Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This time of year

Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a secret. Our part if the world is especially beautiful this time of year. I’m sure we all appreciate this secret knowledge but perhaps none more than cyclists. Oh sure, on any given day you can go out on your bike and get rained on but on average, you’ll find a nice day for riding in September and October in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll also find that the scenes and sights along your regular Saturday morning, or after work rides look familiar …. but there are also differences:

Out on South Bank road the Buffalo are starting to ‘beef up’, and they’re putting on their winter coats. And above, the geese are forming up and heading for warmer climes. The ditch grass has all turned brown and dry, it rattles in the wind and the sparrows and juncos are frantic to stuff themselves with as much grass seed as possible.

The bugs rule this time of year. I‘ve never lived in a place with more spiders, and in order for this many spiders to make a living you just know there have to be bugs, lots more bugs than spiders.

Right now I think the gnat population must be close to collapse. I’d show you the obligatory photo of a swirling cloud of gnats, but on my rides there’s no ‘cloud’, no beginning and end, more like the fog of gnats (B grade horror flick?). Breathing while exercising is a challenge for me these days, so I’ve been working on my “head down, mouth shut’ technique. (Time trialists of the world need not worry.)

The wind is cool on my arms but not cold, long sleeves are not needed as long as the sun has not gone down. And of course there is my ubiquitous ride pal, the on-shore flow through the Chehalis gap. This wind helps me get a little better training effect headed out to Elma, but as the sun sinks low over the black hills, I am rewarded with a gentle push home, it’s a fair trade.

In a few weeks things will all change: Riding will be as much about preparing as about riding. Getting the layers right, the right booties, the right gloves, enough zip loc bags to protect all that can’t handle a good soaking. And then when you’ve had enough, there will be the stripping off of all the wet gritty clothes that can’t come in the house. I wonder how many cyclists have an ‘undressing’ room in the garage where the gritty stuff gets left in a sloppy pile till after the shower and the clean dry clothes?

But that’s a post for another day. For now, we are reaping the benefits of living in one of the prettiest parts of the worlds, at what could reasonably be considered it’s prettiest time.

Oh yes, how could I forget the other great things about this time of year:

More tomatoes than you can eat,

The last of the baby crooknecks,

The peas that didn't get picked,

And green beans ripe and ready.

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