Oddly enough, I never even saw this flock of birds when I made the photograph. I was simply reacting to an overall sense of light when I momentarily stopped on the town square for a couple of quick grab shots. But there they are, framed up almost like I had intentionally composed things this way.
Serendipity, plain and simple.
I enjoy the “small town-ness” of the place I live, the roads – parts of which are cobbled, in fact – and the neighborhoods, comprised of diverse home styles and yards, front porches on which people actually sit and wave as I ride by. There’s a particularly organic and almost disorganized manner in which homes have sprouted up in the nearly two centuries this town has existed.
I’m always fascinated to come across sections of road that have some history, many of which were once the main road – the only road – connecting my community with our neighboring towns. Once upon a time, it was a big deal to travel fifteen miles between places; once there was a train that connected Kearney, to our north, with our little city of Liberty, and then further onward to Kansas City, with stops in other towns along the way. Those towns have mostly been subsumed and for the most part now exist only in the place names of streets, neighborhoods, strip malls, churches, and schools. So in a way, seeking out and traversing once busy paved thoroughfares is, in a sense, a form of homage.
I seldom tire of riding and exploring these roads. Some, like the section pictured above, have been relegated to the status of “outer road,” running parallel to much busier and more congested highways. Riding skinny tires is always dicey at best, these patches of forgotten pavement in markedly unimproved condition when compared to those highways. But they offer up glimpses of a world generally unseen when traveling 65 mph – farms and pastures, fences and gates. There are the places where drivers have stopped for a beer, perhaps a tryst. Where – inexplicably! – they dump bags of trash: over here a broken couch, over there a moldering issue of Playboy. Simple things, really – and a bit earthy.
I seldom ride in the evening, my preference for morning hopefully well known. But the weather was so perfect that my supposed “day of rest” from riding was easily postponed to another day. Last night as I bombed down this very hill, two skunks suddenly emerged from the side of the road. I’d just begun to roll across the top and was picking up downhill speed. Both animals stopped and looked at me, and I at them. With an eerie sense of calm, they turned away from me and then raised their tails! I either thought or actually said out loud, “DAMN!” With no chance of stopping short, I suddenly found myself pedaling at Tour de France speed for the next twenty seconds.
The next morning I ride essentially the same route as the evening before. Again, I decide to blow off the day of rest from riding. (If I’m going to burn out, I guess it’ll have to wait for another day; for today, I ride.)
There is terrific light this morning and I had to stop several times to make photographs once I left the hills behind and began to pedal through the river bottom farmlands. I came round a bend in the road; hidden behind the river bluffs was a world enshrouded in dense fog. Within a minute or two, the visibility had dropped to no more than a hundred feet. Five minutes further on, it was less than twenty feet. Incredibly eerie, it was near total silence – yet the rising sun could still be seen glimpsing through the veil every once in a while. There were a lot of cyclists out this morning too. Suddenly, and without any warning whatsoever, two or three figures would emerge from the fog, the crunch of tires and the whir of a freehub seeming terrifically loud. With a quick wave of the hand or a nod, we’d pass each other and then silence would fall over the world once again.