I watched the trees outside the window bend and sway as I stuffed my pannier with extra layers and water for the ride to the farm. It was my last delivery of the year. The wind had been blowing hard from the southeast all day. Just that morning the headwind had turned my southbound delivery route around the bay from an easy, flat ride into what felt like a five mile hill climb. Still, what was the point of an e-assist bicycle if not to assist with adverse conditions like these? I strapped the box of bread to the front deck, hung my pannier on the back rack, and rode out in defiance of the wind
I rode through the city under fast, gray skies, through the forest with the treetops swaying and the breeze gentle around me. I wound the tight curves south of Larabee, bedrock rising to my left and falling away to my right, the sun breaking clear above the islands and glazing the water below shining white. I rode past water falling white and fast into culverts, past the mud streaks of small landslides, past rockfalls, past a giant cedar snag nose down beside the road, a long skid like a sled run streaking the hillside above it. The bare branches of the maples stood out bright against the firs. Madronas blazed up from the rock, red and yellow and shining green.
Out from the protection of the hills the Skagit flats were as bad as I’d imagined. The wind picked up as the sun set, head on and getting colder. I distracted myself with birds. Red tail, red tail, starlings, red tail. Sea gulls floated in the flooded fields. A heron lifted off from just beside the road, awkward and startlingly large. Somewhere to my right I could hear geese—dozens? hundreds?—calling as they settled for the night. I was so tired I was blinking in and out of sleep even as my legs kept pumping. Five miles to go, and then two. I stopped to pull on another layer, heavier gloves, to drink water hoping it would wash the sleep from my eyes. Every mile was slower than the one before. I crossed the Samish and turned east. The wind punched me in the side and sent me wavering. I stared straight ahead at the road, at the dark clouds massed over the foothills. Pushed and pushed and I was at the farm. I abandoned the bike in the middle of the farm road and went straight inside. What was usually a ninety minute ride, motorless, had taken me nearly two and a half hours with the electric assist. E was gone on deliveries. I didn't care. I tore off a hunk of bread and spread it thick with butter. Ate it and I tore another, and two more after that. I finished the dried apricots in the tin above the sink. I boiled water and filled a mug, wrapped myself in a quilt, and drank it slowly. I was cold and exhausted and so grateful for walls and slippers, for the mug warming my hands, for stillness.
It was a good ride. Hard and good. I was glad for the ride and glad it was over, or I was glad for the year of baking and glad it was over, or I was just glad to be sitting down, warming up with the hot water and food. I was glad. And then I was asleep.
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