"Our minds, as well as our bodies,
have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too,
need simple things, elemental things, the sun and
the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight,
sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails,
the perfumes of dawn and the smell of freshly
turned earth and the ancient music of wind
among the trees."
A return to hot weather is predicted and it is to get in the nineties today, but there are not the extreme heat warnings of last week. This week is it air quality. Warnings about the air quality were issued this morning. As Roseanna Danna used to say, "It's always something."
I have no idea of who to expect at today's ride with the heat prediction and the early start time. Both may keep people home for some are afraid of the heat and some don't roll out of bed early or easily. But I decided earlier this week when I put the ride on the schedule to have wheels roll at seven. People will come or people will not come but I will ride regardless. I know that the group I ride with is aging and changing. I try not to think of the days when most will no longer ride lost to health or inertia. On the century ride last week-end, Rick and I talked and listed those we used to ride with who no longer ride or don't ride distance. The list was sooo long. It made me rather sad. I don't want to be sad.
I awaken long before necessary and relish the quiet of the morning and the smell and taste of a cup of coffee, the way it warms my hands and my belly, the way it reminds me of my mother in the morning years and years ago before I was allowed to drink coffee. How lucky I am to have my little house, food, coffee, and a purring cat on my lap.
As I load the car, I shiver in the chill of morning. Unlike last week, the temperatures have dipped significantly during the night and there is a nip in the air. It is not the piercing, pricking bite of the cool air on a fall morning, but enough to make the hairs on my arms stand up and take notice. It is delicious.
When I get to the ride start, nobody is there yet, but shortly thereafter Mark R. and John L. roll in. John says he is thankful for the early start time and that he used to play golf early on hot days when he was still able to play golf. Mark later says he is not an early riser and laughs saying that his wife says he gets up early only to fish or ride his bike.
I giggle as all of us begin saying we are cold and hope there is a hill soon. It is ironic that we are cold on a day when it is to be exceptionally warm just a tad later in the day. And of course, there is a hill early on. I have gone down this hill before, but I don't remember ever going up it; however, despite its steepness it is short and it is easier than I anticipated it would be. Still you know you are climbing and it warms us up, or at least it warms me up. No more thoughts of being cold snake through my mind. And nobody else mentions being cold again either.
One thing that strikes me as being particularly beautiful this morning is how the mist is rising off of the ponds we pass. It is not a fog that obstructs our view and hides us from cars. It does not cover the road. But clouds roll off of the water like a shimmering cloak hanging in the air. Dew gleams in the sunlight from the surrounding fields and yards, winking at us. I briefly think about how comfortable I am on a bike and how I love to be outdoors. I suppose I will never understand the city riders and they will never understand me, so perhaps I should say I love to be outdoors in the country.
That is, I think, a blessing. To have a place other than home where one can explore and dream and still be comfortable. I treasure these rides. I send up a prayer of thankfulness for the beauty, for the ride, and for friends who came to share it with me. Yes, I would have ridden it alone and had a good time with different thoughts, but it is special having people to ride with as well, people who love the outdoors and their bicycles like I do.
Cut hay perfumes the air, so lovely despite triggering some allergies that I seem to have developed as I have aged. Possible rain tomorrow evening means it will be baled later today or early tomorrow. I think briefly about the difficulties of being a small farmer as most farmers in this area are, where farming is a second job to their normal day jobs. Working in the fields can mean missing a day of regular work. And this has been a difficult year for farmers with the early rain and cold that lasted much longer than it should have. But then, I suspect most years are hard for farmers. Do they, I wonder, love farming as I love bicycling? They must, I suppose, to keep planting each year.
We reach the store stop with no incidents and the course seems to have come together seamlessly. As we leave, I notice a couple of pennies on the ground and quickly pocket them but not without noticing that one is a wheat penny from 1942. How odd that it is lying here, a penny older than I am.
The only snafu are three dogs on a road I seldom ride. Both John and Mark carry dog spray but it does not seem to phase the dogs. I have warned them of the dogs at the top of Liberty Knob, but not of these because I did not know of them. I must, it appears, reroute this section of the ride despite the loveliness of the road. I think of how there really is no excuse for not corralling dogs with all the invisible fences and regular fences and training, but that is just how it is for bicycle riders. Just because someone can or should do something is no guarantee they will.
We climb Liberty Knob and the dogs there do appear, but they have aged and while they come out, they are not as scary as they have been in the past. I have talked to the owner and others have talked to the owner, but he seems to feel it is our problem and not his. His solution to me was for me to squirt them. Easier, I suppose, then taking responsibility.
Everyone enjoys the long descent down Pixley Knob. We compare descent speeds and Mark and I are about even hitting somewhere around 40 mph with braking. John calls himself a wimp and says he descended much more slowly though I don't remember waiting for him at the bottom;-)
Mark has been good this whole ride, holding back when I know he is able to go faster, not fidgeting too much at the store stop that he would normally not stop at, and not dropping us. But now he does take off. John and I ride along slowly, chatting and enjoying each others company. At times he seems to feel that I mind hanging back, but I really am NOT hanging back and I am enjoying the company. Being a widow, I do spend lots of time alone and I do love his stories. Both Mark and John are interesting people and we have had interesting conversations. I am happy that they came.
The ride ends with a number of rollers. When we reach the cars, it is no longer cool but it is not yet hot despite the brilliant sunshine and lack of clouds. And it is early. The majority of the day lays before me like a blank canvas. Still I know there are chores to fill that time and my evening stroll to take. I can do them and do them better having drank the sunshine, the company, and the scenery. Thank God for bicycles, nature, open roads, and friends.