Americans regard Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer. If it is, perhaps today--Thanksgiving Sunday, or the last Sunday of November--is the unofficial end of fall or the beginning of the Christmas season.
Today felt like the end of a season of some sort. The ride I took today was more than pleasant; the skies cleared of yesterday's rain and the crispness one could feel in the air a couple of days ago has given way to a bracing nip.
I rode to Point Lookout, in part because I hadn't ridden there in a while, but also because I figured that, since my route wouldn't take me anywhere near the malls or any other retail "magnet", I wouldn't encounter much traffic.
Turns out, I was right. In fact, the streets of Atlantic and Long Beaches--the first two Nassau County towns I encounter after crossing the bridge from Queens--were deserted. I sometimes encounter that on Saturdays or High Holy Days, as a large number of observant Jews live in the area. But to encounter hardly a car, cyclist or pedestrian on a Sunday, even when it isn't beach season, is unusual, to say the least.
I did, however, notice that the bars were full, and it didn't look like the patrons were "doing" brunch. When I glanced into one of the windows, I saw the reason why: Most of the patrons, it seemed, were gazing at football (American-style) matches on wide-screen TVs as they munched on chicken wings and quaffed brews.
In fact, the largest congregation of people I saw outdoors were standing on line at an ice cream stand, open for the last time until, probably, March. (A handlettered sign read, "See you in the Spring!:) Even the sorts of people one encounters along the beaches and Point Lookout in the Fall and Winter--bird watchers, philosophers and poets manques, fisher-men and -women--were gone, with a few exceptions:
It almost seemed as if the tide would have stayed out as long as that man and his dog trotted on the sandbar. I wonder if these souls felt the same way:
Today I rode alone, by choice. In other years, I have ridden on the last Sunday in November with people with whom I never rode--or even never saw--again. Whether or not I continued to ride during the winter (I did in most years, though usually not as much as I rode during the other seasons), I wouldn't see them. By the time the next cycling season began--in February or March or April, depending on that year's weather--they were gone, to new schools, new jobs, new towns (or even states or countries), new lives.
The mild weather we've enjoyed in this part of the world this fall may well continue through the next few months, and I may not cycle much less than I have ridden during the past few weeks. Or we may be snow- and ice-bound, as we were for several weeks last winter, and ride very little. Or there might be some other change in my life, for better or worse, that affects or doesn't affect how much I ride between now and the time lilacs and cherry blossoms start opening themselves to the furtive early-spring sun.
Whatever happens, today, like every last Sunday in November I recall, feels like the unofficial end of cycling season. Any ride I take after today, and before the beginning of Spring or the new cycling season, will seem like an interlude rather than a normal part of the cycle.
Somehow it seems fitting that I rode Arielle, my Mercian Audax. Out of all of my bikes, she seems to most embody the spirit of my riding. If I could only take one more ride, I'd choose her. I doubt that today's trek will be my last before Spring. Still, Arielle seems to be the right bike to ride at the end of the season.
(There isn't much to lean a bike against at Point Lookout!)