It was quiet this morning at 5 am. We’d had a rain storm last night and there were still clouds hanging, though when I got outside to get my bike, they seemed higer and kind of broken up, so I thought I’d probably see the sun rise as I rode. I’ve been riding my bike on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I chose these days because there’s less traffic. I ride on a frontage road that runs right by the highway, but also seems out in the country. Going out, the highway is on my left, and to my right, are open fields with cows, a few trees, some old crumbling buildings, and somewhere back there is a lake that used to be open but was closed years ago by the steel mill. In the distance as I go south are the Wet Mountains.
Today, after I crossed the main intersection and headed down the frontage road, no mountains were visible. The clouds to the west were very low. There were clouds eastward, too, but I could see a faint pink tinge–the warning of impending daylight. The air was moist and cool, but every so often, I would ride through a warmer patch–kind of like when you’re swimming in a lake and you hit a spot of water that’s either colder or warmer than where you were. To me, it’s like feeling the planet breathe. The aromas abounded…cut grass, asphalt, sweet flowers that I couldn’t see blooming but could sure smell, and the faint odor of cow.
I was about a mile into the ride and the sun came up, making the eastern clouds glow in shades of fiery magenta and vivid periwinkle. They weren’t really broken up enough to let the sun through but the colors were amazing. I rode past some Black Angus cows, grazing as close to the fence as I’ve seen them. Some of the young calves seemed alarmed at my passing–maybe they had never seen anyone on a bicycle before! The swallows swooped and dove all around me, and the king birds were mating again in the open sky. I stopped to stretch and have some water, and when I started again, a big hawk swooped in front of me, to perch in the top of a tree maybe 100 yards to my right in a field. I topped a small rise, one of my favorite parts of this ride, with all kinds of flora–cattails down in the moist part of the shoulder, trees growing closer to the road, vari-colored native grasses, and there, right in front of me, a little white-tailed deer trotted across the road, heading for the field. She hopped delicately over the barbed-wire fence and made her way to a stand of trees. By the time I got around the slight curve, she was gone. If there had been others, they were no where to be seen.
This particular road ends about 4 miles after you get onto it from the main road from my house. It turns left and becomes an entrance on to the highway, but now it’s closed for repairs on the bridge. This is nice, since it pretty much guarantees no traffic on the road at all. I got to the end, then turned around and stopped at what had been an old gas station to sit for a few minutes. I drank some more water and watched more swallows diving around me. They move so fast, you can hardly even tell what they are, except for their distinctive split tail.
As I headed back home, the fog began to roll in. Every now and then, we will get a little fog here. It’s almost as good as snow for muffling sounds. I couldn’t see very far down the road, but just off to my right (now east), I saw 2 young rabbits playing in the driveway of the 1 old farmhouse that is still occupied out there. They were chasing each other, playing “tag”. The other nice thing about this ride is that, while it’s basically flat, there is a SLIGHT uphill climb on the way out, so on the back, it’s more downhill, and it’s possible to coast a little. I looked for the deer, but they were not to be seen. Then, as I rode past where I had stopped before, out of the little dip in the left shoulder of the road, rose the hawk I had seen before, this time, carrying his capture–either a gopher or ground squirrel. His wing span was easily 4 feet. This was the first time I had ever been THAT close to a free bird of prey while it was “preying”. Astounding. With the fog close around, the traffic noise silenced, and the absence of the other birds in the presence of a predator, it was magic, a moment out of time itself.
It was a jolt to round a small curve and find myself back amongst hotels, gas stations and convenience stores. The neighborhood streets seemed small and close. I had ridden 10 miles on the road, but in terms of the spirit, I had taken a timeless journey.
What a gift.