Tuesday, May 27, 2008

LSD meets jet propulsion

Feeling a little worn down by a six-day week and short nights, I resolved to ride Monday's commute at an easy pace.

I'd gotten up before 5:30 to get the instruments ready for the bi-weekly river testing I do. After testing I shoved down some eggs and toast before beating into a headwind all the way to town. This was after a short night's sleep due to a writing deadline and having one of the cats throw up on me at about 3 a.m.

At the shop I found out the management had decided to shut early. That just meant I would have more than an hour to myself while I caught up on the most urgent repairs.

There was nothing to bring for lunch. I was going to figure something out when lunch time came. That turned out to be three out-of-date energy bars and a handful of saltine crackers. I've been wanting to lose a little of the flab that crept on when I got knocked off the bike for about 10 days in April. That lunch and an LSD pace on the ride home should help.

Looking at the weather radar at 4 p.m. I would have guaranteed that I would get hammered by a deluge before I was half way home. I planned to take the long way, through the woods, because I didn't feel like putting on a good show for traffic. If it rained, it rained.

This dry airmass over us is amazing. The heavy echoes on the radar display were on our doorstep. I could see the dark clouds and curtains of rain to the west. They hung there, unable to advance.

After riding out my usual escape route to Route 28, I dove down the first gravel road to reach the SERT. This far from town, late in the day, I felt confident I would not have to deal with too many other riders.

Someone had fed their horse a laxative and then encouraged it to a pointy-hoofed canter down the left center of the path. The hardened hoof dents jolted me whenever I wandered into their course. Despite that, it was still more peaceful than the highway.

The SERT intersects Bryant Road, which brings me to Cotton Valley. From there I take Stoddard Road over to North Wolfeboro.

Stoddard was in rough shape. The first rise had been nicely packed and dampened to hold down the dust, but beyond there it was rougher and looser than the worst of the SERT had been. Unpaved surfaces need a good soaking rain to firm them up. On the paved wall to the height of land on Stoddard, the winter's sand still stood in drifts, narrowing the lane. Shoals of it lay on the pavement as well. I zigzagged among them to take the edge off the gradient.

On the plateau I could see the storm hanging over the Ossipee Range and feel the gusts of a tailwind. I reentered the shelter of the trees for the rest of the unpaved stretch.

From North Wolfeboro I coasted down on more sand-drifted, hummocky pavement to rejoin 28.

At that point I caught Southwest Flight 10-20. The tailwind lifted me to the crest of 28 and launched me into the descent.

I love the feeling when your air speed suddenly drops to near zero and your ground speed surges. Click, click, click through the gears and glance over at the people in cars wondering why it's taking so long to pass you. "That dude on the bike is still there!"

Moving almost effortlessly inside the rush of a gust I felt trippy and detached. Hunger and fatigue combined with the rhythm of relentless pedaling to make me feel like I was just watching it all happen by itself. No wonder mystics fast and wander.

On a perfect ride home a motor vehicle would trip the green light for me at Route 16 as I roared down the runway toward it. When that happens I can lay into the left turn fast enough to scare myself and easily keep up with the most impatient motorist.

This was not a perfect ride home. My car servant arrived too late, so I had to slow to a brief track stand and accelerate from the stop. The tailwind helped my tired legs on 16, but it wasn't as good as a searing corner at 30+ followed by the tailwind boot.

I did achieve enough speed to make the turn into Elm Street snappy. There's a pothole in the apex, so I can't drop in smoothly. With traffic on the highway and a busy parking lot to the right, I have to carry a straight line to the pothole and then snap the bike down hard while keeping my torso up to snap it back up again. If I clip the pothole I'm probably going down. If I carry too far before snapping the turn I will go into the left lane of Elm Street, which is often occupied by vehicles waiting to pull out. It's like taking a hard right turn into a keyhole.

Elm Street can be a chore. A mere three miles separates me from home at that point, but it can be a busy little road full of pushy drivers. One did push past in the last 200 meters before the end of the road, and then had to run the stop sign to stay ahead of me. And I was just rolling with the terrain.

A regular commuting route becomes a dance routine you can practice over and over, polishing and embellishing, refining and improving. It's a long-running show. Some performances will be better than others, but the run goes on.

No comments: