The mornings are cool, the air heavy with dew, and the sun too low to burn it off. It strafes your arms as you roll along, puts the chill in you, hairs raised, a shiver running through your shoulders. Churning legs stoke the fire to slow flame. The heat edges outward from your core. The muscles in your neck relax. Eventually your forearms surrender their death grip.
Something about this temperature range does magical things to the pavement. It is neither summer soft and smeary, nor winter hard and cruel. We have been at this a while, the summer months filled with mileage, and flat speed comes easily. A garbage truck rumbles two streets over. In the early quiet, the sound seems to shake the ground. Otherwise, we can talk in normal voices and hear each other, the motorists home in their beds.
Quietly, bananas get eaten, bars in wrappers, rolling breakfast to overcome the early start. Someone asks when coffee can be stopped for. Everyone is willing, but nobody stops, just a provocation to ride faster.
The line is not exactly pace worthy, but those who need shelter take it. The engines on the front are happy to stretch their legs, their egos. This part is transactional. We are all good with it. We know who we are. And aren’t.
Somewhere out past 40 miles, everyone falls into the same rhythm, covering miles, wondering when the wide arc of the ride will bend back toward home. Even close to form’s vanishing point, the simple fact of returning will carry us beyond what we might have thought were our limits. One more town to cross. One more hill to climb, bottles dwindling, and all of us quiet, poker-faced with our suffering. We smile as we climb off, shake hands, bump fists.
It’s been hard, moments when we felt invincible, moments when we didn’t think we could hang on. Time has passed herkum-jerkum with the rise and return of our beating hearts. Are we happier now that we are done than we were when we first set out in the cool, quiet of the morning, with all of this still in front of us?
It’s hard to say. This is just how it goes.