By Ralph F. Couey
The hardest part -- okay, ONE of the hardest parts of winter is how the cold keeps a person from being able to enjoy outside activities. I really don't like being forced inside for my entertainment and exercise. I have written extensively of my absolute detestation for treadmills, comparing them to an earthbound form of purgatory. I can (and do) run or hike outside on days when the temps range into the upper 30's, but those gems are few and far between this year.
Let me hasten to extend my sincerest condolences for the poor folks in Boston and New England who are, at this moment, watching another round of the snowiest year on record. We here in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia -- this is Washington, so acronyms are required) have amassed only around five inches total for the entire season. Last week, Boston saw that in just one hour. You-all have my sympathy and respect. First the Red Sox, and now, snow.
But the persistent cold has been frustrating. So earlier this week, we had a day when the thermometer soared into the upper 50's, almost spring by comparison. I could have (should have) gone running, but standing in the garage, my attention was drawn to my other passion, my motorcycle. Since late November, the bike has sat quietly, the battery percolating on the tender. I've started and run it at least once a week, but the cold weather and the overly enthusiastic application of sand and salt by VDOT has kept me from riding. But that day was an opportunity which, judging by the latest long-range forecast, would not come again for several weeks. So I dug through the pile of stuff in the garage and managed to find all the parts to my riding gear, including the liners. I cleared the accumulation of flotsam that had piled up around the bike, backed it out, fired up the engine, and for the first time in three months, I took a ride.
Getting out of the neighborhood was tricky because of the road treatment. Once on the main drag, the heavier traffic had gradually squeegeed the loose stuff to the side. I took my usual route, heading west on US50. I had gone about 10 miles when I realized that the wind, despite the temperatures, still retained a bit of a bite. I should note here that my age combined with diabetes has had a deleterious effect on my circulation, so I am far more sensitive to cold now. But despite the discomfort, I began to smile, my spirit lifting. Reaching Middleburg, I turned south towards The Plains, taking those gentle curves with an easy, rhythmic motion. This is not to say that I wasn't rusty. I turned a little wide on some of the curves, and my road instincts were slow in reawakening. At the edge of The Plains, I turned on the narrow country road with the poetic name of Hopewell. This is a road that has one of those slap-dash asphalt jobs that is meant merely to cover the gravel and keep the dust down. It's the kind of surface that lends itself to frost heave, so I had to pay close attention to the road surface. At Hopewell Gap, the road became Waterfall Road. At this point, it passes through the edge of a forest on the left with a few of those massive horse farms the area is well-known for on the right, bordered by a well-maintained stacked-stone border fence. I really enjoy this stretch, as it has a certain beauty, both natural and man-made.
Crossing US15, the road changed names again, becoming Sudley. Civilization began to return as I reached the intersection with Gum Spring Road, and the last wavy stretch towards home. Pulling into the driveway, I was pretty well chilled, but still happy. A quick 40 miles had been stolen from Old Man Winter.
I know that seasons don't last forever, and that spring eventually will arrive, calendrically, if not meteorologically. It's just a matter of holding out until those days of warm sunshine and fresh air laced with the smell of wildflowers return.
Until then, I will endure this year's round of PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) as well as the other outdoor restrictions until the earth decides winter is over.
Yes, Ralph...this too, shall end.