I stared at the mostly decayed remains of what appeared to have been a dog for close to two minutes. Though it could have been thirty-seconds, its always hard to tell when one is not only faced with the mortality of all things, but is also lost in thought. The skeleton had, for the most part been picked clean and only a small opaque piece of skin was still stretched, almost to its breaking point, between the bones that had once supported the shoulder muscles. I was no more than two-hundred feet from the road, a paved one at least, with my left foot on the ground and my right foot still clipped in.
I wondered how long the skeleton had been there, just off the road, in front of a forest service gate. Google maps showed that the dirt logging road I was standing in front of would, named Loged Road wondering if this dead, former canine of some sort was serving as an omen, telling me to stay out, and continue on the way I had originally planned.
My original plan was to take Teal Lake Road into Port Ludlow, then Port Haddock, staying to the east of HWY 19 and then ride into Port Townsend for tea and a scone, then head back toward the Kingston Ferry and from there make the two mile slog up Main St to home.
Teal Lake Road had reared up at close to eight percent, but provided a quick way off the HWY. Trees were lined in straight tall rows along the side of the road, all nearly identical in height. Which was either a nod to a long ago logged section of the Olympic Peninsula, or a trick of perspective. The road to a supposedly teal lake had also delivered me to Andy Cooper Road, the first diversion of the day, and a good one at that, for it quickly turned to gravel and dirt and dropped down a steep grade to Paradise Bay Road, and eventually connected back to my intended route.
I have passed many of these roads before, but this is my first time venturing far from the highway to see what these foreign roads may have, aside from the quiet that comes from not riding along the highway. All told I’ve made maybe six ferry trips out here, always on a Monday, which has become my Sunday. New roads have become my routine.
That first rise on Teal Lake Road put me in the mood to climb, and Swansonville shot up from where I was, which was the second diversion of the day. After Egg and I road – I had tackled its Muur before – I knew I was going to take Loged Road and connect it to the middle part of Eaglemount, thinking it was a paved road, without a forest service gate, without a dead dog within eye shot of West Valley Road.
I don’t disregard the dead dog, but I do push by the gate and start down this “road”. There is some gravel, but its mostly dirt and mud. The map shows a single road cutting through west through the forest. Its not that easy. Instead I slip and slide through mud, deeper than some some of the cross races I did last year, and a huge network of roads. My focus is singular. I can’t take in what’s happening around me.
The going is slow, and I get turned around several times. When I finally do empty out onto HWY 20 I am more than six miles from where I thought I’d emerge. Nowhere near Eaglemount. The riding has been hard, and I haven’t eaten in over an hour, but I wait till I’ve finished laughing. During the week I sell bikes to people who want fat tires for the gravel bikes paths around Seattle’s North suburbs and I’ve just ridden through slop that required mountain bike tires. That thought occurs to me, but that’s not why I’m laughing. I’m laughing because that dead dog warned me – maybe – and because of what I found and though there were tracks it still feels like mine. Life still feels foreign here but this belongs to me.
Earlier that morning, when I had gone out to write and drink some espresso I found an apple in the driveway into condo complex we live in. Birds, ants, and other insects had eaten all around it. leaving only the core and enough skin around the bottom so that the apple kept its shape. I recalled a few lines of Mishima.
It is for a knife to be plunged deep into the apple so that it is split open and the core is exposed to the light-to the same light, that is, as the surface skin, Yet then the existence of the cut apple falls into fragments; the core of the apple sacrifices existence for the sake of seeing.
That coring experience was what I was looking for over two years ago when I started riding again and thought about racing. Then I happily spent hours riding alone, then I found a pack to ride with, and I became not only concerned with turning myself inside out to prove my existence, but the experience and the beauty of it. It being not only the racing, but the riding and the friendship. I’m finding other ways to “core the apple”. I’ve been doing some beautiful rides, but I wish I could share them.