Thursday, July 31, 2008

Death Fear and High Gear

A hilarious torrent of thoughts rushes through your chattering mind when you think your mortal existence might come to a full stop in a white-hot instant.

There's been a lot of lightning around this summer. I rolled the dice on the ride home because I hadn't had a good enough ride in about four days. But when the bolts drop closer to you, you question whether the bet was worth it.

Nothing struck terribly close today. I've been in worse. But it only takes one hit to ruin your day. All you have to do is let yourself think about it. You get the same kind of energy your cat has when she bounces around the house, leaping away from everything that moves and most things that don't.

For the first five miles I seemed to be ahead. It wasn't even raining, despite the multicolored blob I'd seen on the weather radar before I left work. But a few drops became a mist. The mist became a sprinkle, the sprinkle a shower. Then, with a flash and a rumble, the sky abruptly darkened to an early dusk. The shower became a downpour. I had just reached the series of climbs in the mid section of Route 28.

I'd already pushed myself to the ragged edge of breathing and leg strength. I pushed the heavy bike up each grade and spun it down the other side, trying to maintain momentum. Tall trees beside the road reached up into the clouds, stretching toward the tendrils of voltage looking for a path to ground.

I shift gears at the highest point on the route. Lightning struck twice while I fumbled with the wheel. I hunched my shoulders uselessly as I closed the quick release lever for the final time and sprinted across the road. I flung my leg over the bike and stabbed my feet into the toeclips.

From there it's downhill all the way home, more or less. All I had to do was push that gear as hard as I could until I got there.

A blue Subaru drove by, horn honking maniacally. I guess it was meant to be supportive. Then a friend went by in her car and waved. I waved back. The rain still poured down, almost blinding me as it pelted my eyeballs and soaked my glasses. Through the speckled lenses I looked down at my computer. Speed was good. On the long downgrade I held 22-30 miles per hour. I hoped it was good enough to keep the storm from sighting in on me.

After four days of rest, I was ready for this sprint. Heading in Elm Street from Route 16, I shot past my wife, coming outbound in my station wagon to see how I was faring. How was I doing? Nearly airborne. I felt like a spectator, observing how I pounded furiously on the gear and drove the bike forward.

"You're never home free," I kept repeating. Push the gear. My wife passed again, slowly, but I didn't want to stop. The mutters of thunder had receded to the east. The rain had lightened.

When I got to the driveway, my wife got out of the car.

"You're an idiot," she said. She threw a towel over my head and unlocked the basement door. What a wonderful, dry towel.

I went into the basement and started wringing things out. Home again.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Aren't wives great? That's a classic line.