Winter is ending. Winter is ending. It's really ending. For real, it's ending.
It's a mantra, a watchword, a hope. The memory of 11º night rides home will be stored away for sweaty August days, but right now? Winter is ending. Winter is leaving.
And spring is coming. You cannot stop the spring. That first false spring day, that break in the cold and gloom—it's not going to last, it's not here to stay, but it's a promise. A hope.
Gotta take it.
Afternoon off on Leap Day. Like a day that doesn't exist, a random spare day, the scraps of lost time from the last four years rolled up, cobbled together, and baked until the crust is golden. Every other day was rolled out and cut out with the biscuit cutter, but this day? It's the odd malformed last one at the edge of the sheet, the one that sticks out, the one that inevitably gets taken first.
If I push it a tad and the wind goes my way, I can just make it from work out to Great Falls and back before night falls. It's been a few nasty, rainy days, but this one's that perfect break, a one-day reprieve, a hope that makes a couple hours of work zip past.
Even the stoplights on M Street are going my way as I head towards Georgetown. I hop on the CapCres, then hit the dirt at Fletcher's Boathouse. The wind's not making things too easy, sure, but it's not a hard Okie headwind either...and it'll be reeeeeaaall niiiice here in a few coming the other way.
Am I pushing things a bit hard? Yeah, a bit. Gotta make it to the Falls and back by dark. Faster I get there, more time I can spend there. Ellie's enjoying this; after all this winter commuting, the salt and the slush, it's good to have the huskypuppy back on the gravel she was meant for. Trying out this new saddle I snagged at the team gearswap. It's a bit aggressive. Ride accordingly.
I've given up dodging all the mudpuddles. Screw it, I've got an Ass Saver. I'll be fine.
Under the Beltway. Another lockhouse passed. Billy Goat trail on the left. Long views around the canal bend. The Towpath cuts through rocks. More mudholes. Hikers, dogs, cyclists. Almost there...
At the Falls. You can't ride out to Olmstead Island, but a bit of hikeabike and I can get my cheesecake bikephotos. All the rains have swollen the Falls—they're raging. The river's white underneath me, rainbows arcing through the spray. I stay longer than I planned; if I push it, I can still make it home before dark, but I want to enjoy this.
Okay, jump back on the bike. Let's get home already. I jump one of the mudpuddles at speed, hearing the gravel fly as I land. The light's turning perfect as evening falls; this'll make a great photo for...
Oh No. That wasn't gravel I heard four miles back when I jumped that puddle. That was my AssSaver. The All-City swag AssSaver Ethan handed me at DCCX. The All-City swag AssSaver Ethan handed me at DCCX that matches my bike and my All-City jersey I scored at the team gearswap. The All-City swag...okay, fine, I'll backtrack and get it, I've got a light.
Lucky for me, the people who followed behind me didn't throw away the random piece of plastic that fell off my bike. There's my ACSASEHM@DCCXTMMB&MACJISATTG, sitting on a rock next to the mud puddle I didn't quite jump.
It's official: I'm Phill the AssSaverSaver.
Back to Georgetown. I hear a hiss as I skid my tires in front of an unleashed dog; caught something in the back. You know how I patch punctures? Put a finger over the hole, move it to the bottom, wait ten seconds for the sealant to set. Jump back on, go. Fine, it's a bit low, but I'm riding. Enjoy the tailwind. Turn on my front light just as I reach the city's streetlights. Dodge rush hour traffic. Urban cyclocross through Mt. Vernon Square. Back to the office.
Yeah, I was at Great Falls, y'alls. Yeah, my cobbled together spare random afternoon was pretty awesome. Yeah, my time outside of time, this strange anomaly and quirk of the calendar, this first moment of spring in the midst of winter, this half-planned adventure of "ride faster and I can be still longer"—it somehow all came together. Now pass me the air chuck, I gotta ride home!