Sep 9, 2008

Walden Pond

We set out just as the sun was going down. It was a cool night, cooler than it had been since May. The roads were beginning to clear out, but the streets were full of people, overflowing from clubs and bars. We pedaled through the city, on our best Law Abiding Bicyclist behavior.

Once out of the city we picked up the bike trail. There was no moon and the trail isn't lit, so we were in total darkness, the way illuminated only by our own headlamps. The trail goes on for 15 miles or so, and although there were some people along the way at the beginning, pretty soon we had it all to ourselves. We took over the trail, flying in to the dark. The farther from the city we got, the clearer the stars became.

When I'm cycling along, time seems to pass very quickly. Almost two hours had gone by before I looked at my watch. We were in a rhythm, moving steadily through empty town after empty town. The air got steadily colder. In several places cold air pooled in valleys and as we glided down at 30 miles per hour we all got the shivers. The night was very live.

As soon as we got to the trailhead that leads to the pond, we switched off our lights - lest anybody notice us slipping down to the water - and quietly walked our bicycles in to the forest. The trail happens to be one of those trails that, despite having been there several times before, never quite looks the same twice. Maybe it's the dark, maybe it's the fact that one is always whispering to one's friends instead of paying attention to the route, or maybe the sprit of Thoreau himself cannot bear to see any adventure become familiar.

When the water was finally in front of us, it was gusty and chilly. We had cooled during the walk to the edge of the water and we were plenty cool, but you can't bike all that way to Walden and then sit out. We stripped down - there's really only one way to swim in Walden at midnight - and plunged in to the cool water. The pond was completely empty under the stars. Beautiful.

Once snacks were eaten, water gulped down, feet dried, and bicycles adjusted, we hopped back on for the ride back. There's nobody on the road late at night in the suburbs. We rode four abreast, bombing down the road as is every cyclist's dream. It was *cold*. We picked up the pace. We were flying!

The ride back puts you in a sort of reverie. You pedal on and on, mile after mile, in the still darkness. The bike wheels make a very comforting whirring noise, like a window fan on a summer night. When you stop at a red light, everything is still - there are rarely cars going the other way - and you can hear your own breath. When you start up again, there's no engine noise, nothing to break the stillness.

We rolled in without much fanfare in the early hours of the morning; the feeling of stillness sort of... sticks. Once in the door, we scattered, each of us putting away our helmets, fetching snacks and tossing our shoes off and falling in to bed.

Heaven on wheels!

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