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.

11 comments:

  1. Wow, they do have computers in Alaska. Nice photos. You don't use Dynamics NAV by any chance to you? My Blog Post

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  2. Dr. Chocolate Donut5:31 AM

    Speaking of your bike projects and stuff like that, you should pick up this month's Road Bike Action and fill out the survey to win a LOOK 555. If anyone deserves a new bike, it's you.

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  3. Nice to be out in the woods at night like that....

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  4. I really enjoy your writing. It's soothing and so introspective, clear and precisly conveys the emotion- it's like we're right there with you. Thank you.

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  5. I bet that was a jaguarundi!

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  6. It doesn't get much better than that.
    But it will.

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  7. Nature, the trees, the snow-covered trail – this is where being alone is familiar to you. This is where it is safe for your heart to be without Geoff. Perhaps instinct led you to veer off the path simply because your gut knew you could find refuge in a darkened trail. You can battle off loneliness by avoiding the house you shared, where memories fill the void. But sadly, as you found while you sat with a soaked foot in the middle of the woods, sometimes there are things you can’t escape…especially if they lie deep inside you. This isn’t a bad thing either, but to find happiness this summer, whether it be through a disciplined training regiment or spending time with friends, you may need to confront the loneliness, recognize it, accept it and finally make peace with it. Then, without it being able to sneak up on you, you can go out and continue to discover your beautiful state and yourself without the mysterious shadow crossing your path...and your mind.

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  8. "... and let it soak in." Nice!

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  9. Anonymous2:33 PM

    The best times with your sweetheart, I always think, are the ones in which you can do something together, instead of planning and executing plans for things you don't do together. Anyone can do that! It is hard to be left behind, or left out. It always seems far more satisfying to be pulling the harness together, you know? I feel for you carrying on alone and trying to handle Geoff's absence. Call me old fashioned.... Carrying on alone may have its merits, but really, life is just too short to make it one of life's habit. jgp

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  10. Anonymous9:32 PM

    The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,
    And long ago somebody left with the cup,
    But she's driving and striving and hugging the turns,
    And thinking of someone for whom She still burns.

    She's going the distance.
    She's going for speed.
    She's all alone, all alone in her time of need.

    Because she's racing and pacing and plotting the course,
    She's fighting and biting and riding on her horse.
    She's going the distance.

    Yeah!

    No trophy, no flowers, no flash bulbs, no wine.
    She's haunted by something she cannot define.
    Bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse,
    Assail her, impale her with monster truck force.
    In her mind she's still driving, still making the grade.
    She's hoping time that her memories will fade,
    Cause she's racing and pacing and plotting the course,
    She's fighting and biting and riding on her horse.

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  11. Isn't it curious how everyone gets all touchy feely/full of empathy and poetic when they think a friend is in a lonely place? Nice.
    Emotions of sadness come and go and as long as you can enjoy your own company, then strength without complete dependance can be a very self empowering force. You know how it is, so make the most of your time! You are still sharing your life with other people. Though now as much as ever, u could find you're in need of feedback from "us" as the feedback from him is what is lacking and missed most.
    Does that sound arrogant? :(

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