Sometimes I try to write it only (or as much as I can) the way it feels, or the way it moves, or the way it sounds or something else. I almost never accomplish what I set out to do, but it’s fun and I learn something about sentences or language or narratives or all of that and sometimes something about cycling, too.
Paul and Steve pulled first, out of the parking lot and, in the warmup range but just a little faster than I was hoping for, took us over the hill into Vera Cruz and down to the stop sign, then each swung out to their side and let Jasen and Andrew through.
The pace softened. Tom to my left visibly relaxed. He’d been telling me, up the hill, that he wanted an easy day, that he wasn’t racing that weekend, that he was tired. The air was minty with cold and heavy with dampness, the front of the coming snowstorm, which was the only reason Tom was out: He knew tomorrow would be an off day. Jasen and Andrew took us over the hump of the railroad tracks then left to the top of the little rise before swinging off, Jasen to the yellow and Andrew to the curb, and Tom and I pulled through.
“We got the cold pull,” I said as we started down the hill. Tom agreed. There’d been no wind but we made one now, and it keened in our ears. We stopped pedaling and tucked and behind us our cassettes threw out their ticking sounds. I took advantage of the bare sight line of winter and saw empty roads all around and tipped my head back and shouted “clear,” and we rolled the stop sign at Kozy. We stayed tucked, more or less, Tom and I, but for warmth instead of speed, and at sixteen, seventeen, maybe eighteen miles-per-hour we pulled the length of the long, rolling downhill then at the base of the next rise shifted and sat up and I said, “Top of the hill?” and Tom said, “yeah.”
At the crest, Christine and Brad came through, and I faded backward along the icy shoulder and as I drifted by, Steve said, “Nice pace,” and Andrew said nothing and both exchanges were equally amiable. Tom was there on the other side when I got all the way back and we eased into our places, him to the left and me to the right, and we rode along and could hear from the front the spare talking and just as infrequent ticking of cassettes friends can share without discord. One of my thumbs was cold, about to go numb, and I thought to share this information then didn’t then a little later wouldn’t be able to recall if I had or not. I would wonder who else might have a cold thumb or a bad day going at the office or a big problem at home and thought not to share it—to today let the weather and the absence of traffic and the pace be enough, to say what mattered most on this ride by pointing out unexpected patches of ice and potholes we all knew anyway.
Christine and Brad came back, and Paul and Steve pulled through the sole stoplight and through the turn onto Hopewell. Then it was Jasen and Andrew, then it was me and Tom, and Christine and Brad, and again Paul and Steve, and so it was our pack rode on.
Originally published in The Selection, January 11, 2011