After two months sitting dormant in the garage, my bicycle is back out on the road again. These oddly warm days of November have enticed me back onto the seat, and it sure feels good. How could I forget how wonderful it is to fly along Scenic 61? My feet going in circles, the wind whistling through my helmet, the whir of my gears and the lake my constant companion. Never mind that it’s chilly, I’m wrapped in layers of clothes and my toes grow colder with each mile.
The shorter days catch me by surprise. I’m enjoying the golden glow of the sun behind me as I ride up the shore. Its low light reflects off the white of the birches and bathes the shoreline in amber as it slips down in the sky. I pedal on, in search of a good vantage point for a photograph, oblivious of my narrowing window to return.
At last a gap in the trees provides me with a view. Turning around, I find a stunning sunset. The sun is making its final descent to the hillside of Duluth, and in its final moments the brilliant yellow flare is almost blinding. The rest of the sky is just beginning to take on a fiery orange cast, each cloud becoming the perfect reflector for the sun’s rays. I snap photo after photo, trying different viewpoints and settings, hoping to capture the magic before my eyes.
Returning to my bike, the road is visibly darker. Daylight is fading fast with the sun’s disappearance. I have a good 40 minute ride to get home, and it quickly becomes a race with the diminishing light. Thankfully the flashers on my bike have retained enough battery power to make me visible to cars. But they do nothing for my own night sight. What might be a dire situation is actually a thrill. With each passing mile, the sky intensifies to an even deeper red, reaching high overhead. The trees have become flat black silhouettes, outlined in sharp contrast with the crimson backdrop. Looking higher, I discover an ultra-thin crescent moon perched in the darkening sky above. My legs pump and I spin toward this magnificent scene. I drink it all in with my eyes, knowing I can’t afford any more stops on this trip. Perhaps it’s all the more beautiful for its ephemeral nature.
My own neighborhood is darkest of all. The last few blocks lack a streetlight and I am pitched into near total darkness on our rural road. There the moon hangs over the neighborhood homes, and I am thankful to return safely. Yet all the richer for my sunset cycling.