Friday, July 25, 2014

When The Sun Goes Down

A warm summer night. Kris was busy with her French lessons. Seemed like a perfect time to go for a night ride. So I fired up the old F6 and took to the road. If you don't ride, it's difficult to describe how your senses, all of them, just come alive when you're "in the wind." Maybe even more so at night. The sun hadn't quite disappeared over the western horizon as I put the first few miles behind me. Ahead were the Black Hills, which were blacker than usual this particular evening. On nights like this it's obvious how they got their name.
One thing I just love about my rides is that my mind wanders and I have time to think about a lot of things. I wonder about what the future might bring, try to be completely aware of the present, and remember the past. The past was a recurring theme on this ride, with the wheels of my memory starting to turn faster as I rode past the Spearfish Water Park.  It was closed, but looked very inviting. I wondered if anyone ever tries to sneak in after hours. Probably not, because it's well lit and close to the road.  Not like the swimming pools we raided when we were kids.  One of our main targets was a private pool behind a house in my hometown that had easy access by way of the railroad tracks that ran right by it on one side or from the alley on another side. Under the cover of darkness we would scale the wood fence for a quick dip before making a clean getaway. The other popular spot was the pool at the golf course.  I will never forget one night when I was a freshman in high school, probably 14 or 15 years old. Some friends and I decided a midnight swim would be fun. So we tramped on out to the golf course and were in for quite a surprise when we arrived. A group of girls was already in the pool wearing only their bras and underwear. They were senior girls! And they didn't even care when we jumped in with them. That was probably the best night ever for me up to that point in my life.  Me and couple of friends in the pool at midnight with a bunch of senior girls. How cool were we? As I look back now I'm pretty sure there were some adults in the club house smoking cigarettes and drinking Old Grand Dad bourbon who knew we were out there. I would like to say "thank you" for letting us have some fun. You were some pretty cool cats yourselves. 
Now - back to current events and my night ride. Since I was already close I decided to go on up Spearfish Canyon a mile or two. I stopped at the Corn Flake Bowl, named by a friend many years ago as a group of us sat there looking at the stars and having the impression we were in just such a bowl. 
Things look different there at night -

I could have used a flash, but this is a more accurate illustration of what I'm talking about. 

And the stars. So many stars. I arrived just as the transition from dusk to dark was complete. I looked up to see dozens of stars overhead. Then I turned around to look at the sky behind me and suddenly there were hundreds of stars. I turned again and there were thousands. Then millions! It was good medicine. Medicine for the spirit. Medicine for the soul. If you've never just stood quietly in the forest looking at a clear bright night sky, you don't know what you've missed. Really. Do it. Even if it's not in a forest but just in your own back yard. You will be better off for it.  
I didn't stay long. It wasn't necessary. I had gotten what I came for. It was time to go home. But the star gazing didn't stop for the night.  We both went outside to watch a little bit more of the show. We saw satellites, airplanes and even a shooting star. So it turned out to be everything a perfect summer night should be. Well, almost. The only thing missing was falling asleep on a blanket on the ground.  But that will happen before summer is over. I'm pretty sure of it.

Roger O'Dea    7-25-14

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