The Curse of Winter Slothfulness.

I went out to ride a route of hill after hill after hill after hill yesterday morning. The photograph is maliciously deceptive – they’re not especially long but they are devilishly steep in places. My legs are not yet hill-hardened after a winter of wanton slothfulness, and I found myself regularly dropping into the lowest of the low gear combinations.

I love the land. And I was in a “black-and-white kind of mood this morning.” In fact, I love being in that mood with a camera – or in my case these past several years, an iPhone. Every so often, the topography would level off and I’d stop for a photo op and a tank of oxygen.

Gazing out across a field, it all seems so benign. But I know this route well: It’s my HTFU route, the one I pedal through every spring. It’s the route that gives me a moment of respite before winding back toward the hills and the Missouri River bluffs again, the one that I regret taking. The one that I actually love.

It’s a lonely trek, but clearly someone has been here before me. There’s an empty bottle in the freshly turned soil – a window tossed remnant of a previous night’s revelry? All I know is that it mars my view, the one imperfection in an otherwise perfect scene.

Each stop for image making – and they are frequent and welcome – each stop gives me a chance to breathe in the loamy fragrance of tilled land, to be scolded by a chattering jay perched on a branch behind me. There’s not even a hint of highway noise. That paved monstrosity is many miles away and I enjoy that for the moment this particular country road and moment belongs just to me. A single pickup truck passed me earlier but otherwise mine is a solitary outing.

The rollers begin again, gently at first, but with little fanfare each subsequent wave increases in contrast, and before long I’m struggling in the granny gear. No stopping for photographs now: That would mean having to initiate a climb mid-hill and there’s no way I’m giving up the momentum of riding down the previous wave! I’m satisfied with those taken from the flatter crest of this route.

For now, it’s time to grit my teeth, enjoy the short climbs, and HTFU.

 

 

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The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good: The birds were singing and the thermometer hovered around 73 degrees this morning.

The Bad: Buuuut, the humidity was 93%.

The Ugly: Just outside Missouri City, my chain broke. I didn’t have an extra link in my bag. And it was an 11.7 mile hike back home. To add insult to injury, I had to change a flat about a mile or so earlier.

Merry Christmas!

As usual, I’m up before the sun crests the horizon. I love this time of day more than any other – the quiet, the solitude, the unexpectedly sharp click of nails as the dog slowly treads across the kitchen floor to greet me. Mist, thick and foggy, obscures much of the view from my back door on this slightly damp Christmas morning. The forecast calls for fog much of the day, but with temperatures projected to be in the upper 30’s and low 40’s I won’t miss the opportunity for a ride. The presents are all wrapped. Last minute house cleaning will be underway shortly, the kitchen will soon be filled with the scent of baking, and later replaced by the sound of chicken frying in black cast iron skillets. And later on there will be more activity when family arrives, grandsons will rip through gift wrap and fight over toys, glasses will be raised in holiday cheer, and friends – from near and very far away – will be toasted. From all of us to all of you, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a happy holiday, a festive Chaunakah – whatever or however you wish to call the season, enjoy it.

And me, I’m going to go ride my bike thirty or forty miles before the throngs arrive.

Short Journeys of Discovery

Every ride – whether close to home or abroad – is a journey of discovery if one’s eyes are open to the places and sounds and smells.

This morning I realized I had forgotten to purchase a couple of Christmas items. There are only two days until the holiday and rather than battle the crowds, I left the coziness of home and bed very early this morning. To my surprise, I emerged from the house to find remarkably warm temperatures. A short shopping trip and a rushed breakfast later, and I was out on the road to take full advantage of what was shaping up to be wonderful riding weather.

Almost immediately, I encountered this curious house: freshly painted and trimmed, it appears to nearly exactly match the green and cream of the owner’s vintage car. Coincidence? I wonder.

Rolling down the first long hill and into the town square I heard, then saw, the construction work taking place on a couple buildings. Emerging from under the more modern facade was a hand-painted sign, no doubt seeing the light of day for the first time in decades.

JRA outings have been infrequent this autumn as I nursed a belligerent knee back to health. Yesterday, in decidedly less friendly weather, I decided to test things by sprinting up several gravel roads as I left town and emerged on crumbling country roads. I am happy to report the prognosis is good! Contrary to this morning, my nose ran like a faucet and my fingers quickly grew stiff from the cold, damp wind.

Even with the wind, cold days are so lonely that every sound seems to be magnified.

But this December morning, the air is actually filled with bird song. That, and the smell of something rank. It turns out this lovely stopping point was not far from a landfill!

Before wandering onward, a train rumbled past, the racket briefly drowning out the birds and rustle of branches and dry leaves and dead stalks of corn.

The overcast morning very quickly turned to blue skies and sun. It wasn’t long before I found myself removing layers and in short sleeves. Like all my best rides, this one involved frequent stops to just look around, to see what has changed since the last time I traveled these roads, and to discover – or rediscover – the delightful sights and sounds, and occasionally even the less than delightful scents that make a place distinctly unique.

I don’t want to stop.