Date: September 21
September mileage: 268.6
Last long day.
And a window of daylight opens between rain and more rain ... not sun, not dry, but at least the pavement is visible.
We start riding where the city ends and head out the road to nowhere. With a dead end as a destination, there's really nothing to look forward to but simple miles of forest, peppered yellow and steeping in salt-encrusted salmon stink.
Beyond the streams the air smells sweeter than spring, as it often does when leaves start to die and sag on their branches. As most life does when it has better things to do than survive.
Nothing to lose.
We discover these new places ... a totem pole, a Catholic shrine, all sacred in their own ways, in their own place, hidden in the woods where their only chance for worship is knowledge.
The road is cut off without fanfare by a single sign with a single word ... END ... but there's a boat ramp and it's already obvious that everyone else out here has gone further. We're stopped by geography and the limitations of our equipment, and that's OK. Until I make the disheartening discovery that here, 28 miles from anywhere ... except encompassing swarms of gnats ... my rear tire has grown a tumor, an ominous deformity that has very few miles to live.
I grit my teeth because I know it's my fault. I never take good care of my things. I ride and ride and ride my bicycle, grinding the rubber into thousands of miles of road. I knew these tires were near the end of their life, but I never let it get to me until ... I'm stranded.
Only, I'm not. Not until it's really gone. Not until the final, fatal pop. I have faith. I have no choice. So we turn around. We turn our backs on the END sign to face uninterrupted miles of pale yellow and paler green.
They go smooth and they go fast. I doesn't take much time or thought before I'm home. Free. Saved.
Lesson learned? I reflect on it. Somewhere, above this curtain of clouds, the sun is beginning to sink beneath the sky. It's time again to move forward.
Into the first long night.