Sunday, June 7, 2009

Overnight Moonlight



Scene I: Two happy, somewhat chilly, cyclists lay on the ground somewhere in the wilds of Elmore, Vermont at about 1:00 AM gazing up a nearly full moon through wispy clouds, amid noteable silence. Soon they remount their bikes and continue on their night journey.

Yesterday morning, Jeremy and I decided to make good on the idea of doing a full moon overnight ride. The plan was for Jeremy to meet me at the contra dance in Montpelier around 10:00 PM and head out northwards on a semi-defined 90 mile route that would have us rolling back into the Mad River Valley sometime in the morning. Maybe we'd get breakfast at the Green Cup as the rest of the world was just waking up. We knew at the least we wanted to ride until we witnessed the dawn.



That was the idea, and pretty much what we did. Temperatures were forecast down to around the mid-thirties and we were prepared with mittens, layers, wind shells and hats. It was chilly at times, but what was most impressive was how warm the hill tops were and how cold it was in the valleys. Being that it was almost a full moon, we rode many miles with our headlights turned off, mostly just turning them on when the infrequent cars passed.

Scene II: Cyclists notice the curious installation of small solar powered LED lights adorning a few headstones in the occasional cemetery. Ensuing discussion of death, compost, and what the recipients of those lights might think.

After miles of wilderness through Elmore, we rounded over to Morrisville and appreciated the 24-hour Cumberland Farms where we bought some food, filled up our water bottles and used the bathroom. Feeling refreshed, we decided to pedal down to Stowe and then angle northwest up and over Smuggler's Notch. As we approached Stowe clouds were evident and it was clear we were going to lose the moonlight. Given the impending loss of light, we decided to adjust our plan to just stay on Rt. 100 and head back to the Valley.

Scene III: Roughly 3:30 AM, on deserted streets. Two cyclists come to a complete stop at the stop sign in Stowe village, under the watchful eye of the local law enforcement.



It wasn't long before I was grateful for having decided to amend our route as a bit of fatigue started to set in. The clouds had fully obscured the moon as we cruised in to Waterbury, where we had another food break and rest and noticed the first signs of sunrise over the eastern horizon. Chill and weariness were taking their toll, but we soon warmed up again as we headed up the Duxbury hills.

Scene IV: 4:30 AM in dim morning twilight: One weary cyclist looks over at nearby pond and asks the other cyclist if what he's looking at is one of those cutout silhouettes of a moose. The other cyclist looks over and says "Yeah, it is." A moment later the cutout starts moving up the incline of the bank.



We got home shortly after 5:00 and were pretty much silent towards the end, as talking required too much focus and attention to manage. Despite our tiredness, we both agreed that we felt good. Tired, but not wasted.

Scene V: One cyclist does a sudden quick dip to the left and is back right in a second. Its acknowledged that he nodded off for a moment.



It was a real joy to spend this time with Jeremy as we talked and rode and enjoyed the darkened countryside. There is something magic about getting in sync and pedaling for miles in both a private and shared experience of light and dark, warmth and cold, energy and fatigue, effort and rest... when I quietly stepped into the yurt this morning I felt immense gratitude for Nancy, Motion, and home. I also swore I wouldn't need to do that again soon.

Even now, from this short vantage point, it doesn't seem so bad.

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