For six months we had been racing against the setting sun, adjusting our riding time to shorter days. Too many nights we entered a new town in the dark, tired and cranky. Too many times it felt like a miracle to be alive when we made it to our destination. But on the solstice our timing was perfect. At the top of a ridge we rested, taking in a panoramic view, watching five weather systems — five theaters in the East Texas sky. I had a staring contest with a longhorn cow.
At 4:06 pm, with plenty of light still in the sky, we entered the gates of the Acres Alegres ranch, our home for the night.
We had just enough time to learn a little about our host before she left for a Christmas party. She was petite, tough and beautiful, one of those people whose energy and easy generosity inspired awe. She used to have cattle; now she farmed walleye, turning part of her ranch into a wildlife sanctuary for skunks, deer, wild hogs and copperhead snakes. She made furniture and wooden toys. A row of miniature logging trucks sat in her shed, ready for some lucky child. She played the dulcimer, sang in a choir. She was bilingual, in charge of helping new Spanish-speaking families at her church. She and her shiny black Model A car were the same age.
She offered us her barn loft with porch overlooking a meadow and forest, and then took off. Just as her car disappeared over the horizon, the electricity went out. As Dave searched in vain for candles and a fuse box, I decided to give in to the darkness. I would sit out on this porch so far from city lights, and watch until the last bit of sun left the sky. I figured it wouldn’t be long.
I was wrong. There was still a streak of light over the horizon at 8pm – enough to create monsters out of tree trunks. And when it was gone, there was the moon.
A revelation of light on the darkest day.
This is an excerpt of my forthcoming book Turtle Road: Pedaling America’s Divides, a 12,000 Mile Bicycle Memoir. I am still in the editing process. Responses to writing and content are appreciated. Thank you.