After a very hot and sticky 10 mile ride the other day, I hit the wall, passed out and slept for 11 straight hours. Waking up at 3:30 PM in the afternoon on a Sunday was a little disconcerting since I had planned a major investigation of the environs of New Castle, Delaware with a lunch stop on the river's edge and time for a little novel reading and napping.
So much for that plan. Instead I decided it was time to finally find the Northwest Passage between my house and my favorite shopping area. I can take the long way around but after pondering Google Earth I was convinced there just HAD to be a shortcut that would make the ride free of cars and a cool quiet passage through an undeveloped wooded area.
But first there were errands to run which required a bus/bike combination. I waited on one side of the road for a southbound bus while a young man waited on the other side of the road for the northbound bus. Both buses were late and I noticed that he paced up and down while talking on a cell phone. His conversation could be heard now and then over the numerous passing cars.
There was something very intense in his voice. It was emotional and it sounded if he was near tears. I postulated that he was having an argument with his girlfriend or arguing with his mother. He was a very young man but he already had that tone that men reserve for talking to women. At one point I heard him sob, "You've got to help me. Something terrible has happened."
The traffic was too ferocious to cross the four-lane road and offer my assistance. He was clearly very upset and it broke my heart. I tried to look away to give him some privacy though he was oblivious to my presence.
Finally he snapped the cell phone shut and walked several yards forward and kneeled down to the ground. It was then that I saw the problem. At first I thought it was road trash but then took on the appearance of a mangled furry pile was lying by the roadside. It was impossible to tell if it was a dog or a cat.
With such tenderness the young man leaned down, picked whatever it was and walked it to the edge of the woods to a shady area and laid it down on the ground. He took out his cell phone again, opened it, but then snapped it shut again.
He'd grown up a little in that moment. He'd faced something very sad, reached out for comfort without finding it, and instead drew on his inner strength and bent to the task at hand. I wonder if when he is an old man he will remember that moment. I doubt it.
There will be so many more moments more poignant to deal with and grow with. He may not remember it; but I will.I was no longer in the mood for errands and wanted to ride somewhere quiet and serene where I could just zone out on a Sunday afternoon in the last dregs of summer.
I found a bucolic spot that erased every feeling but wonder and appreciation of the stoic nature of trees. When things get bad, a tree can't just uproot and move. They have to bloom where planted and deal with what comes.I always think of trees as being feminine. Perhaps it the sway of their limbs and the rustling of their leaves that reminds me of women. Perhaps it's the deep roots that ground them. Perhaps it's the way they provide shade and comfort to anyone passing by.
Refreshed and recharged, I take a spin over the pedestrian/bike walkway that transverses a deep gorge between the University of Delaware new dormitories and the remainder of the campus.
It replaces a very steep path full of hairpin turns and steep ascents/descents that must have been a killer for bicycles.
I pedal through the campus on the Sunday before classes start. There are parents and kids everywhere unloading cars and new shiny bikes filling up the bike racks. There is also the evidence of bicycle theft in several places.
I stop for some lemonade and admire a building mural that invites you to climb the ladder.
.....as well as ponder some odd yard art......
But it's time to become Lewis and Clark and find the Northwest Passage. There is a section a mere 100 yards long through some single-tracked areas that would shorten my ride to my favorite bike store, camera store, and steak house. Surely it should be a simple matter of finding the path....
With very little effort I actually do find a single-track path at Point A and merrily roll along on it on a hybrid bike not designed for such shenanigans. The path goes on and on and I ponder the fact that I don't have a spare tube even if I could remember how to change a flat tire. The path goes around a bend and there in the distance I can see the other side that leads to the deserted Continental Drive no longer used by cars. There seems to be a little hill with a drop-off ahead but I figure that I can always walk it if need be. I think that only until I reach the drop off....
...and discover that it's a good 50 feet STRAIGHT DOWN with no slope. So, like Moses who was allowed to see the Promised Land but was not allowed to enter it, I turn around, take the long way around, and console myself with a filet mignon at Bugaboo Creek Steak House.