Monday, November 9, 2009

A Perfect Fall Afternoon (and Kickstands)

Sometimes things just feel perfect. I can remember a handful of moments in my adult life where I felt completely content, happy, and mentally there--when my thoughts didn't wander to other places, or my to-do list, or the six cookies I shouldn't have eaten for breakfast. But yesterday afternoon was one of those moments. The Boyfriend and I decided to take a bike ride--an Erica bike ride, mind you, not a Boyfriend bike ride. So we hopped on the bikes and headed out, I thought to the Optimist football fields down the road. I had secretly stashed a Frisbee in one of my panniers and attached it to my bike, a lopsided effect only possible with something as light as a Frisbee. (I tried it with groceries once, which didn't work out so well.)

Once we were on the road, The Boyfriend took a route I wasn't expecting. We headed out the rolling, two-lane road that I commonly refer to as Old Hill Road but is in fact just Hill Road. The fancy Hill Road Parkway relieved Hill Road proper of its thoroughfare duties a number of years ago, so we had the road to ourselves. We rode in the middle of the street, pedaling up the inclines and coasting the descents. When I was little, I thought if we drove the road fast enough it would feel like a "tummy-tickler" road I was once on in Arizona, almost like an impromptu roller coaster. Today, the rises and falls were just as much fun. In the years since I had been on that portion of Hill Road, the trees had enveloped the road even more, creating a shadowy tunnel. As we were riding west, the trees made the afternoon sun dance behind the fluttering leaves that would surely be gone in another week or two. I wanted to close my eyes and feel the sun flickering across my face, but I can hardly ride a bike with my eyes open, so I opted to just enjoy the view. The road cuts across the base of the foothills just a bit above the valley floor, so we could look down on farms and houses and horses. It was a perfect fall afternoon.

As we rode next to each other on the road, the leaves crunching and crackling under our bikes, The Boyfriend asked if I wanted to go up to the cemetery. I had only one question: was there a big hill to get there? No, he assured me, just a small rise. A small rise to The Boyfriend is a Mount Everest to me, but somehow, every time we're on the bikes, with the wind swooshing through my hair and the sun in my eyes, I seem to forget this. So we climbed up the road to Dry Creek Cemetery. I don't know how it is that I've never been up there, but if I have, I don't remember it at all. It was incredible. The single-lane road wound through the grounds, and colorful leaves punctuated the green lawns, along with flowers, memorials, and stately monuments. We didn't climb all the way to the Veterans' Cemetery, but took the road to the top of Dry Creek Cemetery. The view from the top was incredible, especially as the 4:00 autumn sun approached the horizon. It would have felt chilly if we would have stopped for long, but my muscles were warm from the steady "rise." We coasted all the way back down, only looking down long enough to avoid the occasional pothole.

As we came out of the cemetery and on to Hill Road Parkway, I was surprised to see we were right across from the football fields. We rode into the park, where I made a big show of parking my bike wherever I wanted, since I have a kickstand. After The Boyfriend assured me his next girlfriend would loathe kickstands as much as he does, he leaned his bike against the sign for field 3 (how inconvenient!) and I busted out the Frisbee. After two horrific tosses that sliced quite badly, the feeling came back to me and my throws improved. We tossed the Frisbee for 10 or 20 minutes before jumping on the bikes and heading home. Hill Road Parkway features one of the nicest, if most goathead-riddled bike lanes in town. It also, much to my delight, features a great walking path separated from the bike lane and road beyond by six-inch-high curbing. We waited for some real cyclists to pass by in the bike lane before riding home along the walking path. I thanked The Boyfriend for being kind (and dorky) enough to ride in the walking path with me. If any of those real cyclists did spot him and recognize him, I'm sure once they saw my bell and kickstand, that explained it all and he got a pass.

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