Moon Shadows

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North America » United States » North Carolina » Davidson
November 6th 2003
Published: November 6th 2003
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I hadn’t been planning on a 90 mile day, but that’s what happens when the roads aren’t marked.

Prior to arriving in Greensboro, North Carolina, I had been enjoying the North Carolina state bike routes. While planning my daily ride, I would try to take the marked biked routes as much as possible. They would meander along the back roads, providing a respite from honking horns and belching tailpipes. Looking at my road maps in the morning, I saw that I could take sate bike route 2 for a third of my journey to Davidson, North Carolina. But within my first two miles along Bike Route 2, I knew I was in trouble when I arrived at an intersection and the bike route wasn’t posted.

Every other time I had ridden the bike routes, they were always clearly posted at each and every intersection along the way. The bike routes would turn from one country lane to another, and thus the constant signs were quite necessary. But now I stood at a crossroads and tried to figure out which way I should go. I consulted my map and confirmed that I was indeed on the right road- I had followed the turn for Bike Route 2 onto Watkins Ford Road, and even though I stood at what should have been the intersection with High Point Road, the names weren’t matching up. High Point Road was not listed on the road sign, although Watkins Ford Road was. To compound my problems, the morning was still over cast, and I could not discern my direction from the sun. I lined up m map as best I could, compared the geographic features of the map to the landscape around me, and took an educated guess that I needed to go straight on. In all I spent five minutes staring at my map, and it was a pattern that I would repeat at least twenty more times through the rest of the day. I lost precious daylight hours trying to piece together where I was and where I should be going. Oftentimes I was on a road that the map told me was Bike Route 2, but there were no signs for it. And all too often I found that myself at an intersection that I could identify on the map, but the road names on the ground did not concur with the road names on my map. At one point I found myself at an intersection ten miles north of my intended course.

Early in the afternoon the cloud cover finally burned off, and I gave up following my maps. I instead pointed my bike toward the sun, knowing that I needed to head southwest until I came to Route 64, which would take me across the Yadkin River.

But my course was not along the graded path. I found myself rushing down a series of short, sharp hill, only to climb up another series of hills at a prodigiously slow pace. All th while I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of the autumn trees around me, and the distinct phenomena of falling leaves being blown in the opposite direction as I was traveling- I was riding into the wind.

It was around mid-afternoon that I finally crossed the Yadkin River, what should have been the halfway point of my day. My route southwards from the river was fairly simple, and would involve only three marked state routes. As I turned of US Route 64 and onto State Route 801 I was relieved to see that I would be riding parallel to the railroad tracks. When the rails were laid, the engineers chose the easiest, flattest route possible. I guessed that the second half of my day would be at least a little flatter than the first half.

It was then while I was cruising along the flats that I took my first look of the day at my mileage on my bike computer. I was dismayed to see that I had already ridden 45 miles, with many more to go. The shadows were getting longer, and I estimated that I had another thirty five miles ahead of me. I did some calculations in my head and figured that if the terrain stayed flat, I might be able to average close to 15 miles per hour and reach Davidson in two and a half hours. It was already 4 PM, and I was scheduled to speak at 8 PM at Davidson College. While I would be pushing it, I was still determined to reach Davidson under my own power.

An hour later I stopped on a grassy patch and sat down beside my bike. My legs were begin to quiver from five hours of riding, and my sinuses were beginning to expand. The sun had disappeared behind the trees, although not beyond the horizon. The clouds overhead were acquiring a pink halo, and the fire trucks across the way in the firehouse glistened in the late day sun. I called ahead to my host Rebecca in Davidson, but my call was rudely interrupted by the wail of the firehouse siren. Without being able to hear a response, I screamed into the phone, “I’ll call you back!” and settled back for the show. Within half a minute the first volunteer came racing up to the station in his pickup truck, screeched to a halt and raced inside to the truck. Within three minutes three more volunteers had arrived, the ladder truck was out the door and a backup truck from another department was racing by as well. I calmly changed out the lenses in my sunglasses, replacing the mirrored lenses for clear lenses. When the commotion had finally calmed down, I called my host back again, and told her that my trip had become a little longer than I had expected, but I thought I should still arrive within an hour after covering what I guessed to be the final fifteen miles.

Six miles later I came to a road sign that announced, “Davidson 21 Miles.” I cursed under my breath and attempted to call my host Rebecca back. She had asked me earlier if I had any concerns about riding after dark, and I had told her, “No, I’ve got lights on my bike. I’ll be fine after dark.” I had wanted to make Davidson under my own power, but now I saw that my desire was not going to be satiated. Rebecca never answered her phone, so I left her a voice mail, explaining where I was and asking for a ride. When Rebecca didn’t answer her cell phone either, I left a duplicate message on it as well.

I got back in the saddle, put down my head and summoned what reserves were left after 70 miles on the road, all the while hoping that my cell phone would ring in my back jersey pocket, and Rebecca would tell me that she was on her way to pick me up. While I waited for her call I found myself enjoying my post-sunset ride as the nearly full moon climbed higher and higher into the sky and lit the road ahead of me in a silvery glow. I found myself looking behind me and humming, “I’m being followed by a moon shadow, Moon shadow, Moon shadow…”

My miniscule bike light added little to the cold light cast by the moon over the countryside, and once I looked up to see a white tail deer bounding away from me into the shadows of the forest. As oncoming cars would crest the hills in front of me I would tuck my head down to shield my eyes from their headlights, but I would still be reduced to staring at the next few yards of pavement ahead of me.

The sweat continued to drip down my face in the unseasonably warm weather, but after sunset the temperature had dropped in the lower 70’s, and was at least bearable. Every five miles or so I would call Rebecca’s phones, but it was not until I was about ten miles outside of Davidson that I finally got through to her and explained my predicament. At the next gas station I reached I called Rebecca once again and told her where I was, and then went inside to buy a dinner consisting of a bag of Cape Cod potato chips, a bottle of powerade and a canned energy drink. I guzzled down the energy drink while standing underneath a street light, and soon I saw a little Subaru station wagon pull up. Before Rebecca had stopped the car or had a chance to greet me, I had opened up the tailgate and begun to toss my bike, trailer and bags into the back. With a handshake and a snap of the seatbelts we took off, five miles and ten minutes from my speaking engagement at Davidson College. Rebecca informed me that she had sent word ahead that I had been delayed, and asked if I wanted to stop for a shower before I spoke. I declined her offer, explaining that I had a pack of baby wipes, a stick of deodorant and a change of clothes with me, and a few minutes in a bathroom would do just fine.

In the bathroom I locked myself into the handicapped stall and proceeded to strip off a layer of sweaty lycra, only to discover that my newly heightened tan was not the result of pigmentation, but rather a conglomeration of sunscreen and road grime. I scrubbed the dirt off with baby wipes, tossed on my “Quaker clothes,” and rushed up the stairs of the Student Union to give my presentation, only slightly behind schedule on what had turned into a 90 mile day.


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