My alarm clock broke last night. That is, as I was setting it for the time I wanted to get up this morning, the button that advances the minutes forward quit working at :23. I wanted to get up at 5:15; 5:23 would be too late, so I ended up setting the alarm for 4:23. I know that seems awfully early, but when the temp is going to be close to 100 by 11 a.m., it’s not.
Got up this morning at the appointed time. Sky already light enough to wander around without light. I had a great workout in the pool yesterday–hour and a half mixing up strokes and speeds and playing with my new swim toys, gadgets that help keep your forearms in the right position for the most efficient pulldown, etc. It was a great workout but then last night my shoulder was hurting again. So, instead of the reservoir this morning, I decided on the bike.
I like getting up and getting ready early. I love the quiet and the cool house with the fans going. I had all my clothes laid out so I was ready in no time. Got my water bottle, ate an energy bar and went to the garage to get my bike. The thing that really gets me set for a bike ride is getting the gear on. I don’t ride in all the fancy spandex or all that, but I do wear a helmet, of course, and last year I started wearing bike gloves. Something just happens to me when I put on those gloves. It’s like when an actor says they get into character by putting on the costume. When I tug on those fingerless gloves with the padded palms and tighten that helmet at the back of my head, I become a bicyclist. I love rolling the bike out of the garage, out the side gate, then heading off down the street. Last winter I spent so much time on the trainer, riding to nowhere, that the bike seat is actually comfortable.
The streets are quiet just after 5 a.m. even on a work day. Where I ride is a frontage road that runs along I-25 heading south. If you were to look at “Stem Beach Road” on Google Earth, you could see it. From our gate all the way to where the road ends at the exit on to the highway and back is 10 miles. It’s a great ride–mostly flat with a slight uphill grade on the way out which makes it easier on the way back. The disadvantage of a flat road is that you don’t get to coast much. The advantage is, it’s a great workout for your legs. Today, the sun was still very low by the time I got on the road. I passed one biker coming back who was even earlier than me. I headed south, loving the clarity of the morning light, the sounds of the birds and cows, and in the distance even a donkey braying. At that time of the morning, you ride through patches of varying temperatures. On the straightaways, I can feel the impending heat of the day as the sun goes higher. But then, I turn a slight curve, where the Russian olive trees are clumped and there must be some underground source of water, for in the dip down off the shoulder of the road, cattails are growing. In a few months, the fat seed heads will be burgeoning, ready to scatter like dandelions. The air is much cooler here, moist and fecund, ripe with summer. I pass one bare field covered in prairie dog mounds and see rabbits peeping out of burrows right by the side of the asphalt.
At the halfway point, the exit onto the highway, I stop to drink some water and look south to the Wet Mountains and the Spanish Peaks. After weeks of haze and smoke from fires in New Mexico and Arizona, the sky is blessedly clear and clean this morning. I realize I forgot my sunglasses and I’ll be headed back into the glare. I don’t care. At this time of day, I relish the sun on my face. A couple of cars come off the exit, headed for work. After they pass, I start back. On my right, east, is the Comanche power plant that provides electricity for the town, also a new wind farm that’s being built, its huge, solitary windmill slowly turning. But I’m under my own power, headed home on the slight downhill slope, peddling in the highest gear on my 21-speed bike. I love the wind in my face. I manage to stay in high gear till I’m almost back at the intersection that marks the end of Stem Beach and the beginning of my neighborhood. I slow down to stop at the light, then cross, riding slower to cool down. On my street, it’s still early enough that the dogs aren’t up yet.
When I get to the house, I see that G is out in the yard, very early for her, and Peaches with her. I dismount the bike outside the gate and walk it in, to the garage and take off my athletic armor. When I step into the kitchen, she’s already started the coffee. Nothing ever smelled so sweet.