When we hit the road this morning there was a chill in the air. On the shaded downhills at twenty miles an hour the jersey and shorts I wore seemed inadequate. But the sky was clear and I knew we were less than an hour away from summer-like heat and so I welcomed the brief, bracing cold.
As usual, the little roads we ride, at first through suburbs and then into undeveloped land that was farm country a generation ago, are almost empty at this hour. Houses here and there now but irregular plots of pasture remain and we see cattle – Angus and Herefords – standing and grazing in the early sun. I have been thinking lately about the whole idea of blooming where you are and appreciating the uniqueness of what is immediately around you. There is no wind this morning and I marvel at the effortlessness of propelling this bicycle along, mile after mile, at such a speed. What an amazing piece of technology – the materials, some of them space-age stuff, and the precision engineering – allow me to travel five times faster than I could on my own. We’ll do twenty-five miles this morning – our usual loop – in less than two hours and I’ll still have something left in the tank for the rest of the day – college football, blogging, you name it. The idea of walking 25 miles is not at all appealing.
This time of year – late September and early October – is the best time to ride around here and this morning is the very heart of it. The trees are still full and so we ride now and then through long tunnels of shade and the hills away are yet lush green. How many people – city dwellers, some of them – would drive hundreds of miles to have riding like this?
I think of my fishing trip to Colorado. I had spent hours of my youth reading magazine articles about the “gold medal” trout streams in the Rocky Mountains and when circumstances finally permitted I headed with great expectations for that distant land of promise, fishing God’s country – ten or eleven thousand feet above sea level. We fished the Blue River, the Powder River, the Frying Pan River, all the places I had read about. But our catch was minimal. I was frustrated and wondered what we were doing wrong. I remember stopping into a fly shop somewhere up there and reporting our troubles.
“Where are you guys from?” the clerk asked me.
I told him we were from West Virginia and he said “Oh, you’ll never catch fish like that out here. You guys get so much more rain. You’ve got streams all over the place. It takes thousands of square miles in this desert to support one little stream here. Our streams get too much pressure. They’re all overfished.”
We leave one rugged pavement and turn onto another county road, this one just paved, and we whir along beside and overtop of rushing creeks and then to the top of a hill where the vista expands all around and all is quiet. This big downhill before me now is one of the thrills of the trip and I lean low over my handlebars and let gravity pull me down at 35 miles an hour.
It feels so good.