Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Firm Ground

The ground is frozen solid. The sun was just strong enough to thaw a few patches of trail today, but in the cool evening air it has refrozen.
This summer felt like one long ride. I can tell you about every weekend. Some felt legendary, others simply adequate.
Like all long rides, they are singularly memorable, and yet blended into a conglomerate experience.
Tires hook into a trail that rides like sandstone. Corners I've leaned into countless times feel fresh and new tonight.
Every summer seems to get better. Get stronger. Ride. Farther.
I know this lighting. Just after the sun goes down, for maybe 5 minutes, everything is brighter. The disappeared sun shoots rays above, reflecting them back down even brighter than before.
Alpenglow Tordrillos, a shimmering Cook Inlet.
What made this summer what it was?
The people I rode with. The many more days I rode alone.
Dry trails and long sunny days. Wet ones that forced recovery.
It's dark enough now under the spruce canopies that the earth is invisible.
Scattered leaves like stars. The bumps of roots and rocks I really can't see. They still tell me what I need to do.
I want to go back. Snap my helmet onto the bars, zip my jersey all the way down, settle into an endless climb through a hot summer afternoon.
I want those techy little sections. Those steep rollers, root wads, and rock gardens; short and sweet, cleaning them makes the ride.
Finally, I want the win; not a race, or a competition, just the day. Knowing that I tapped it, and my body, to their maximum potential, and that I won't soon forget it.
I lean back hard on the bike bringing it into a full wheelie.
Slam ­-- the bike compresses on the steep embankment, gnarled in roots.  
The tires find purchase and legs deliver power.
A few more pedal strokes later and I rattle off the final feet of single track for the evening.
Only a sliver of light remains on the horizon through a leafless birch forest. As the bike builds speed, pulled down by the long smooth hill, the cold air bites. I'm thankful I dressed warm.
Somewhere I know that this is the last non-winter ride in Alaska this season. I try not to think about it.
I maxed this one out.
Time to look forward.

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