You will get lost. No matter how good your map-reading skills there will come a time when you are pedaling merrily along without an unpleasant thought on your mind. You'll be having an exceptionally fine day of cycling and will be experiencing that mildly euphoric Zen-like plane of existence known only to a few very old Tibetan monks and to members of The Club. Everything will be as it should... except for a nagging little something that keeps trying to make its way into your consciousness. You'll keep pushing that negative vibe back down into the dim recesses of your brain but eventually you'll realize that the little voice that's been bugging you for an hour or three or ten has been trying to tell you that you've been riding in the wrong direction for the past six or twelve or fifty miles.
It happened to me and it will happen to you but when it does don't despair. Remember, The Universe has plans for you.
I got my first taste of the Wisdom of The Great Magnet early one summer morning near the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada.
It had been a fine long day; I'd covered over 90 miles and I was pleasantly tired as I rode through the gathering dusk. I kept glancing at the little compass I have pinned to my handlebar bag and though I knew I was supposed to be going east, my instrument showed that I was on a southerly course. I wasn't worried, though, I know that roads have a way of twisting and turning and sometimes it's necessary to go in the wrong direction for a while to get to where I want to be. I was having such a good ride that I couldn't be bothered by such trivial matters as the points of the compass. But after about six miles of not-caring-not-wanting I finally accepted the fact that I'd taken a wrong turn and would have to backtrack.
Darkness found me on a dangerous road miles from a proper campsite and I had no choice but to bivouac on a patch of grass next to a railroad siding. It was a miserable night with trains coming and going and I was packed and rolling past fields of corn well before sun up. As I pedaled through the predawn light I could make out a vague shape in the road about a hundred yards ahead. At first I thought it was a dog but as I got closer I realized that it was a red fox. He was standing statue-still, peering intently at something in the cornfield. Breakfast, perhaps.
A bicycle is nearly silent and the fox didn't notice me until I was a few scant feet away. He saw me out of the corner of his eye, turned and stared at me with an expression of sheer astonishment. Our eyes met, we connected on some atavistic level, and I could read his thoughts clearly. "Hey," he seemed to be saying, "no one sneaks up on me... I do all the sneaking around here!" With an indignant flick of his white-tipped tail he dashed into the cornfield and out of sight.
That brief glimpse into the natural and the wild and the strange was a moment I will never forget; one that would not have happened if I'd listened to the little voice instead of to The Universe. For the rest of that day and for many to follow the feeling stayed with me that, as the Good Doctor once said, there really was someone or at least something tending that light at the end of the tunnel.