Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Crunchy goodness

Date: April 11
Mileage: 24
April mileage: 77
Temperature upon departure: 32
On the iPod: "The Plan" ~ Built to Spill

Boy was I grumpy when I set out on my bike ride today. It started out as a sunny day and deteriorated quickly. By the time I left work, it was blowing snow. On top of that, I forgot my ski goggles. I guided my bike through the white static while trying to look anywhere but forward. The present came to me in a cinematic flicker of involuntary blinking. I was annoyed, but I wanted to take others' good advice about getting back on the bike, because I've already had plenty of days off.

Amazingly, about seven miles into the ride, I began to loosen up. The knot of irritation released in bursts of energy. I embraced my blindness and accepted that I was moving by shapes and sounds. And I began to think that maybe I'm not tired of cycling. Maybe I'm just tired of winter.

On the way home, I rode beside an open field of smooth snow. I don't know why I pulled my bike over a six-foot snowbank to reach it. The snow conditions are changing so quickly that I could have encountered anything. I could have sunk up to my hips in ice shards or collapsed into a hollowed-out slush puddle. But what I found was hardpack so solid that I barely left footprints as I walked. That's when I knew I had arrived.

The rumbling crunch of studs hitting hardpack snow is a beautiful sound. I zigzagged through the field because I had nowhere to go and no place to be. I was as free as the bald eagles that I scared from their perches. They circled through a swirl of falling snow and landed a hundred yards ahead, and still I rode toward them ... a directionless pursuit. I dropped into a gully and began to follow a stream bed, pedaling hard enough to feel the cold wind burn in my lungs and the enduring thrill of weaving around bushes and trees ... create-your-own-singletrack. The snow was soft enough in spots that the occasional posthole had serious consequences (think brake check). But I was amazed how easily I could decide where I wanted to be and just float there. I was a rider without a trail, with no need for a trail. The world was my trail.

And I began to think that maybe I'm not tired of winter. Maybe I just have the wrong ideas about spring.