Saturday, December 6, 2008

thanks, bike

I love my bike again.
and to explain why, I have to take you with me on a journey.
if only I could make this audible, I would say close your eyes, and listen to my voice, and imagine if you will everything that I'm describing, and see it in your own mind's eye . . .

it is a beautiful day, sunlight pouring over the entire valley, not a cloud to be seen anywhere. the air is clear and crisp, the temperature slowly creeping up toward the mid-forties. frost is melting from lawns and rooftops, and birds are sharing their enthusiasm for the day with calls and song. the sky is achingly blue, and you are grateful for every layer of clothing you have on because the sunshine is brilliantly deceptive on this first saturday of december.
water bottles full and in their cages, a snack in your jersey's back pocket, you pedal away from your warm home and head to the northeast, toward emigration canyon which you haven't visited in days. the wind blows gently but chillingly from the north, and when you turn up the canyon you are thrilled with the calm air and the sun that warms up your fingers.
your legs feel strong as you pedal up the gradually rising road, and the rotating movement is familiar and comforting, your cadence perfectly in rhythm with the mood of the day: flowing, appreciative, content. it's a stress free day, a day to accept what is, and to wallow in the luxury of not having to be anywhere but where you are.
passing cyclists wave or don't wave, and you don't care one way or the other, casually flipping your hand in acknowledgment of their passing.
winding through the canyon you move through sections of shadow when the sun is deep behind the hills to the south, when the shivers move through your arms and legs and you question your decision to wear fingerless gloves. but as you move back into the sunlight, your legs pump and your heart pumps as well and you are soon warm, your core radiating heat that reaches almost to the tips of your fingers and toes. sweat begins to trickle down the hollow of your back. at times the wind is nonexistent and it feels almost balmy, and you unzip your jacket to let the cool air reach your chest and stomach.
snow has dusted and clung to the hillside and the shadowy sections of road, and you occasionally see narrow tire tracks across the snow covering the bike lane. brave souls, you think to yourself as you skirt the white coating and ride out in the road itself.
from the little mountain summit you see miles and miles of late fall scenery: dry and barren trees that look like thin gray soldiers actively protecting the slopes, thirteen shades of golden brown carpeting the hillside, snow-brushed mountain peaks in the distance, and the shimmering surface of the reservoir where the southern banks are decorated with a ribbon of snow.
you ride down to the water and on, to the still-open gate that heralds the entrance to east canyon, and on toward big mountain, for that is the goal you've set for yourself today. it is a first: you've never ridden up big mountain in december, and you are eager for both the experience and the accomplishment.
a cyclist coming down the mountain passes you, and after waving to him you open your eyes wide in astonishment because he is wearing only shorts on his legs, and you can't imagine that he could be anything other than absolutely freezing. you give a quick shudder and are again grateful for your full tights, wool socks, thick jersey, jacket and headband.
there is snow at the edge of the road now, perhaps a couple inches, and this fuels you. occasional clumps of slushy snow sit by the white line where you ride and you are tempted to run them over, giving in to the temptation a time or two and relishing the wet squishing sound you create. the snow doesn't slip over the edge into the road until a few miles up, near the first switchback. the road curves and the bending walls of the hills protect this section from sunshine, and you're forced to ride in one of the strips where car tires have worn the snow and ice away. inside you are thrilled by this, knowing how rarely you are given such an opportunity.
as the road opens up again the snow and ice have dispersed and you can focus again on the scenery, the pines and rock formations and above it all, the sky, which has deepened another shade as you've climbed higher into it.
soon another portion of road is covered with melting ice and snow, ridges of frozen slush delineating tire-width tracks on the asphalt. you are challenged to determine the best of the four narrow lines in which to ride, and as the two uphill-climbing tracks are icy, you move to the downhill tracks and hope that you will be able to see an oncoming car before it reaches you. a slushy ridge proves too big a stumbling block and you slip, un-clipping in time to stop a fall, but you can't recover enough momentum while trying to stay in the 10-inch wide track to pedal and clip back in. you half pedal-half walk your bike through the remaining treacherous yards, then regain your seat and continue up the last kilometer or so.
your heart races with the climb and with the thrill of the experience, and during the last 500 meters you again find yourself tempted to ride through the edge of the snow that creeps over the white line, the slushy melting edge of it. so you do. you smile inwardly, and this spreads itself out to your face because you feel like a little kid. a happy little kid.
and when you reach the summit, you are victorious is so very many ways on this incredibly sunny, beautiful day. you sit for a brief time on the bench that faces the south west, looking out upon the deep valley you've just climbed and ridge after ridge of mountain lines in the distance.
there is a family having a snowball fight, their giggles and shouts filling up the well deep within your soul.
you are at peace, and you have deepened, once again, your gratitude for your bike, without which you would never have had this exact experience.

thanks, bike.

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