Christmas Play

It was Christmas morning and all the cool kids were playing with their toys…and so was I. Before the family gathering, I suited up and hit the road. Actually, I hit the road AND the trail. The ride started with about 20 miles of backroads, followed by about 10 miles of trails. It was clear, crisp, and breezy. The road portion of the ride took me eastward to the Lake Ray Roberts Dam and the Greenbelt trailhead.

After stopping for a snack and a water bottle refill, it was time to turn into the woods. There was not much traffic on Christmas morning.

The family came, in route to the family gathering, to pick me up at the designated meeting spot near the southern end of the trail. Since I arrived a little ahead of schedule, I spent a little time playing with the automatic feature of the camera. The results were mostly poor. It’s a little childish of me, but here are a couple of shots to show what happens when I try to be like the cool kids.

It was a good day for a little Christmas play.

Strange Times

Dog lovers live outside the limits of normal behavior. The rest of us know that and accomodate their needs as best we can. When various holidays arrive, they ramp up their behaviour a notch to the level of mild embarrassment. We deal with it by reminding ourselves that it is only temporary. But when the Christmas season is in full swing, they are just plain creepy. The problem is that sometimes we feed this behavior. We’ll come back to that idea in a moment.

The dog lover in my family (hint- not me) has traded addresses with many internet weinie dog loving friends across the country for the purpose of exchanging Christmas cards. It sounds innocent enough but, let me tell you, when those cards started rolling in, it was frightening. First, I think we received more cards from people we’ve never met that from those we know well. Second, I’m guessing that we didn’t receive a card from every wienie dog fanatic and certainly there are other breeds of dogs out there. That means the sheer number of people who behave this way is staggering. Finally, almost all the cards come with photos of one or more weinie dogs all dressed up in all sorts of costumes. If you can imagine it, someone has figured out how to put it on dog. It might be holly-decorated collars, jingle-bells around their necks, little red Santa hats, floppy reindeer antlers, and complete Santa costumes. It might be anything. Tell me, what kind of mind does it take to dream up how to put a tiny white beard on a dachshund?

Now back to my point about “encouraging them” in their bizarre behavior. My daughter, Ellen, who is otherwise a good normal kid, brought her two cats home with her during her holiday visit with us. No costumes. However, she brought the dog lover in the family gifts. Gifts that you might say were dog lover oriented. In fact, (and I don’t blame her for this) they were costumes. When you see the great joy on the face of a dog lover after they receive some kind of over-the-top pet trinket, it is hard to resist. The more embarrasing it is to purchase, seemingly the greater the joy for the recipient. I am pleased to report that the costume was not an elf suit. Instead,…well, see for your self.

You tell me. Does the look on their faces say, “Wow…just what I always wanted!” or rather, “If I was 100 pounds bigger, you’d be wearing this on your face faster than you could say, ‘Aw…what a cute puppy-wuppy’, and I would be the one grinning”?

It wasn’t long after that Gus, the pit bull mix, was being subjected to the festivities. The jingle bells were put around his neck. The he looked up and I heard him say, “If you want me to prance around like some kind of sissy sleigh horse or reindeer, you’ve had too much eggnogg!”.

Then he flopped down in total embarrassment.

While Ellen and I were sympathetically embarrassed for him, the dog lover was clapping her hands with glee.

Yes sir. Christmas time is a strange time for the dog lover’s family.

What It’s Like

Janet was surprised to learn that I took no photos during my early morning ride.

“Most of it was too dark”, I replied without elaboration.

The truth is that there were several things about the ride that made an impression. A mental image, if you will. I thought that some readers of this blog might not have experienced an early morning, start-in-the-dark, chilly, bicycle ride through a rural area. If you can use your imagination for a minute, I’ll tell you what it’s like.

Leaving my lover all nestled under cover is like a lingering goodbye. It needs to happen, duty calls, you’ve really got to go, but you don’t really want to leave her behind.

Rolling along in the pre-dawn darkness is both spectacular and eerie. To borrow a phrase from a Charlie Daniels Band song, the stars are like “diamonds on black velvet, stretching from horizon to horizon.” The silence and limited vision are like walking into your dark house after being away. You know that it is unlikely that some stranger has broken in and come inside, but there is always that slight chance that he did and he’s hiding in that dark corner.

The post-warm-up rhythm of climbing, descending, rounding corners, and adjusting pace to match terrain and wind conditions is like performing easy familiar work. It doesn’t require thinking. The automatic motion of completing every climb and reaching the next curve in the road, provides a slow-burning sense of satisfaction like a job skillfully done.

On a clear day, the orange glow on the eastern horizon is like a visual trumpet fanfare signaling the imminent arrivial of some important dignitary.

The solitude is like owning the moment and owning everything you can see. With no one sight, it is like God personally hands you, and only you, this time and His creation to enjoy as His gift. You roll by every farm, every pasture, every creek, and every tree and admire them as if you went out to survey and admire the extent of your own vast empire.

Climbing a road that rises up to resist you is like having a tiny army to stoke the fire that burns in your legs. They provide all the power needed to meet the challenge and conquer all who dare to stand in your way.

When the just-before-sunrise temperatures reach their minimum and fog appears in low areas, it is like God signaled his servants, in an instant, to spread a thin blanket over the pasture. It can sleep a little longer.

Returning home as the sun leaps into the sky and light spills across the valley is like a celebration. It is a joyful homecoming, a reunion with a lover, and a hopeful expectation for what the day has yet to bring.

It’s kinda like that.

Only better.

Where is everyone?

The weather, after several days of clouds, wind, rain, and cold, was excellent. Sunny skies, temperatures in the high 40’s, and a light breeze. It would have been good to work on fender installation, but this day was made for ridin’.

Even on the relatively low traffic county roads, I was a little surprised how empty they were. Maybe everyone was either shopping…or watching football. Whatever the cause, it makes for a delightful 2-hour excursion for a man and his bicycle.

Ride Regrets

The forecast called for rain ending during Friday night, an early Saturday morning temperature of 40 degrees with a light northeast wind, followed by continuing dropping temperatures throughout the day and winds increasing to 25 mph. I planned to ride north, explore a few roads I haven’t been on before, and enjoy a tailwind coming home.

I didn’t count on the lingering drizzle.

Riding into a light wind with spray in my face made me wonder how long I’d stay out. But when dressed properly and riding uphill into the wind, one warms up quickly and I was actually comfortable and enjoying myself.

This is what fun looks like.

So the route took me up into Cooke County and I really should have gone farther. But, instead of exploring new areas, I turned around at a familiar intersection.

With so little early morning traffic, the sounds of the trip were memorable. Goats. Roosters. The hum of pavement under spinning tires. Dogs barking in the distance. Wind. The sound of water droplets crashing against my helmet and glasses.

There were the sounds, but the smell of clean moist air and wood smoke from homestead fireplaces scattered across the countryside were just as memorable.

Some of those homesteads, so warm and dry, looked inviting.

I do not regret being out on the bike in the dark, damp, cold early morning.

I regret letting the rapidly increasing wind speeds and dropping temperatures nudge me back in the house just a little too soon.