Thursday, May 01, 2008

Night detour

Date: April 30
Mileage: 44.5
April mileage: 789.6
Temperature: 41

Twilight hadn't yet faded to black when I left work this evening. Long day, and I neglected to make dinner again. My heart was still racing from a carb-bender meal of generic multigrain crackers and Kudos bars. I pulled my headlamp over my helmet and cinched up my big backpack full of office gear, and unlocked my mountain bike from a staircase railing. I had promised myself I would fix my road bike and thus do nothing to convert the mountain bike to a commuter. But as I looked around to illuminate all of my surroundings, I began to realize how much more comforting it was not to have my only source of light fixed on the road.

Condensed breath swirled in my headlamp like fog. Above I could still see outlines of clouds. No stars or moon, but no rain either. My work week was over; my mind was deep fried and badly in need of an oil change. My stomach gurgled and the idea of a protein snack and a late night of zoning out sounded appealing, but for some strange reason, I was in no rush to get home. Without even thinking much about it, I banked left off the bike path and veered onto the Salmon Creek Trail.

My headlamp illuminated wet gravel, but the trail pitches so steep so quickly that for a little while all I could see were swirling red dots. By the time the trail leveled out enough to let me steady my handlebars and catch my breath, it was covered in snow. The night chill had laid a nice crust, and I was able to ride on top without much effort. I continued that way until the foot path narrowed and I could no longer hold my line. When I stopped, the silence was complete.

Craggy silhouettes of spruce trees blocked out the sky and I looked over my shoulder, south. For the first time in all of my busy day, I wondered what Geoff was doing at that moment. I imagined he was somewhere in northern California, curled up in a tent. The same tent we packed in the trunk when we drove the length and width of the Lower 48 in my car. The same tent I hauled across the country on the back of my touring bike. I sold that bike a long time ago, and used the money to buy a bike rack for my car. Now my car just sits, going nowhere. Sometimes it seems like nothing remains.

As I rode back toward town, I thought I saw a shadow dart across the trail. A deer or more likely nothing, it startled me enough to slam on the brakes and jump off the bike. I probed the woods with my headlamp but saw nothing. I could hear Salmon Creek now, gurgling downhill, but I could not see it, either. As I walked toward the woods for a better view of the phantom shadow, my foot broke through the crust and my shoe filled with cold water. I yelped and fell backward. The water moved on effortlessly beneath the snow, the only sound to fill a lonely night. I sat for a minute, and let it soak in.