Throughout December, Evergreen is featuring essays, personal anecdotes, and portraits of Washington workers who have used mountain biking and access to trails as a tool for coping with the stresses of 2020.
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Read on for Daton's story and to learn why trails are important to him:
Photos by Ian Terry
My personal experience this year has been a roller coaster, but fortunately, bikes and biking have kept me grounded. When the COVID lockdowns happened, I was terrified thinking about how I was going to be able to pay rent, food, and my college tuition if things didn’t open back up in a timely manner allowing me to go back to work. I was lucky in a sense to have a job at a bike shop which was deemed essential because we service bikes, which are essential means of transportation for many people. Going back to work had its own stressors though, COVID was still very new then and people were very unsure of just how contagious it was and what its full effects were.
As more information came out and my shop’s protocols became more defined, I became more comfortable and thankful to be back at work and being able to work on the things I love, bikes. I quickly started to notice a massive uptick in mountain bikes coming in and out of the shop and before I knew it the mountain bike industry was booming like I had never seen before. My shop was filled with bikes being built for people who just wanted to be able to get out and ride and to participate in a fun activity that easily allowed for social distancing. The stoke of people receiving their bike really started to brighten my days and got me excited knowing that people were using the sport I love so much to bring them a sense of normalcy.
On my days off, it was my turn to enjoy the trails and these were the days I looked forward to the most. These were the days where I got to let all of my stress go and connect myself with nature. Once I took to the trails, I could feel myself temporarily clearing my mind of thoughts of the losses people were experiencing, systematic racism, and my own worries for the safety of my friends and family. Being able to continue pushing my body and my riding felt great and having an activity that for the most part was unchanged by what was going on gave me a feeling of comfort, while finding the flow state gave me what I needed to keep my sanity.
Ripping down a trail and thinking of nothing but the current moment is a feeling that I only get from biking and it has been one of only a few things that I think I can directly attribute my happiness to. It’s been a strange year for a recent college graduate, essential worker, and BIPOC community member such as myself, but if it wasn’t for bikes and the trails we have around here, I certainly wouldn’t wake up everyday with a smile on my face. I know that each day I go to work I get to hand people the tools they need to be able to go explore the wonderful trails we have and potentially take their minds off whatever stressors they may have. The best part is that I know on my days off I get to do the same and, if I’m lucky, I might even be able to see a customer’s smiling face in the distance out on the trails and that’s one of the most rewarding feelings for me.