Escape Velocity

Nothing was green, and now everything is green, seething with greenness. The trees breathe, their leaves holding down the warm air. A breeze flutters them. They exhale again. Birds skitter from tree to tree, chirping frantically. My freewheel buzzes as my pedals come level. The magic is happening. I can feel it.

All the dirt is hero dirt, tacky with the trapped moisture of spring. My wheels crackle and pop over roots and rocks, cable housing slapping the frame. My neck and shoulders tense until I will them to relax. Just relax. Everything is fine. The flow is coming.

I put power into the pedals even though I am alone, just to feel the acceleration. I hit a canted rock and pull up on the bars, jumping a kids’ jump, my tires just a few inches off the ground. I’m getting younger with every tire-length of trail.

This is euphoric, this alchemy of motion and environment. I turn up the hill and dig in to go faster, my balance perfect over the two wheels, some point in the middle of my chest forming the apex opposite the hypotenuse that is the hill’s slant. I ponder that geometry for a moment before hurtling over a rock I could easily have ridden around.

I’ve stopped caring what makes sense.

At the top of the hill, I pull up and stop and listen. More birds. Someone calling their dog a ways off. A heavy truck down the road at the forest’s edge. My breath.

I dive into the backside trail, willing myself not to brake, finely attuned to the line that will let me reach maximum speed before the swoop that takes me around the fat maple and then down again across the slope. I grab a fistful 10 yards from the bottom, where the path spills off a low wall, and then pull up off the wall to land both wheels. The freewheel buzzes again.

Do you know that moment in a ride, when you stop caring what comes next? You’ve already reached escape velocity. Your mind buzzes. The experience has been had. Even if you sat bolt upright and soft pedaled home, you’d still have what you came for. But you don’t. Because maybe there’s more.

Beyonce said, “If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it,” which, in our case, means subscribing. It’s the only way we get to feed and clothe and shelter ourselves. You don’t want us writing this stuff naked and starving in an open field, do you?

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