February 29, Friday

Happy Leap Year, uh, Day.

It was warm out, the kids we’re at school, then out to grandmas, my 2 PM meeting finished on time (if a bit awkwardly), and I had my bike stuffed into the back of the Subaru station wagon.

I got to the trailhead, got ready like a pro—no fumbling around for shoes, pump, gloves, or sunglasses. No joy-muddling friction today, for some reason.

Some days are like that. Some days are all smooth and everything works: your keys are easily found, nobody calls to complain about something, no one sends you an email that takes an hour to reply to. Today, Leap Year Day (really, what should it be called?) was like that.

I got on the bike, spun around the Green Mountain trailhead parking lot, and whaddyaknow: Riding is bike is like riding a bike. You never forget how, and I hadn’t forgotten.

My lungs and throat burned all the way up, but I worked it in a bigger gear for a while then switched to granny. I hit a steep turn—one that has stumped me more than a few times, less and less over the years—and smoothly cranked through.

A sign, a portent? It’s going to be a good-riding 2008, I thought. Not like last year, which was full of lots of bad friction, tremendous wipeouts, which (thankfully, luckily) involved only one trip to a doctor, for stitches.

I gazed back down at the parking lot filled with cars, the gravel dark, almost black, and felt something like pride.

I hit the top not completely exhausted and found that some trails had been closed, or diverted. I also found that a favorite, which drops and loops down the west side of Green Mountain, had been marked and named. Someone—it really looked homemade—had welded a flat sheet of metal to an iron post, and then hand-painted “Box-o-Rox” on the flat sheet’s face. Surely, it’s a box of rocks, or maybe a snake-o-rocks. No wait, it needs alliteration if it’s going to lose the rhyme: Ribbon-o-Rock. Dude.

As I descended, the sun did too. My shadow lengthened. A tall stick-man on a tall stick-bike with oval wheels rode beside me.

They had dug up the south side of the Mountain—which isn’t really a mountain but more like a large, rounded, mostly treeless hill—to put in an “underground water storage facility,” or so the sign said. A massive, gray, curved wall stood out from the torn earth. I rode by, feeling a bit sad. At that spot, there used to be a run-down shed, with a rusted bed-frame in it. A small symbol of how wild this land used to be.

Nothing gold can stay, Robert Frost once wrote. Golden light hit me as I crested a small but steep rise, and then I dropped into shadow. 5:35 PM. I rode past a guy I recognized, but in our gear we didn’t stop to chat; I think we both pretended that we did not know each other’s face, hidden by glasses and helmets, etc.

I got to the lot, and already many cars had left. Still, some riders were just beginning to crank up the trail, fresh off a Friday at work. A tall guy walked past me, carrying an infinitesimal Chihuahua in one hand, toward the trailhead. A dog so ugly it was cute.

No spills, no give-ups-on-a-hill-cause-I’m-anaerobic-and-about-to-blow-up. Green Mountain isn’t like that.

Which made it the perfect for Leap Year Day. Perfect for First Ride of 2008 Day.

–MJH

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