Thursday, June 27, 2013

Road of many names

Solitude is the place of purification.
- Martin Buber

Yesterday before dinner we packed up and coaxed the deadbolt through the heavy wooden doors of the Elks Lodge. The control environment was intense, task-driven, social. A hive. It's a relief to be simple again, piloting my own ship. Still dark. The clock on Main Street says 4:35 as I head out of the motel for points south.

The feeling of relief is short-lived. First, the route. Let's just say that finding and reading street signs is complicated by darkness. There are other challenges. The backlight on my speedo is on strike, my trusty headlamp sits in the garage at home, and the GRR cue sheet with the turn-by-turn is on my phone. Stowed away in a pocket. I'm poking around cautiously, tentatively, looking for the turn.

Even in broad daylight Centerville Road has many names. It's County Road 60 on the map. It's West Street in town. The names swirl around in my head. When the chips are down I prefer instinct. It is simpler, more trustworthy. It says the intersection coming up is the right distance from the last turn. The road heads in the right direction, has a stop sign and a white sign saying "Truck Route". So it goes through. No other clues. This must be it.

It's quiet. A still, empty quiet that we don't have at home. Ever.

Hard to believe more than 50 riders passed this way, twice. The last of them 12 hours ago. Or that a fellow worker, Bill Monsen, is in theory riding a few miles ahead. His intent was to leave Alturas around 3; I needed sleep. It would be great to meet at some point and continue on together.

Last night that plan seemed optimistic. Now it's looking downright unlikely. To close a gap of ninety minutes, or sixty, you want to be moving pretty fast. Not sinking those watts into a hub generator...

The road descends to a wide plain covered in thick white fog. A waning gibbous moon hangs  overhead, casting a dim light over the plateau. Scattered around are dark, silent lumps of cows left in pasture overnight. I enter the fog; there is no other choice.

I'm swept into a painting by Magritte. Fenceposts and the road and its markings, the visible world. The occasional shape of a driveway or a structure poking through. Muted greys and blacks and browns, all swathed in blurry white. Suddenly the air is colder. I wonder if the cows are cold, or if they're used to it. The sense of being in a dream is taking hold, heavy like cement. It's even stronger being far from home, not fully awake.

As in a dream, the only way out is through.

The fog does have an edge, which is reassuring. A few minutes riding in the soft light of dawn and a second layer of fog comes. With each transition I'm a little more awake.


As it fills with light the sky seems huge, out of all proportion, like from an airplane. Where you look out the window and the perspective is totally off. You don't recognize a thing, as expected. No one does. We all get where we're going, eventually.

By the time the sun is really up, warming the earth, it's a different world.

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