Monday, September 2, 2013

Culpepper Hill

Compared to cycling to the top Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island in the Puget Sound, or Adventure Cycling over the Cascades on the Northern Tier that starts in Anacortes and follows Highway 20 across to Maine, Culpepper Hill is a mere bump on the repurposed railroad tracks known here in Snohomish County as Centennial Trail.  

The trail is clean and well traveled by walkers, ramblers, roller bladers, roller skaters, strollers, wheelchairs, and equestrians. But it feels the most mileage from cyclists. 

On the Southend, it connects to several arterial trails in King County and beyond. On the North End, it is now creeping four miles past Bryant toward Skagit County. It ends for now at an historic dairy barn in a pastoral setting off Highway 9 North of Arlington. 

When we decide to go for a ride, we heave our bikes into the pickup and drive to one of the the trailheads 

The most I have ridden this summer is eight miles at a time. A few summers ago I made it on a seventeen mile trip. 

This Labor Day I asked Loverby if we could try going the thirty six mile round trip from the 152nd Trailhead in Arlington down to Snohomish. 

He thought accomplishing that before winter comes was a good idea. I could give you the Facebook status version and make it look glamorous, but it ended ugly - and we didn't take #selfies.  

A third of the way back my legs and arms started seizing and cramping. I tried walking it off, rested flat in the grass, and tried to massage them. Nothing helped. Craig stayed close by as I gimped along. Five miles from Culpepper Hill, I begged Craig to go get the truck and put me out of my misery. He urged me to finish what we had set out to do. He said, "Babe, if you can make along the flats to Culpepper Hill, it is all downhill from there. You can do it."

My mouth knotted and contorted in agony. Tears blurred my vision. Ugly groans escaped from the deep as I cried aloud for divine help to make it to the top of Culpepper Hill. If I could make it there, I could coast for five blessed miles to the truck. It wasn't pretty, but I made it. When we got home, I limped into a long, hot bath with generous portions of Epsom salts and took three Aleve. 

When we ride we hide our spandex underneath something. I also wear one of Craig's Carhartt T-shirts to hang over and hide my saddle overflow. The tractor seat shape doesn't fulfill its claims. 

Even though all my weight is distributed evenly upon my wide saddle, it still feels like I'm impaled on an upturned stiletto. 

We don't wear helmets yet. My braid starts unraveling like my courage by the time I'm one third of the way up Culpepper Hill. 

I keep seeing signs along the edge of the trail dedicating this portion of the trail to a member of a local cycling group. The story possibilities distract me as I wobble and waiver up this relentless five mile incline. This is a tough beginning for our thirty six mile round trip. 

They named it Culpepper Hill in honor of him. I start hating this man who probably crossed over to the other side cycling. He left behind all these colorful, tight muscled cyclist friends
whirring effortlessly up Culpepper Hill at great speeds. They politely call out, "On the left," so I won't wobble into them as I make what I think are discrete little zigzags. 

No matter the gender, a tight backside confined in black spandex cutting in front of me feels like a carrot I want to take a bite out of. 

Sometimes it's a perfectly synced pod of bright colors with lots of lovely black spandex hugging varied shapes of delicious derrières. Yes, the receding backsides of cyclists keep me peddling up Culpepper Hill. 

When they pass I pretend for a moment that we are just out of the gates at Belmonte - favored jockeys for the Triple Crown - in splendid colors urging our mounts on. We are neck and neck, but for only an instant. I fall behind by more than a nose. 

I'm on a bicycle ride, wearing no colors. You, you're a cyclist - head to toe decked in colors - splitting the wind.  

I want you to know I want to hang a rose wreath across your handlebars and put an ivy crown on your brow whenever I see you gathered on a ferry or in a park.  

I fantasize about setting up wayside stands to refresh you. I imagine destination dinners to celebrate another section crossed off your worn map. I research places that might need a cyclist hostel. I would give you my last crust of bread and let you have the only available hot water for a shower. I would set the tea kettle on and let you plunder my garden. I would make sure you had fresh sheets and the best pillow to make a bed in the extra room.

I follow your routes by lurking on your blog. I read and wonder about you circumventing the coast of Ireland - is it best clockwise? I ponder how many flats you fix a year. When I hear about hospitality in Costa Rica I yearn. I dream about feasting you on ice cream, bacon, steak, and homemade cinnamon rolls, but find you in the park taking bites out of power bars
and sports drinks. 

I like knowing you're out there pedaling steadily on some side road. I wish you'd stop and rest awhile with me - tell me your stories - because then I'd be able to watch freedom dance across your face and open road possibilities light up your eyes. 

Suck me tandem into your tailwind. Let me fly the last five miles down Culpepper Hill with you. I'll wear your colors. We'll make some other weighted down, panting, struggling soul want to keep our backside in view.