The blinds made their metallic flutter in a breeze that hadn’t breached the window’s sill since some time last September. Dust whorled in the bright sun. The dog raised his head and looked askance before settling back into his mid-afternoon siesta. Were it only, as they say, a dog’s life.
The weather in New England is finally begging us to ride our bikes. Oh, it had allowed us to ride previously. It had granted permission, but it is now fully knees-to-ground begging.
So we rode our bikes. Not the tepid, slow roll of the early season where you’re just gathering at the meet-up to bolster one another’s resolve, but the lung bursting, leg hollowing runs of which mid-summer form is made. I had not ridden as hard as I did last night since before winter’s first snow flakes fluttered to the ground last year.
I could feel the tension rising as we threaded our way out of the city, a prison break that might actually succeed. Once we’d scented that freedom, we lost our heads a little. The Wednesday night ride is the one with tacit, albeit silent, agreement that we will try to break each other. It’s a full gas ride. It is not a race. We always come back together before the end and roll into town as a group, but the middle is a frantic, tongue-lolling scramble over pavement and packed gravel, really the only opportunity I take to ride this way.
At the halfway point, I had swallowed enough dust that the hunger pang bouncing around my hollow gut over the opening 20 miles finally settled. What is the caloric value of New England farmland dust? Or does it just convert readily to adrenaline when mixed with the sight of your buddy going over the rise in front of you, in the drops.
That my lungs burned would be easily enough attributed to the same swirling grit, but I imagine they would have been burning similarly had I been wearing a surgical mask, such was my desperation to take in more air. I was flying along, my good speed only occasionally sapped by loose patches of sand. It felt awful/fantastic.
I had the distinct sense that I was burning off a winter’s worth of lethargy, that I was airing my lungs in much the same way my wife throws open the living room window to let the couch breathe, the dog smelling, child-battered couch, transformed by a bit of sunlight and oxygen.
This ride was more than the first hard ride in the spring shine though. It was a celebration and a protest, an airing of grievances against nature and against ourselves for having let it all go so long without riding this route in this way. Winter has been over for some weeks now, but we needed to get it off of our chests.
Image: Matt O’Keefe