Not Evangelism

Monday, November 29, 2010

My 1000 mile commute (my cycling week)

Last week, I completed 1000 miles of cycle commuting this year. Not by cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats in 10 days (or 27 hours), but by cycling my 11 mile each-way commute over the past 11 months, chipping away at the total, one day at a time.

Despite all my brave words on Monday, even fortified by a cup of coffee and a piece of toast, it was still tough to get out of the house last Wednesday when the cold weather started to dig in. Despite all my planning, the back tyre was flat when I lifted the bike out of the garage in the morning - and me all dressed up and ready to go. Tightening my resolve, I risked it being only a slow flat and pumped it up hard with the track pump (every home should have one).

And off I went.

The morning was cold - not ice-in-the-water-bottle cold, but cold enough that the car windows would require some serious scraping.  Cold enough that the more exposed puddles had a layer of ice on them, that the grass by the roadside was white with hoarfrost. But not so cold that my face was burning, my head feeling the headache of ice-cream brainfreeze. And dry with it so that the roads were not treacherous.

Not so dark, either. When I left the house, the sun was not yet fully up but the day was light, the landscape all whites and pale pastel purples.  The sky, bluer overhead, shot through with clouds.

In the eastern sky, the pre-dawn light on the broken clouds was like the glow on coal embers as they die.  In the western sky, the moon, just off full, still high in the sky above clouds that had their own colour of red-purple, pale.

Then, as the day dawned, a deeper brighter red spread across the sky. I love the way the sun turns colour as it rises; at first that thick red, then orange, turning paler and lighter as it rises, becoming yellow-white in the sky.

That Wednesday, when the sun rose above the distant hedgerow, burning through the spindly denuded fingers of the hedge by the roadside, it was a powerful, hot orange; the colour of a tiger's back, brilliant and fierce and glorious.

And I saw things for the first time, things I've not seen in a thousand miles: across a certain field, beyond the low carpet of mist that still clung to the white ground, behind leafless trees, the sharply pointed triangle of a church steeple silhouetted against the orange sun.

Rounding a bend, a woodpecker darting across the road, body yellow-green, head a flash of scarlet.

The joy on my 1000 mile ride today was not, as I thought it would be, in the triumph of having ridden a thousand miles.  Today the joy was simpler, the pleasure and satisfaction of being out on my bike; the delight of cycling on a cold frosty morning, in the quiet early light, seeing the world through early eyes, seeing wonderful things, feeling alive.

And it doesn't take a thousand miles to feel that; I can have that every time I cycle.

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