Friday, May 31, 2013


Crossing over Echo Summit, heading south toward Luther. The hot valley lies behind us, the Great Valley, once an inland sea... We've plunged into the heart of the mountains, the Sierra Nevada. Brought here by the newer alignment of the Lincoln Highway on its way to Carson City.

It was a relief, leaving the old brick train station, Picasso'd with construction. The hot sidewalk an outdoor stage for smokers and their absurd poses. The haze of Sacramento on the verge of summer.

Our escape feels deliberate, not desperate. Planned. We move with the flow of traffic. Unlike the smokers reaching for a small and specific thing, close at hand. We're heading away from the small and specific. This takes time.

On Luther the air feels different and so does the light. It's modulated, reflected by the tall hills. They surround us. The road follows their contours and not some overconfident, aggressive human plan. Some drivers handle it better than others. The road is lined with wildflowers, names unknown. Cyclists, too; no one we recognize. It's surreal to be here in a car with the bikes on the roof.

South again, now toward Markleeville. The bright glare of sun directly overhead. The sky a bleached light blue, receding, stretched thin like a balloon.

There is always dread in my stomach before a double century. Hoping tomorrow goes well. Two hundred miles is a big project. Something is bound to go wrong.

Monitor, first pass of the Death Ride. Imagine this road, thick with cyclists. Each separately crawling up the hill then careening down the other side. The climb is steady, with long slopes through rocky canyons. Not a curvy spiral nor a straight shot but segments, some gradual and others steep. Each one looks reasonable enough. It's the accumulation that's hard.

Life can feel unbearably long, climbing a long pass. Can't see the top. Pushing without end. At one point I did study exactly how many miles, the front and back sides of Monitor. Ebbetts, front and back. A way of bounding the struggle. So whatever this feels like, it's not forever.

It can feel short too, compressed by gravity. All your previous selves, what you were sure of. All that stuff that happens, no one sees it coming. Time folding and buckling on top of itself, in layers like the rock. It deforms, transforms us.

The top is crowned by an open meadow shaped like a bowl. A stand of aspens lines the road, dressed in green for spring. They drink up sunshine in the meadow, waving those precious leaves in our wake.

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