Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Night Ride

I wrote this about a year and a half ago after a particularly cathartic bike ride. I wanted to put what I was feeling into words so that other people could, at least vicariously, ride with me. I have edited it many times and I have yet to get it to where I am satisfied; but I hope that after reading this you will be inspired to get outside and experience life outside of four walls.

Knowing it would soon be dark the man squints at the sun sinking below the grey wall of mountains. With an audible click he snaps his shoes into the pedals and sets off with last few gasps of daylight giving just enough light to see. Easily spinning up the pavement into a feeble headwind, he begins to unwind after a stressful day at work. As he passes a house near the road he notices some children playing outside in the unseasonably warm weather, crushing last fall’s leaves under their feet. Only his flashing red tail lamp, bright in the increasing dark, betrays his presence to the rosy-cheeked youngsters. With the artificially fresh odor of dryer sheets in his nose he silently pedals on. Reaching the intersection he turns off the smooth pavement and crosses a one-lane bridge where the road turns into pot-holed gravel. Finally leaving all the houses behind he clicks on his headlight and zips open his wool jersey in preparation for the climb he has done so many times before. Alone with his thoughts, all he can hear is the almost inaudible whir of chain meshing with sprockets, the crunch of tires on gravel, and the measured sound of his own breath. As the road climbs higher, the temperature drops. Pausing at the side of the road he pulls on his wind jacket then turns off the headlight to acclimate his eyes to the darkness. Slowly the stars reveal themselves and then multiply with every second. The moon is directly overhead, so bright it casts shadows on the dusty road. He is so focused on the blanket of brilliant stars he doesn’t notice the car approaching until it careens past trailing choking clouds of dust. The moment is ruined. Even though the taillights of the car are so far away they look like glowing eyes in the darkness, he can still smell the sickening sweet stench of convenience store cigars emanating from the open windows of the vehicle. Mercifully the taillights recede into the night and once again he is alone. Shivering, he realizes it is growing colder and that he should get moving; he switches his headlight back on and pedals into the darkness.  

            Finally reaching the top of the climb he clicks up several gears and speeds down the other side.  He gains speed, slowly at first, until the roar of wind in his ears becomes deafening. His vision narrows and soon all he can see is the spot of light in front of him. Past and future disappear leaving only darkness and the present as the icy wind whips at his exposed face. The euphoria borne of speed compels him to pedal even faster. Legs burning, lungs gasping, heart thumping, he is no longer thinking of where he has been or where he is going; all that exists for him now is the moment. No more worrying about his job or bills that need to be paid. All his worries and cares fall away and for a few glorious minutes it is as if they never were. Now easily breathing in the cool air, rich with the promise of spring, the man is brought back to reality. Spring means summer is not far behind; summer with its long, clear days of infinite possibilities. The next ten miles quickly pass as he silently pedals by house after house with the moon as his sole companion. Only the sound of the tires on the driveway shatters his reverie.  The exhilaration fades, but the memory of it does not. 

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