And all the time that ‘thing’ is coming. It’s coming, it’s coming! That great ‘thing’, the success you’re working for. Then you wake up one day and you’re 40 years old and you think, my god I’ve arrived! I’m there! But you don’t feel very different. Look at the people who live to retire, and then when they’re 65 they don’t have any energy left. Because we simply cheated ourselves the whole way. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played”. Or to bike, I would say.
Traveling by bike is like music: an expanded present. It’s exactly one instant and the overall activity at the same time. The point is not to get to the end, but to bike through your experience – and enjoy it as much as you can. Flow, and slow down time while you keep the pace.
You have the time to both look around and enjoy, and to challenge yourself a bit. A big slice of slow exploration, 10 cups of complete presence, playfulness as you like, some spoons of spirit of adventure and a big bunch of awe: and the perfect mix is ready. The point will never be to accomplish anything other than that beautiful, engaging moment.
And if this is not enough, then the Capranica-Civitavecchia will provide the rest.
What’s commonly called as Capranica-Civitavecchia is an abandoned railway turned into a 50 Km long mountain bike lane in the midst of Lazio’s countryside. To describe it as bucolic is a euphemism.
The path is a seemingly-flat downhill that runs through beautiful fields, starting from Capranica Railway Station, all the way to Civitavecchia. Trains are well equipped to carry bikes and the ride to and from Rome lasts a bit longer than an hour. As for the biking, you can either decide to complete it all in one go, or to split it into two days and free camp at Ponte di Luni sul Mignone, on the banks of the Mignone River.
Amusement is guaranteed by the many tunnels that characterise the old railway, some of which can be flooded, therefore you’ll have to bike through some fairly deep paddles. Also, some traits are more engaging than a simple white road. In general, it will never bore you.
Together, we bike
We left Rome on Sunday morning, after a quick check at Centocicli’s. Bikes loaded with tents, food and a few bottles of fine red, we caught our train from Tuscolana Station to Capranica – Sutri. And from there the biking started.
It’s been a beautiful two-days experience, just plain fun. The most beautiful thing was to be a single flow of playful bikers. Neither Capranica nor Civitavecchia are beautiful destinations to visit, and the itinerary was not chosen because of its fame, nor for a matter of performance. We all just wanted to be there together, biking along a beautiful road.
When someone less expert would encounter some difficulties, we would pack together. Sometimes, we would literally shine a light and put on a smile, and then go for it all together, anyways.
To fall would not mean fail, but rather to inspire. Indeed, inspiration can have many forms and so called ‘failure’ most definitely is one of the greatest. Indeed, failure as we know it implies the biggest of inspirational acts: to dare, embrace, try. It implies always finding the will to experience anxiety and fear, even though you know they’re going to be there. It implies the will to fall and get up again, possibly in front of everyone. It implies not-yet-acknowledged determination (so charming!). To breathe. To look for yourself when everyone tells you there’s nothing to find. To ‘stay afraid and do it anyway’. It implies the choice to hold your darknesses’ hand and walk (or bike) a considerable amount of miles with them, possibly the hole path. It implies the creation of a thousand opportunities and reactions. It implies freedom. So really, why do we call it failure again? Why should we feel like it’s something bad, something to be ashamed of?
Sometimes, you would find that the best way to overcome an obstacle would be to just ride through it, trusting yourself, your bike and your trajectory, and keeping in mind that falling is just a beautiful game.
Together we biked, with no other pretence. Sometimes some photo addicts (…erm…) would slow down the group a bit too much, but the truth is that some landscapes are just too beautiful to not be captured.
Views don’t actually change much throughout the ride, but the sight of incredibly green vegetation, spotted here and there by the burst of colour of a blossomed tree would make them the perfect fuel to recharge, recreate and eventually feel that sense of extreme belonging.
Each and every push of pedal was the destination itself. Each and every laugh would make every glance of landscape so different and breathtaking. Each and every fall would make it flow.
So I guess that, at least for those two days, we all managed to not cheat ourselves the whole way. We all flowed, we all stuck together, we all shone a light. We all danced and sung while the music was playing.