The Tears of St. Lawrence

Last week our weather was typical of the “dog days” of summer; temps in the mid to upper 90’s (even breaking 100° once or twice, depending on who you believe) with late-afternoon/evening thunderstorms popping up. Consequently my preferred evening ride time kept getting rained out. I kept telling myself I’d put on the headlight and go once it dried out and cooled off, but even that proved problematic. Wednesday night, for instance, it was still 90° at midnight. 90°! At midnight! And soupy-humid too, as an added bonus.

Anyway, Thursday night/Friday morning I was not going to be denied and headed out for a ride about 4am. The temperature was a very pleasant 70 and the humidity was ultra-high (which I really don’t mind at night, as long as it’s cool).

Riding out into the countryside I stopped and switched off my light to appreciate the relative lack of light pollution and the attendant dark skies. There was just the barest sliver of a moon so the stars were in full effect. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness and more and more stars became visible I saw a faint, shimmering shooting star. A few minutes later there was another; apparently the beginnings of this year’s Perseids (which I had forgotten about).

After soaking in the beauty of the night for a bit longer I saddled up, switched my light back on, and rode back into town, rejuvenated. Ain’t life grand?

Meditation on Wheels

It’s been crazy hot here in Ohio (relatively speaking). Last weekend was the first time since August of 2003(!) that the temperature has hit 90°(F). This past week it was hot and humid every day, which of course didn’t didn’t keep me off the bike. Wednesday night (Thursday morning, whatever… it’s all a matter of perspective) around 3am I decided to put the light on the Pista and hit the road. It was about 70°, just a bit of wind, clear, a perfect night for a ride.

Whenever I get out and ride at night like this I always wonder “why don’t I do this more often?” It is so peaceful and so easy to get into a very meditative space, especially riding the fixed-gear, with that special sense of connectedness and the oh-so quiet drivetrain.

Within the first few minutes my mind is completely cleared. There is nothing but me, the bike, the road, and the night. Narrow country roads lined with glittering fields of fireflies, groups of deer looking back curiously at me as I whiz past, other mysterious glowing eyes peering back at me from the darkness. The only sounds aside from the sounds of the night are the wind in my ears, the hum of my tires on the pavement, and the whir of the chain, with my breath and heartbeat laying down the rhythm. My only thought; (aside from awe and wonder) a simple mantra I picked up years ago from an article by photographer Dewitt Jones (I forget to whom he credited it); “Take it all in… Give it all back” in time with my breathing (“It” isn’t just the air, it’s everything).

At one point, I’m so overcome by the beauty of the night that I have to stop and soak it in for a while. Stopped on a dark country road, above me a blanket of twinkling stars, all around me fields full of fireflies… all is right in my world.

When I can’t stand the majesty any longer I ride back into town, slowing to say hello to the big fat raccoon lingering (for no apparent reason) in the middle of the street next to the park by my house. It’s now after 4AM, I bring the bike in, shower, and put the headlight’s battery on the charger. With my batteries now fully recharged, I climb into bed and drop into a contented blissful sleep.