The sun was shining when I headed out early this morning, but drifted away quickly. Still, the hour is early and I’ve found a nice, even cadence; I really feel like “The Early Morning Cyclist” for the first time this year. Despite the thunderstorms that will overtake us this evening and over the next few days, I am relieved: Donning a pair of ugly shorts and a loose fitting wool jersey, my world is a carefree existence for a few blissful hours.
It’s a Sunday morning, and my favorite time to ride while most of the rest of the world is in bed: Clueless to the wonders around me, they won’t be stirring for hours yet.
And that is fine by me.
As I steadily pedal toward the city limit I must cross a highway. Cars are few and I canter across, unabated, without missing a stroke, my cadence unchecked. There’s a small railroad bridge I must cross before accessing an outer road. There is all manner of detritus and clods – mounds, really! – of dirt cluttering the bike path, so I choose my line carefully and avoid as much as possible. I glance over the railing and into the distance, west down the train tracks. Far away still, I can hear – but not yet see – a train chugging along. If it’s like most I encounter in this spot, it will be very long, taking many minutes to lumber past, vibrating the bridge on which I now stand.
Across the bridge, the bike path runs adjacent to the road for perhaps a mile or so before it comes to the city limit and, thusly, comes to an end along with city services an sewer lines, I suppose. In any event, I prefer to ride the road, rolling up and down with the hills rather than taking the dedicated bike trail, paved as it is, and flat as a pancake. This road, to the city limit, is generally downhill and at the bottom is a four way stop. Passing through, one must by necessity begin from a standstill and begin an immediate climb up a steep hill for a few hundred yards. This is the starting point of a series of steepish rollers that generally move one downward in elevation, eventually winding up at the Missouri River. I won’t on this morning go all the way to the river, but will turn to the east eventually, and travel along the “old” highway. The “old” highway is a section of the original roadway, rough and still in use by the local farmers and a few cyclists. A newer segment of pavement bypasses the old ramshackle railroad depot, a few farmhouses, and a small private airstrip housing vintage tri-planes. The new highway veers out of the river bottoms entirely for several miles and I suppose this avoids the discombobulating chance for road closures due to flooding. But the old highway, despite this, is a much more serene route – not “pretty,” by any standard definition, but certainly attractive in a “left alone and forgotten” sort of way.
A few hours later, other riders have begun to discover the day’s wonders and I pass three or four couples as I’m returning home. I’m pleased to note that none of them are decked out in race gear and Lycra; in fact they are all pedaling along at a reasonable pace, enjoying their outing. We wave at one another and exchange a pleasant “good morning!” – spoken, not shouted, and we smile.