Monday, August 22, 2005

Riding Season is Here! (December 4, 2004)

Riding season is finally here!

Woke up this morning to heavy frost on the grass, temperature in the upper twenties. Skipped breakfast—not even a cup of coffee—just a quick look in the mirror to make sure I’m still here. Suited up, polypro and cycling shorts underneath, then layer upon layer until the sweat starts seeping. Almost full tank of gas, but empty wallet demands a swing past the ATM.
Finally roll onto the superslab just before nine o’clock. Traffic is light, but the frost is still present. The air is cold and for the most part bearable except for the little bit of sweat that is chilling me. Within the first few mile it dries off and I start to warm up a bit. The traffic allows me a steady pace just a bit faster than the cars, moving through them like a fish swimming upstream; I feel solitude amongst the cars. They are inanimate objects, just another feature of the landscape.
I put twenty miles behind me, roll off the exit. It’s good to be off the slab, onto two lane roads. Fewer and fewer country roads every day, more and more faceless townhome communities with names that mock the landscape they despoil. Cedars and pasture fall to driveways and shopping centers. Best to enjoy it while I can. I pass one of the last outposts of the old county, a country store selling beer, bait and anything else you might need in a pinch as well as weighing and checking your game. But it’s too soon to stop for anything, though I want to give them my business and help them resist the onslaught a little while longer. I make it a point to stop there whenever I can, tread the well-worn front steps—but not this morning. As much as I could use a hot cup of coffee, I haven’t hit the rhythm yet, haven’t worked out the kinks, haven't figured out the fine details of the ride. I’m still in the warmup segment.
Back onto the highway again. This time it’s Route 50, the great American transcontinental highway from Ocean City to San Diego. But I’m only interested in a much smaller segment today; San Diego will have to wait. It’s a beautiful morning to pull onto this road. Built on a more humane scale than the superhighway I just left, yet still a good road for speed and setting up a rhythm. I drop a gear and pass the pickup truck I’ve been bottled up behind, then find a good pace and settle in for the ride. Note the incongruous field of emus, grazing in the cold December morning.
This section of Route 50 becomes two lanes, very straight in the X-axis with flanking farm fields and pastures, but undulating, a series of gentle ups-and-downs that encourage a steady throttle hand but also conceal some wicked surprises. Best not to let things get out of hand. I back down a bit, and roll through the little villages strung like beads from out of time.
At this point I have been encapsulated in my little insulated cocoon for about an hour. I am aware of the cold, a constant background sensation, though not particularly unpleasant. I roll a gentle right onto a modest two lane pike, a relic of colonial times, and settle in. This is what I came for.

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