He moves between the cars, with little effort or sound. Veering to his right, to avoid a truck whose wheels have saddled the lane’s edge, he disappears into the shadow. Reappearing again, moments later, he is beyond the freeway overpass and approaching the point where his lane will merge with the off ramp. His pedaling slows, to slide in behind the black car that is approaching him, but the tan car that follows is not slowing as it bears down, head on, before the swooping final turn. If they saw him, which they don’t, they would see a single entity that would be referred to as simply, “a bicycle.” They don’t see a man on a bicycle, moving through the world. Likewise, they are referred to as, “the car,” when they are, of course, a human piloting a vehicle from inside. Despite how we may word it on occasion, this is a case of the person driving who does not see the man riding, not the car who doesn’t see the bicycle. His right hand slips from the handlebar, calmly and gently, without affecting the path on which he is traveling. Barely outstretched, his hand pumps downward over so slightly, only a few times before returning to the handlebar. With little exaggeration, almost equal parts of this motion come from his fingers, wrist and forearm. Meanwhile, he is merging towards them, with trust that they will see him and his innocuous gesture before he meets their bumper, or else he will need to adjust accordingly. When they slow, he sees that this moment went as planned and stands on the pedals to speed up and delay their merge as little as possible, as his way of thanking them for seeing him. He slips between more cars, and out of sight.
I see the drops of sweat, dangling, dripping from my cap’s brim; however my mind is otherwise occupied by the next turn of the pedals. I attempt to shift to a gear that is not there, with a sideways awareness that Albert is soft pedaling to stay with me. I shift the other way, two clicks, and rise from the saddle with a grunt. The bike rocks slightly, back and forth and back.
At the top, Gus is waiting and pulls from his jersey pocket, a plastic tin of raspberries straight from the grocery. “Have some more,” he says after we each grab a handful. Within a handful of minutes, Albert and I are slowly rolling past packed campsites; Gus catches up and we all stop at the general store. Together, we have the best can of Coors of our lives, and we talk about descending and other things, and play with a local’s dog.
We head out a different way than we came in, passing a road to nowhere. At the T, we part ways with Gus; he’s headed for more climbing. At the bottom, Albert and I part ways too, heading for home in different directions. During the long ride home, mostly on the bike path, I curse the headwind, and think about how we entered the mountains, and left them, in different places, and a few miles before home, I stop for a can of Coke and a hot dog.
At the beginning of this road, we hit the edge of the pavement, it begins to crackle under our tires, the ping of rocks being pinched by rubber and air pressure. With a symphony of shifts, the pace picks up, just a bit. Taylor and I split a slower rider; he goes right, I go left. We converge on the good line, passing more riders, riding the way that we ride. Somewhere in the middle of that road, we pass a gentleman on a 20 year old Cannondale mountain bike, who we’d remark later was moving quite well, but was surely wondering why he just got passed by a hundred road bikes on a gravel road. At the end of that road, everyone we had just passed, and then some, pass us as we stop to eat pickles.
I found this fragment in my phone. I stopped, somewhere out of the mountains, and pecked it into a note, then forgot about it.
The air is thick with the smell of… well shit, I don’t know. Mountains. Forest. If this were a Rapha skin product, it would break down all the specific flora comprising the aroma that fills my nose and lungs. Just smells like a forest and mountains to me. I’m rocking, spinning slower than normal, putting in less than normal, watching my heart rate teeter. I’m not supposed to be going this hard, this far, this high. I’m going less hard, less far, less high than I normally would. I am faster, and it is easier. I could be faster yet; that wouldn’t be any easier. The rhythm of Joy Division in my ear makes keeping a rhythm easy. I watch the guy in front of me stay one or two curves ahead. I don’t need to catch him. I only need to ride until 2 hours and 30 minutes flashes on my Garmin and then turn around. 5 hours total. I am awaken from my rhythm by a gnat. Damn things love my face. Maybe it is the same one that always follows me, always in my face, always being assaulted by a poof of breath, forced up by manipulated lips, up past my nose.