In Bend, Oregon's early mornings, the calendar says one thing and the cold air temperature tells a different story. As we walked with Sarah Swallow through the Ponderosa Pines, the sun’s first light turned the frost on their needles into dew. She moved with purpose as the day began to thaw, past Junipers and Sagebrush that quietly line the Deschutes River Valley amidst the Blue Mountains, feeding off the beds of ash left long ago by an extinct volcano.
With the hood of her cycling winter jacket halfway up to protect her from a crisp bite of wind, the adventure cyclist and route maker spoke to us about the space she lives for: the one between departure and destination. Here’s some of what she finds when she’s out there.
Can you tell us about the state you get into when you ride?
When I ride, I strive to find my flow state where I am receptive, open, and focused on the moment. I’m ultra-present with myself and my needs, and by being proactive about meeting them. Sometimes the gravel ride gets rough, or I feel a little demoralized. In those situations, I know my mind is trying to sabotage my ride, so I get hyper-focused on my breathing, my pedal stroke, the sound of the gravel crunching beneath my tires, and the wind on my face.
I find that the simple act of being present in the moment tends to make me feel grateful for where I am and the adventure of gravel riding. I am choosing to do this after all. So, feeling gratitude tends to put things in perspective for me.