Thursday, April 8, 2010

Assault of the Senses (April 8: Day 36--Cleveland, TX)

Today started cold for Texas...48 degrees... but the skies were blue and the sun was peeping up over the horizon, holding promise of a beautiful day to come.  The cold was assaulting; I had sent my warm weather gear home, so all I had were arm warmers, a scull cap and a windbreaker. Everyone else seemed to have clothing that was a bit more substantial than mine, so I knew I had to spin fast to keep my core warm. It wasn't long before I was stripping off layers, leaving them at the first sag stop.  Having pedaled so fast to stay warm, I found myself riding alone today, which was ok.  I really wanted to keep my own pace today and work on my cadence and some other skills.

Today's ride was a banquet for my senses.  We are entering the piney wood portion of Texas and the ride took us through miles of a National Forest.  Pine trees towered on either side of the road, smelling like Christmas, while the birds twittered and sang throughout the morning. All my senses were bombarded with simultaneously with wonderful sensations: the smells, the sounds, the scenery, the feel of the smooth surface of the road and the sun on my back, the sharp tang of spearmint chewing gum, the adrenalin flowing as my muscles responded easily to the demands of the was a perfect morning.  Suddenly, amidst all this nature, the scent of Bounce fabric softener wafted through the air, overpowering the pine smell.  Where did that come from?  There were no obvious homes nearby....  Then came the smell of burning wood; the forest service was doing a deliberate burn to control the brush for the upcoming dry season. Mile after mile, the wood burned, seemingly unsupervised.  Still the birds sang, and water gurgled in streams over which I passed.  A beautiful ride.......tonic to all my senses.

Then I turned out of the forest onto state route 150..........the tonic from above lost its fizz as my senses were assaulted by loud traffic, blowing crosswinds, rough road surface, and debris flying from logging trucks.  The rougher chip seal was back, and I was riding on a road with no or little shoulder.  The posted speed limit was 70, and the traffic more than heeded that posting....  Pickup trucks roared by, as did big eighteen wheelers....  And there I was, the tranquility and bliss of the first 30 miles forgotten as my  senses were battered with the onslaught of constant traffic, noise and wind.  My adrenalin, again, flowed, but now it was from fear instead of excitement.  At one point, a loaded logging truck blew past me, his draft sucking me off the shoulder, towards the road.  At the same time, a crosswind caught me, moving me further to the left.  Only a moment passed as all of this happened, and I corrected the effects, but in those seconds another loaded 18 wheeler roared past me, airhorn blowing.  I about wet my pants....'Holy Moly!',  I screamed...(ok, maybe my language was just a little bit stronger.....)  Bark and wood particles pelted me as I moved as far to the right as I could....perhaps a whopping six inches!  Folks, I thought I had almost bought the farm...bit the dust....kicked the bucket!  And not through anything I had done wrong.  I was clearly on the little bit of shoulder there was, allowing the traffic to pass, but the total disregard for me on that bike was evident.  I was only on that highway for nine miles, but it felt like an eternity....white-knuckle all the way!

Then I turned right on to state route 1725, and tranquility descended once again.  The road service became smooth, there was a nice shoulder, and little traffic.  The silence was music to my ears........and once again the birds sang and the scenery was peaceful, with pastures of heifers and calves, fillies and colts.... My legs pumping, I sailed, smiling once more.
I completed 72 miles by 12:45--4 hours and 42 minutes in the saddle.....but that half hour on state route 150 seemed to last a life time.

72 miles

1 comment:

  1. That's so scary. BE CAREFUL--Even if you don't have any control over the roads you are on!!!
    -your (concerned) secret friend