As I strained against my bicycle pedals while advancing up the hill, debate raged in my head. Rounding the corner I asked myself, should I or shouldn’t I? Nearing the turn I pondered anew – what to do?
In my well ordered world, I would continue on with my planned early morning bike ride/workout. I would complete my 30 miles, finish my breakfast toast slathered with peanut butter en route to the coffee shop, then perch on the front porch with a medium skim latte and write for several hours. It’s what I do.
But possibility lurked. It was a mild clear morning with the sun just rising, and the brilliant leaves told me they were approaching prime. Not quite there yet, but the weather forecast promised ugly conditions for the next week. The leaves might not outlast the ugly.
I had yet to perform my annual ritual. At least once a year I take a ride across the city of Duluth, perched on the hilltop following Skyline Drive with the harbor and lake far below. This would be the perfect day to do so. But it wasn’t in my plan. And I always follow my plan. Or do I?
I turned left. Never mind that I had only a half full water bottle for a 40+ mile ride. So what if my usual granola bar stash was in my other bike bag? Forget the fact that my map of this route was in the same place. I had to go for it.
Whizzing along in the early morning sunlight, the air alternated between hot humid blasts that fogged my glasses and the more habitual chilly air. I felt loose and free. The writing will wait. The story will still get done. I was doing something for myself, and it felt good.
I had a good 20 mile ride through the countryside just to get to the opposite side of town. But even that blossomed with fall colors. They were all around me. It’s what I had come for.
Reaching the Information Center at Thompson Hill marked the beginning of Skyline Drive. From there, the scenic drive snaked across the crest of the hill, weaving back and forth in a rolling ride through forests of fall colors. My pace took a nosedive as I continually stopped to snap pictures, to gawk, to appreciate.
Normally, the appeal of Skyline is the view. The panoramic spread of the St. Louis River, the harbor and Lake Superior is visible from multiple overlooks and is a real-life geography lesson. But not today. Blue smoky haze from the western wildfires hovered over the scene. Across the water, Wisconsin was a blur. The horizon erased. The flat water on this calm day stretched into nothingness. All of it was eclipsed by the vivid scenery in my immediate vicinity.
With one exception. The quintessential Duluth experience – a thousand-foot ore boat was inching its way out of the harbor and making its final turn to pass under the Aerial Bridge. In my “why not?” state of mind, I had all the time in the world to wait for it. Even if it resembled the scene from a faded black and white movie.
Skyline Drive dumps out unceremoniously at the gates of UMD, and I dutifully skirted the campus. But even that had its rewards, as I passed the flaming maples of Bagley Nature Area abutting a student parking lot.
The final stretch took me across Hawk Ridge where I bumped along the dirt road amid a gaggle of bird watchers observing the migration. Then I twirled down Seven Bridges Road through a tunnel of gold – home territory and the terminus of my own driveway.
How glad I am that I followed my yearnings. That I heeded the siren call and threw my plans to the wind. And relished this last gasp of warm colorful weather. Throughout it all, the same chorus kept repeating in my head: Oh, how I love this ride!