I reach the bottom of my driveway, where the road changes from down to up and from straight to left. I lean back and pedal hard, hooking my fingers around the brake hoods like the knitted and stuffed curtain monkey with Velcro hands that holds back our heavy winter drapes to reveal the sun at this time of year. Down the road a little ways lies the line between seasons, it seems. A 6 foot band that is, in a way, the separator of newly growing grass and the layer of white that is still serving as a blanket for the ground; the tracks. The rule growing up was not to cross the train tracks, but I never minded that rule much. There always seemed to be more to investigate and explore on the other side, this set of tracks was no different, only I was.
The sound of the little stream beside the road takes my mind away and holds it like a mother holds a child; the gentle rushing of the water keeps me distracted after months of ice. The road rises against me and I am forced to stand and struggle against the few spots on my path that have been softened by the dappled morning sun, then only hearing my heart, I pause. Oh, to cherish and curse the same meter of turf. I wasn’t used to feeling the sensations, all of them. By sensations, I am referring to those you feel when you ride a bike outdoors on a crisp spring morning. It’s a lot to take in.
My body was bristling all over when, as I crested the first rise, I startled a raccoon from the middle of the road. He went racing off only to leap into the deep snow on the edge of the road. Better he than I, is what I was thinking, regaining my speed.
Getting on a bike for the first time in months and in such interesting circumstances was almost like I was getting to know myself again, testing my sensors with doses of balance, coordination and temperature limitations. When the snow melt meets my toes for the first time, I watch my pulse on the digital head unit as it quantifies my effort to reach a compromise between ambition and resources. I think about that monkey and swing from the vines.
I reach the top of the next hill. There is a marvelous sight ahead of me now, the first bit of clean pavement I’ve seen today. It’s being used by a pick-up truck as a bypass to the highway at the moment, he is driving fast. I watch as it floats by in a delayed response to the irregular surface, caused by the freezing and thawing of the substrata; we call them frost heaves.
As my path heads due south, fully against the angle of the earth and the air that follows the road. That same air that once cooled me in the shade, fills my sails while resisting me at the same time. I try to form the perfect circles I have studied and thought about for the past five months, but my toes point down and my right heel rises against the force by swinging outboard. I feel awkward, I try adjusting my clothing like it’s going to help. Climbing this hill with no warm-up, my legs feeling like the first taste of cold soup on an empty stomach. I reach the peak and my heart rate drops pretty quick once the work is over. Twenty years ago, if you knew me you would laugh today for so many reasons, I digress or remissness or something.
I have to apply the brakes to keep my face from getting too cold, it hurts terribly by the time I had gone a mile. The wind continues to fight me, which is a bit unfair since gravity has sought fit to take a rest and go the other way. I have to stop to warm my fingers. It’s a steep decent, 10-15% and a couple of miles down with another 125M of altitude to be bought back before I hit the highway. I come home the same way at the end of the day. Cheers.
Once on the highway, I slip into something comfortable, perhaps a 50/13 and take in a bit of the view. The road is really never level, though it is plenty wide which gives the world a curved appearance when you tilt your head a little the way I do to match the angle of the crosswind, and think about making the best of it in small ways. It goes on for a while, all the way to Chester, but the wind doesn’t surrender before I do and head back down to Pleasant Valley road. Down into the valley I go, with the wind providing what feels like gravity. I notice I rarely stop pedaling. I laugh to myself because of the hours I have spent over the winter riding a stationary bike for no other reason than to be able to enjoy a day like today, and my legs feel like a couple of kids jumping out of a station wagon after an all-day road trip.
I have the sun in my face and peel off my winter gloves. The road rolls over heirloom farmlands, that have carved and shaped the attendees to the same degree to which they have worked the land. Warm sweet air delivered from the louvers above a low wooden shack fill my lungs as pedal over a lump in the road. It wiggles between the old but proud buildings. Ready with a wave and an experienced opinion, I cruise by the ancient farmer. He is tending to the boiling sap, which he does for several days nearly around the clock during sugar season, equally as hard as any other season. We are both so glad to be on to the next.
I was supposed to do intervals today and this road is perfect. I had done a much greater quantity on the computerized device. The objective wasn’t a frame of mind, but a technical objective. Today it was just for myself, to feel something again like it was the first time. It reminded me of last spring and a time for another chance.
I return home the same way, but I reduce my effort a couple of miles before the final climb. Part of me wished for a delay of the test date because the test date indicates the end of the study period, and the beginning of the reality period. Part of me wanted a result. I completed each of the three short, but steep climbs gathering my will and easing my burden on the 10% grades in between. The easiest gear is the only one I can turn, but at my slow pace I have time to notice that the sun had peeled back the final layer of ice that had been keeping the winter veil before my eyes and I ready myself for the next season, the spring season.