Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Bike Report (2/5): "Still Riding in the Rain"

Part 2 of 5

Okay, June is not summer until the solstice, right? Until it's nearly over.  I got that.  Anything before the 21st you're still taking your chances with Spring and her whimsies.

But July? 

What's more summer than July? 

Even if the unwary cyclist were to plan a route along the outer skirts of a temperate rain forest, summer still comes in July.

In July, even the usual pessimistic naming patterns of the Pacific Northwest coast will come off sounding . . . pessimistic, right?

But I precede myself. 

Rewind to sunshine and the promise of a week of warm weather . . .

Day 1 - Summer Cycling, northwest along the Columbia River

A beautiful afternoon pedalling toward the coast on Hwy 30.  Warm wind soft on bare legs and arms.  The nostalgic smell of summer.

Unlike our ride at the first of June, this time the bike trip to Astoria and the Pacific coast will be pure getaway.  No Biking Friends (lovely though they are).  No grandparents (dear as they are).  No motorized vehicle carrying campstoves (and by logical extension, no ambitious meal plans). 

Just five panniers and five pedalers and a new route out to Astoria before we complete the loop with the usual route coming home that we left undone when Middlest turfed it a month ago.

(if you're interested in the actual route map . . .)

We left our town in the afternoon after a birthday lunch for Fritz' mother.  Shedding responsibilities, loosing anxieties like streamers behind us, more and more (or less and less?) every quarter mile that we pedalled into the soft douceur of summer air.  

A relatively easy ride ahead of us - just 45 level miles and one hard hill by nightfall.  The girls took off at speed with Eldest's boyfriend who came along "just so he can fit in a training ride before the STP" later in the month (Right.  Of course that was his only reason).  Fritz and YoungSon and I followed at a more stately pace but we all met up at the foot of Rainier Hill.  One hard hill.

It's so impossible to back up a hill brag with pictures.  Maybe you could just take my word for it. 

Not quite halfway up I had to stop.  I wish I were stronger, younger, lighter, but I do love how intensely detailed and present the grass is along the roadway, swaying its heavy seed head in the breeze as if it were carrying out the secret and essential rituals of life (which it is), when I have to stop to breathe down deep lungsful.  And the way sugars taste when the blood drops low, the bliss of a honey stick, sending pleasure sensors into a tizzy, the shudder of relief and even bliss when the sugar hits your tongue swallowing down tiny fruit-shaped fruit snacks.  Like some wonder drug that only works at the altitude of a hard climb up.

"All I have to do is climb this booger of a hill, right?" I asked Fritz when he swung back down to check on me at my third stopping place.  "And then tomorrow is an easy day?"

We stood and looked out over the valley of the Columbia River, hands on hips, breathing deep, breeze drying our faces and shirts, lifting damp hair from my forehead.

"Tomorrow's long. 75 miles. But yeah, should be pretty easy."

Pleasant words to ride along with as afternoon crescendoed and diminuendoed into evening and we left behind the highway's wide bike lane and its constant roar of traffic for the quiet of Alton-Mayger dipsy-doodles, ups and downs through dappled shade.  No shoulder but also -  next to no traffic. 

Eldest's friend turned back to make his way home before dark.  And then it was just us.  Just our family.  A long lush glide down a particularly lovely shaded hill into the golden light above a drying field of grain, warmth beneath the breeze in the last lengthening sunlight caressing arms and legs as we rounded the curve.  "What a great hill!" 

"Wasn't it?"

The girls sang the bikely version of "Livin' on a Prayer" - i.e. "Climbin' up a Hill"  (whoa oh! more than halfway there . . .) as we climbed up and sailed down past low ranch-style farmhouses tucked beneath their trees, tidy gardens, old churches, enigmatic signs

abandoned stores,

and one canny survivor (in tiny Quincy) offering nearly every essential to the life worth living.

And with every pump of the pedal the refrain . . . the hard hill done and an easy day tomorrow . . . a pleasant thought to sing in my ear while riding on the ridge above a small rivery valley, while the setting sun shines through a golden haze of someone's sweet-smelling burn pile, picking out the silvery tracks of meandering streams, while staring back into the innocent eyes of white-faced cattle.  A pleasant thought, this easy ride tomorrow, so pleasant I keep it purring in my mind as we wheel into shelter. And as for shelter in Clatskanie, we are spoiled for choice: the Swiss-style charm of the quirky Bike Inn we discovered at the edge of town

(and which we'll have to try another time), or the exceptionally clean Clatskanie River Inn motel with its hot shower (that pleasure unmatched of hot water drubbing down on tired muscles, washing off road grit and crusty sweat) and saltwater pool - where we have already made reservations. 

The hard hill done and an easy ride tomorrow . . . a pleasant thought for the mind to float in while the body back-floats in a soothing not-too-warm, not-too-cool pool, lazily free-styling through greenish gold saltwater.

A pleasant thought to bubble at the back of the brain during a final poaching in the saltwater hot tub, dreaming pictures into the green-gray and black stone tiles around the edge.

A pleasant thought to tuck your dreams into while snuggling into welcome bed. 

1 comment:

suzanne said...

"Intensely detailed and present." Yummy.

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