Lafayette, Indiana is not an mtb destination by any stretch of the imagination, even if your imagination is Gumby-esque. If you have a Pokey imagination, you might be able to get there, Pokey being Pokey. Though, still, it is doubtful.
I stepped out of the car at the Amphitheater and looked up to visually pinpoint what my ears had already distinguished: a V of Canada geese flying west. My beater bike was racked on top of the car, looking a little weary for a late winter afternoon romp through a patch of woods. (It has been with me for more than a decade now, taking beatings year in and year out.) I was half-dressed in cold weather riding gear. I soon took the bike off the rack and was pulling gloves over my hands.
Lucky for me, the trailhead had no evidence of previous riders. It had been a while since I first cut a path through snow with bike tires. Warming up on the initial stretch before the turn overlooking the Wabash River, I figured the last time I had such a privilege was somewhere around 1996 when I rode around Gettysburg’s park roads, fields and woods in a moderate snowfall with four inches already on the ground.
I came to the turn overlooking the river and looked out, and an inner smile warmed me from head to toe. When I woke in the morning, the air temperature was minus one degrees F. I had decided when driving to work that it was a day to celebrate winter:
An owl flew in front of me through the barren tree limbs. I heard not a sound of his or her wings as s/he glided, flapped and glided again. Watching him/her pass before me and then glancing down at the trail, I lost his/her way when I looked back up again. It didn’t matter. I pedaled on.
Four great blue herons rose from the icy banks and flew in several directions up along the Wabash and across to the other shore, up and over the wooded buffer zone. Twenty minutes into my ride, I was already soulified.
At the turn-around point, flavors of very ripe Caribe coast bananas and brown sugar passed over my palate:
The river ran icy. I stood and listened. Solitude, water turning to ice and flowing towards the Mississippi Caribe , and extra bananas thrown into a banana bread recipe with hops that was somehow bottled, had me thinking, “Lafayette, IN should be thankful it’s not an mtb destination.”
I headed back towards the trailhead. It seemed that dusk was setting in earlier than I had anticipated. Picking up the pace, and occasionally looking down to be sure the hopped-up banana bread didn’t lose its cap and spill out, I burned some calories so that I could get a second turn in before darkness was upon me.
I finished off the Blithering Idiot at the second go-round of the turn-around point. The toes on my right foot were quite cold, likely caused by a thicker sock and being stuffed too tight into the shoe. I pushed the empty beer bottle back into the coozy that was lodged into the water bottle cage. I clipped in, and was on my way.
My ride ended knowing that the forecast was calling for a fresh two inches or more of snow overnight. The temps should remain sub-freezing cold through the weekend, the forecasters said. I got back into my car and hoped they were right in their prognostications.