This is a land of extremes…a 40-mile stretch I’ve been riding or driving through on my way from here to there…somewhere between this and that…for years now.
When it’s hot elsewhere, it’s at least 10 degrees hotter here. When it’s cold, at least 10 degrees colder. It snows more, rains harder, lightning is more prevalent and so on. You get the idea.
Extremes. Some trick of the topography or, easily as likely, some wrath of the gods.
And on my multi-hour ride in the blazing Texas heat and relentless sun, of all the possibilities open to me I chose here to stop…a dusty, lonely fuel station with inflated gas prices but intensely cold drinks.
The thermometer under the fuel canopy (in the shade) says 114. The one on the building (in the sun) is pegged at something over 125.
As I lean against my hot machine, in the sweltering heat, sweating profusely and breathing shallowly, the very air I inhale burning my lungs, I hold my drink bottle to my forehead and wonder why I am here.
I’ll spend nearly as much time at this stop as I would have to simply blast through the area on my way to “milder” climes. Fuel was not critical and I could have waited a bit longer for a drink…but I stopped.
Suddenly I realize it has become habit, to stop here…and in the same realization discover it’s for the very basest of reasons. Here I challenge the elements and show my scorn to the gods. I am saying, “Yes, I feel you, but that changes nothing. I am here, because I wish it, and your power over me is limited.”
I find no other compelling reason or explanation, and wonder why I feel the need for that challenge. I also wonder what others would make of my compulsion to do so.
Shortly I decide it doesn’t matter. Whatever the reason, whatever folks think, I’m completely okay with that.
Done with my drink and fueled for another round I mount the big cruiser and pull to the end of the drive. As I look for traffic, I see movement in the wavering heat, and shortly it comes into focus.
Yep, a dude on a bicycle, in full spandex riding attire. Riding hard, he bypasses the station and continues on…only to fade away in the wavering view. One. Hundred. Fourteen. Degrees.
I jump on the highway and as I work the big machine through her gears, rapidly hitting highway speeds and blast-furnace winds, I allow my self a short bark of laughter…derision at my own previous reflections and perspective. See, unfair as it was, the unbidden thought had leapt to my mind:
I may be challenging the gods…but that dude is just plain crazy.
I wonder exactly what he’s challenging…and ultimately…how he will fare.
I’ll see you on the road.