Sunday morning cloud shadows from the road less travelled between my valley and next.
Between the un-outdoor occasions of Christmas and the New Year, between the wet roads thawing briefly under the winter sun and freezing again, between all the stuff left behind in the world of work and all the stuff that’s still waiting there, between thinking sod it, it’s december, let’s skip this ride and have another cake
and realising oh crap I don’t think I’ll ever get up anything higher than a speed bump on a bike ever again if I don’t get out soon
, between a proper honest-to-goodness round of the fells and a grudging valley spin to tick off some miles, between the snow which has fallen to the north and the snow which has fallen to the south, between the valleys of the Swale and of the Ure is Oxnop Scar, doing us proper proud today.
Daylight is getting to be a bit of problem now, or getting enough of it is anyway. The weather in these islands may have been historically mild for October and for the first few hours of November but right now I’d trade half a dozen celsius degrees for an hour of the day back. After a few days in a windowless room this week, at which arrival and departure happened in more or less darkness, I was reduced to writing ‘HELP ME!’ using letters prized off a laptop keyboard in a rescue-seeking bid of desperation. I regret it now of course, as computers with two ‘e’s are not easy to replace. Saturday mornings now see me staggering blinking into the sunlight like a trembling alcoholic stumbling into an off licence on the cue of the assistant unlocking the door and flipping the dangling ‘closed’ sign to ‘open’, well, err, apparently that’s what they do, I hear. Weeknight bike rides are articially lit affairs now, just me and a japanese LED stuck together in a hostile world like Lee Marvin and Toshirô Mifune in that John Boorman movie, trying to come to terms with what happened to those tortuously recent evenings that lasted almost until morning, trying not to look behind to the blackness just left behind so weekends now are ridden grinning like the just released institutionalised idiot that I am. Judging by the number of bikes out this morning however I think I may not be the only one…
There are two roads heading up from the valley which meet at the scar of which one is very much less travelled than the other which isn’t exactly the main route over the fell itself either. Perhaps the exposure helps keep the less travelled road so quiet, perhaps the half a dozen gates you need to open and close on the way up or down, perhaps the greasy narrow climb up a steep and tight curve from the main road, perhaps the deterioration of the road towards the top into more of a farm track than a highway, perhaps the unsigned and unnoticed turn off from the valley road, perhaps the fact that nobody much travels this way which means if you get into bother with the weather it might be a while before anyone finds you, and it wouldn’t take much weather to cause you some bother, only a very little snow turning the trip into more of a push or a carry than a ride, and perhaps because satnav mappers are a little more careful with this kind of thing than they were a few years ago. Also of course there is a perfectly good alternative which takes you to exactly the same place where there is just you and the wind and a view half the way back home, whichever way that may be. The quieter road however remains the best for the open space, for the escape from everything, and for the causing of puzzled looks on the faces of holidaying ramblers strolling up the parallel lane pointing squinting at the silhouette of a bike and rider gliding mysteriously across the top of the cliff where there isn’t supposed to be a road. When the chance comes to ride up over the scar at this time of year at all, and not only that but in the company of the ghost of the sunshine of a late summer evening, the light revived though not the warmth, resurrected for a couple of glorious hours in the middle of a late December day to breathe life into tired spirits then although there may be other things better for the soul this works fine for me. It’s nice to get home and put the kettle on though.