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Racing the Sun Down

Nickel Plate Trail, 10 miles south from Wallick Road

In the never ending saga of Jim and the trail, we come now to a segment rife with good feeling. Join me, if you will, for a twenty mile bike ride on the Nickel Plate Trail in Miami County north of Kokomo. It has been almost three years since I was able to enjoy any significant portion of it. I won’t bore you by explaining the elation I felt as I pulled my bike out of the car, put the front tire back on, and started south from the Wallick Road trailhead. I spent a moment remembering the autumn I first discovered the trail, while I was selling insurance and most of my employment involved evening appointments. Sleeping in late and riding a bike all morning was the closest I’ve come to “bein’ a kid again” in my adult life. I don’t think it would be a bad pursuit to find a profession that allowed one to do just that.

It was, however, twenty minutes ’til eight in the evening when I got started, having driven up north after work to attend my weekend National Guard drill at the Kokomo armory. If you’ve been to Indiana in the summer, you know that when we began using DST, the fools who chose Eastern time zone should be rounded up and shipped to a Siberia sort of place where they mow lawns until ten thirty at night.

The photo above is of the ten mile mark between Miami and Bennet’s Switch. The ten miles is from the Wallick trailhead, so I was halfway done when I snapped the pic. I followed that by chugging half of a bottle of Gatorade and setting off, back to the car. It had gotten up to a hundred that day, but the trail is mostly under canopy, and traveling at a near constant fifteen miles per hour kept my skin cool enough as long as I continued drinking water and sweating. There’s only one problem with sweat and the evening cooling cycle. Your scent and the difference between the ambient air temperature and your skin temperature turns you into a target for any annoying six legged creature with wings that has either a nose or heat sensors.

The bugs had no problem finding me, but I was fine as long as I kept my helmet and riding glasses on. But…

Do you know, I really should have bought the ones with the clear lenses. The dark amber UV protection ones looked so much sharper, though. Fifteen miles into my twenty mile ride, being under canopy, the trail was mostly dark shadows. With glasses up, everything was fine. The trail was well lighted in the gloaming. Glasses down, blind. Glasses up, bugs aiming for my corneas like darts into a dart board. I decided to brave the bugs instead of becoming a permanent fixture on the trail, upper body embedded in the hollow of a tree.

I put my head down and raced the sun down. Three miles head down with no let up was the longest I’d gone bonkers on a bike since I was a teen. I was exhausted when I reached the car. But I won. There was about five minutes of light left. I finished the Gatorade kicked back against the side of my P.T. Cruiser as the last colors of the pastel sunset palate melted into blue velvet.

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