Oh Dark Thirty
Lesser mortals would question the sanity of somebody who gets up at this ridiculous hour when they really don’t have to. For him it is just another o’dark thirty wake up. Twenty or thirty years of this habit die hard. Coffee, oatmeal, other morning duties. Gather necessities: ID, cash, Garmin, iPhone, sunglasses. Out into the garage. It still holds yesterday’s stifling heat. Sweat begins to break out as he pumps the tires. Back inside to fill water bottles with icy goodness. As the garage door opens there is disappointment. Outside seems just as hot as the garage. Portents of the bake fest that is mid August in Central Texas.
Rear light on blink, head light on bright. Slow wind up as he navigates his way out of the sleepy neighborhood. He detects a hint of wind. Might be a blustery day after the sun comes up. Past the interstate, heading east. Hint of light to the northeast. Sliver moon dancing between high cirrus clouds. Orion watching over everything.
Dark Country Roads
He’s not alone. There are other travelers, most in a big hurry. Reflective surfaces and bright lights give warning and they give him wide berth. Relaxed yet attentive to the cracks in the road that will eat a front wheel. Legs warming up, heart pumping, lungs pulling humid air. Reminds himself not to go out too hard, too early…lots of kilometers to go yet.
Winding his way under the toll highway he heads toward Manor. More light to the east, some from the sun, some from the town ahead. As he approaches 290 there is a river of white lights…hundreds of cars heading west into Austin. Waiting a short eternity at the signal light, he shakes his head in amazement. So much traffic this early in the morning. Manor would be sleepy this time of the morning if it weren’t for all the residents queueing up to join the river of vehicles flowing west. Short stop in Manor to snap a pic of the rising sun and to sip some ice water.
Racing the sun to Elgin
Flat terrain, big ring, steady cadence, down in the drops. iPhone pumping out an eclectic mix of music urging him to get to Elgin before the sun. The eastern sky morphs from simple gray to more complex shades tinted pink. Occasional bouts of small insect swarms. Tries to breathe through nose to avoid unwanted protein. Some end up in his eyes. More kilometers pass by as the sky takes on an orange tint. The race is on. Another quick stop for another picture and more water. A few kilometers shy of his destination the race is lost as the ball of fusion leaps up above the horizon. Celestial mechanics wins again.
Breakfast is Gatorade and an egg and bacon taco (flour tortilla) at a local convenience store. Elgin is a nice quiet town. He receives many waves and hearty good mornings. Apparently lycra clad wheelmen are not too strange a sight here.
Why ride to Elgin? Why not?
Pre-sunrise fears of blistering heat are unfounded. Overnight thunderstorms to the east have left wide swaths of high cirrus. It attenuates the radiation somewhat. Another slow wind up after breakfast and then moderate acceleration to cruise speed. Sweat beginning despite the slight shelter of the high clouds. The temperature is climbing rapidly.
Chasing but never quite catching the shadow that is pacing him. Legs are comfortable. The bike is working smoothly. Attention alternates between watching for cracked pavement and the scenery. Large tracts of pasture of the horse ranches. Some cows. The large gravel and sand operation just east of Manor. Dodging the big trucks loaded down with fill. Dust.
The Home Stretch
Approaching 80 kilometers the legs begin to signal fatigue. Indications that he needs to add more miles over the next few weeks if he hopes to finish his first brevet. Consoles himself knowing that he hasn’t ridden his bike in almost 10 days.
As he enters the denser sections of Austin he disciplines himself to pay more attention to the traffic. Everybody seems to be in a big hurry. Reminder that it is a workday for many people and they have places to go, things to do.
Pulling into the driveway, stopping the Garmin. Almost 85 kilometers. He feels good. Almost like he could double it and then some. This is a good sign. Post ride recovery and cleanup. Buzzing with a light haze of endorphins and cortisol.
It’s not even 10 AM, now what?