There were plenty of reasons not to go for a ride. I checked into my cabin late in the afternoon, after spending 6 hours in the car. The Birmingham area radio stations were all in a nervous frenzy concerning reports of tornadoes in the area and severe weather expected to increase in intensity as the evening progessed.
I looked to the sky, nothing but blue skies and sunshine. There was a little chill to the air and the occasional errant swirl of wind blew the Oak leaves around at my feet. There wasn’t much daylight left. I didn’t really know the area. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.
The adolescent classic, A Separate Peace, laid on the table next to the worn porch swing, an invitation if ever there was one to relax, kick my feet up, and enjoy the waning Alabama sunshine.
Even as I convinced myself to not ride, I was putting on my cleats. Pouring my husky frame into the man-o-tard, checking the Mule pack for: tube, patchkit, minimag, extra layer, fuel, cell phone, tools. I felt an uneasy, nervous, energy.
Click, click. Away and up the hill. I would just roll down to the trail head and scout around, not stray too far from the cabin, keep an eye on the weather.
You see, I’m a soloist. No ride politics. No route discussions. No fast. No slow. No help.
It wasn’t long before I answered the call of the trail and found myself digging harder for gears I intended to leave alone. The singletrack was winding ever upward. The allure of what might lay around the next corner had me in it’s grip. This is often the Siren’s Song of the adventurer. The seductive “what if” that leads us to spend nights huddled in the woods awaiting daylight, or the thrill of seeing a wild thing, a trickling brook, an ancient tree.
Grinding up the mountain, now on a doubletrack, heart pounding in my ears, sweat pouring, helmet clipped to my pack, I pedaled to the mantra, just one more bend, just one more bend, until I fell into a climbing trance. Nothing hurt, or everything hurt, leaving no basis for comparison.
A particularly urgent gust spun my helmet around onto my shoulder, like a polite reminder. “A-hem, you might want to consider putting me on and turning around now.” Just one more bend, just one more bend. I cross six or seven waterbreaks on the way up, enjoying the cool water running over my feet while the boys in my engine room shoveled coal in the furnace. It would be a wet, chilly ride down.
Keeping an eye on the time, I stopped after an hour of climbing, figuring it would only take 20 minutes to descend the same route. I sat on a stump. I looked around. I talked to my bike. It gave me a sideways glance when I did that. Thunder boomed somewhere beyond the hills.
Time to go.
The downhill was a screamer, with tires off the ground as often as not. The sky grew darker.
I settled in on the porch swing with a glass of wine and watched the storm blow all around me.