Fear of the Dead

Out my front door and over one of the most dangerous bridges in the country puts me on the west side of the river. From there I hang a right, taking me around and underneath the bridge I just crossed. There’s a stop light here, but at this hour the street is clear so I roll through it. Just across the street is Riverview Cemetery.

The morning chill that marks fall and winter has returned and as I climb through the cemetery. The steam from my breath falls into the view of my light. I don’t believe in another world after this one, which rules out the idea of ghosts, but as my physical manifestation of my breath comes into view I can’t help but think about how it looks like a ghost. One time I rode up through here only to find the gate at the top locked. I thought about turning around, and coasting back down past the grave stones and finding another way to work. Just as I resigned myself to that fate when another rider told me there was gap in the fence a little further down. “You have to walk across the grass” she finished.

That meant walking between the stones. I did it, but thinking about it still gives me the chills.

Today is different, the gate will be unlocked when I reach the top. There will be no walking between gravestones, just me and the bones in the ground. I used to run intervals here in an attempt to get faster. But since this is the slow season I take it easy. Which in turn allows my mind to wonder. My light flashes briefly illuminating the names of people long since passed. There it occurs to me that I’m riding through a place associated with death at the birth of new day. Then, to continue the line of trite and basic thought, it occurs to me that as the trees around me are dying and the natural world goes into hibernation I’m laying the foundation for next season’s goals. Laying the needed groundwork to get myself to the next level in my life. Not just my riding life, but what I want from my life.

Then I force all that hallmark shit out of my head and start focusing on my spin. That doesn’t last long before something else comes up.This time it’s a memory and for a moment the Butcher and I are pedaling BMX bikes down Euclid before turning right and riding through Lakeview Cemetery hoping to glide past the tombstones to the reservoir wall. There, far from the view of the dead I learned to wall ride as we took turn swooping down the short hill before pulling and riding higher and higher up the wall. The memory makes me smile.

Playing that scene over again leads to thinking about those rides we shared on Cleveland State, which carries me to the top. Near the gate I know to look left, out over the highway to see Mt. Hood basking in aplenglow. A ltincular cloud is forming over the summit which leads to more memories, this time about being in the mountains. I push those thoughts out too.

I stop, snap a quick, grainy picture with my phone. “I love that view” I say to no one in particular. A second later my left foot clicks back in and I’m on my way to back across the river on my way to work.

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