It's about 57 degrees, at 4:45 AM on a late June morning. I'm pretty comfortable in a long sleeve jersey. I'm training for....uhhhh, nothing I guess. I really haven't had a goal in a few years, but for some odd reason I'm still driven like mad to pedal my butt off. It's hard to believe, in the morning chill and dark, that within a few hours sweat will be pouring off of my head. I pedal along the frontage road toward Rustlers Loop with plans to ride most of the trails in the Kokopelli area. In the past this wasn't that ambitious of a ride, but due to sickness I haven't ridden for more than two hours at a time all year.
Even though it should be a gradual thing, I'm a bit shocked by how suddenly I can see the trail and my surroundings. The sun is still a long way from rising. The vastness of the great western sky tends to prolong all this morning magic. The cliffs and river are still sleepy, not a breath of wind to stir the surface or ruffle a clump of sage. The birds however, are anything but asleep. They chirp and sing and alert each other to my intrusion upon their space.
There is no sun on my back or shoulders, but I know it's up there. The cliff bands hundreds of feet above me glow like coals in a camp fire. The long sleeve jersey I'm wearing seems misplaced this time of year, but I'm glad I wore it. The desert chill will hang on until the great ball of fire appears at my lower level. For a time I am safe in the shade of these sand stone walls.
It's coming, unstoppable, white hot light, ready to sear my soul. Whew...that's a bit deep for a bike ride. In other words I'm really dreading the heat...but for now I pedal onward, safe in the shadows.
WHAM!!!! Suddenly there it is, doing it's thing, heating the world, giving us light and life and cancer...all things we need and some we don't. That long sleeve jersey now seems ludicrous. It gets stashed in my pack to be forgotten. Maybe I'll wear it again in the Fall, or in the high country, but for sure not now.
The canyon walls protect me for a large portion of the rest of the ride, but inevitably I must face him, Mr Sun. And when I do it's also a fight with gravity, as I ascend my nemesis, Collar Bone Hill. It's a repeated punch in the junk that gains back every inch of vertical that I lost during the preceding 25 miles. Even the blackest of rocks now reflect light, sweat stings my eyes, the heating day causes the wind to howl. Training? What am I training for? Hmmmm???