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Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Gravel Excursion to Nowhere

"Summer is the time when on sheds one's
tensions with ones clothes, and the right kind of
day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  A few of 
those days and you can become drunk with the belief
that all is right with the world."
Ada Louise Huxtable
July, yet the prediction is for 60's in the morning, low humidity, and a high in the 80's.  It is hard to decide where to ride, but it sure as hell is not hard to decide to ride.  I pick the Surly and set out to find some new roads.  And once I get off the beaten path, I do.  If I happen to remember an intersection or come across a road I am familiar with, I make the decision to go the opposite way.  And of course, if there is a choice between paved and gravel, gravel wins.  I intend to try to do about 40 and to leave the door open for a century tomorrow, either the club century or a solo century depending upon my mood.  I become hopelessly, gloriously lost, however, on roads I have never ridden before, and my 40 miles turns into 60 miles.  

At one point, I cross 135 and an older woman (well I say that but she could have been my age) pulls up in her car and asks if I can help her.  Of course, having absolutely no idea what county or where in that county I might be, I doubt it, but she hands me her phone and she has a smart phone.  She is trying to find Starve Hollow.  I plug it in Google, hit go, and it begins to talk to her about heading west on 135.  The relief on her face is palatable, as it will be on mine once I get out of the back part of Wheeler Holler about a half hour later.  But right now, it feels delicious to be lost. I have asked the GPS to take me home, but for some reason it is persnickety today and does not tell me I am going the wrong way.  I am being perfectly truthful when I tell you that I actually begin to expect to hear "Dueling Banjos," a movie I saw long after it came out and have regretted seeing ever since, about the time I come to a fence and find the road does not go through.  I am really a bit spooked, too spooked to stop and take photos.  The only thing I keep wondering is why there are no packs of snarling pit bulls snapping at my heels.  Not one dog on that section of deserted gravel road.  Go figure.  Does anyone lives in these shacks?  Are they only used during hunting season now or for week-end camping?

I turn onto Ault Saw Mill road, also gravel, thinking that it will tell me where to go, but as I check, the turn becomes further rather than closer, so later I end up retracing my path.  The entire time I am laughing at myself, and I realize I am having fun. God bless July sunshine mixed with coolness and bicycles.  I come across a Butterfly plant covered with butterflies and I think how very beautiful they are.  Queen Anne's lace is scattered delicately throughout the hedgerows.  An abandoned farm house, mysterious and deserted, makes me wonder who lived their life there in that lonely valley.  Was the house once alive with the footsteps and laughter of a passel of children?  Did the dreamer who built the house ever fulfill his or her dreams before moving on to the next plane of existence?  Did the isolation bring them closer or pull them apart, his alcohol filled voice raised in anger and frustration at the weather that occasionally robbed them and left bellies empty and demanding?  
And I end up back on one of my favorite roads, though paved:  Eden/Delaney Park.  Home in time to spend the late afternoon and evening with my daughter.  Already dreaming of the ride tomorrow and already deciding to go to Orleans.  It's been awhile since I have climbed the Devil's Backbone.  Ah,

summertime, and as the George Gershwin song says, the living is easy, particularly on a bicycle.

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