Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

23 November 2014

Spreading A Shawl Of Autumn

I love roses and sunshine and rainbows as much as the next person.  I mean, really, who doesn't.  Still, the kinds of light that really touch the core of my being are what one sees on an overcast day at the seashore, or on just about any kind of coast. (I love the sea and whatever borders it, though I don't consider myself a beach lover.  I never understood the point of lying on sand and frying myself. But I digress.)  I also love the soft, diffuse light one sees on overcast days in much of France and in parts of neighboring lands.  

I love just as much the shawl of clouds the November sky spreads over windows that lose their guile as they gain the depth of their own clarity, surrounded by splintered frames, bubbled paint and stone that is worn but not broken.  A long sleep, if not a dream, awaits.

Well, yesterday's ride offered me two of those three kinds of light.  I didn't get to France.  (How is it that the cheapest way to get to Paris from New York is by way of Moscow or Istanbul?)  But I was treated to the fine gravity of an autumnal littoral sky.

I encountered that scene in Laurence Harbor, NJ.  I hadn't really intended to ride to that particular spot, though it is more or less along the way of the ride I'd planned on taking, and the one I actually took.  And, as you can see, I got there late in the afternoon, not long before sunset.

Before I set out, I left enough food to last Max and Marley through the night.  I knew what sort of ride I needed to take; there were a few things I needed to sort out in my head.  I knew that I wanted to head out to the part of the New Jersey coast I cycled so often in my youth, when it seemed that riding was one of the few things I understood.  (Sometimes I think I don't understand a whole lot more all of these years later!)  I considered the possibility of riding late and checking into a motel or, better yet, a bed-and-breakfast, if one was open.  

Well, I started a bit later than I should have.  And, along the way, I found roads and bridges closed, some still damaged from Sandy.  So I found myself wandering through parts of Newark and Union County I know hardly, if at all, and, just before I entered Monmouth County, a road that, I thought, paralleled Route 35, until it didn't.  Then I wended through some county roads and residential streets in areas where suburban sprawl gave way to tightly-kept blue-collar areas where many homes have fishing boats in their driveways or yards.  None of the drivers honked their horns at me; women who were walking to and from neighbors' houses and stores, and men to and from VFW halls, waved and greeted me with "Howya doin"" and "Hopeyer having'a good weekend." I smiled back.

I did, finally, find myself pedaling along boardwalks and quiet streets where the lazy waves of the bay lapped against rocks, then sand, then rocks again.  I got as far as Ideal Beach in North Middletown, which was known as East Keansburg when I was a teenager. (Apparently, someone realized that having "Middletown" in a community's name was better for property values than "Keansburg" in that part of New Jersey.)  It's actually cleaner--if a bit more self-consciously "beachy"-- than I remember it from the days when we snuck there when we were cutting classes or otherwise looking over our shoulders, or simply didn't have any money.

Because I got lost (I can admit that now:  I'm a woman!), it took me nearly two hours longer to get there than I'd planned.  Oh, and I was riding into 20-40KPH winds all the way down.  Really.  So I knew I wasn't going to get to Long Branch before drinkers and drunks started pouring into and out of the bars and their cars.  Plus, I figured that if I would encounter even more damaged or destroyed roads, paths or bridges--and therefore need to take more detours--than I already had.  In fact, I might not be able to get to some areas at all.

So, sadly, I turned around and started riding back.  I figured I'd ride to the nearest train station--or at least the first I found.  That's how I found myself in Laurence Harbor. comforted by the November sky.

Oh, and my favorite flowers are lilacs.  Nothing against roses, mind you.  Just my preference.  Some might say that it's the flower that looks best under such a sky.

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