02 June 2008

"Attitude Determines Altitude"

I rode an inexplicably grueling 25 miles to Womelsdorf and back on Thursday. My rear brakes were rubbing, so that couldn't have helped. Regardless, my head just wasn't in the game.

However, the ride reminded me to mention here about the sandwich-board messages at the mental hospital. At the base of the Texter Mountain is located the Wernersville State Hospital: a well-known mental hospital in eastern PA. The best cycle route up to the mountain roads is directly through the hospital grounds via Sportsman Road.

The grounds remind me of the hospital in Cuckoo's Nest. Old brown brick buildings with old-timey doors and tall windows. Basketball courts -- three of them. I can imagine McMurphy showing The Chief how to shoot hoops. Fenced areas, capped with bits of rusty razor wire. Sometimes the patients are walking around the buildings in their pajamas and scrubs. They usually wave to me as I ride by. I always wave back.

Last Summer, I noticed a V-shaped sandwich-board along Sportsman Road -- propped up in the grass and adorned with an inspirational message spelled out in stick-on letters. I can't remember any of the messages from last year, but we were treated to a new one every month or so. At some point, though, the sandwich-board disappeared for the Winter, but I'm proud to report that it's back.

I always used to wonder whether the messages were designed for the patients or for the riders who frequently ride through on their way to big hills. Come to think of it, I imagine it's difficult to tell the difference between guys who wear skin-tight Lykra and hump their way up steep hills on bicycles... and actual mental patients. So it stands to reason that perhaps the messages are designed for both.

To wit: the newest message reads, "Attitude determines altitude." When I read that while on my way to several climbs, I thought to myself, That has to be for the riders. After all, I'm a firm believer that cycling is 90 percent about the brain. The body can adapt to pain. It's the 'attitude' that forces us to keep going when our legs and lungs are screaming for us to stop.

So to whomever is posting the signs... Keep going. They're not lost on passers-by, be they riders or patients.

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