A couple of weeks ago I took to my bike again, following a long patch of rainy weather that necessitated my riding my indoor trainer, and a week away from home. The later spring blossoms along the way included blackberry and wild rose, their natural copious abundance increased by cool weather and rainfall that assured they’d “pop” once we had a couple of days of seasonal sunshine.
Normally they crowd up to the edge of the W&OD Trail, leaving no doubt of their presence. But this year the Regional Park Authority spent a lot of time in the early spring cutting back trailside brush to about 15’ to 30’ along both sides of the trail, except in places where it cuts through terrain in a way that results in steep inclines immediately off the pavement. The result looked very “scorched earth” in March, but now it has mellowed a little bit, despite the herbicides used to dampen [even they could not “halt”] bamboo growth.
Still, for old berry pickers like me, foragers from the ‘70s era of Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus, comfortable access to blackberry bushes is a nice perk. We’ve had a few trailside quarts here and there. And this would have been a good year, given the 7.43” of rain recorded in Vienna this May.
The bushes were still close enough for me to enjoy my late-May rides, because the seasonally humid, close air concentrated the fragrance of the roses. I’d be riding along, and there would be a stretch of a couple of hundred feet where the air was richly laden with the deep, sweet aromas of the roses’ perfume. As I wrote here some years ago, it’s easy to tell roses and blackberries apart if you know what you’re looking for. Both have five white petals in each blossom, and both have clusters of blossoms in similar patterns. But blackberry blossoms are more slender and ever so slightly greenish, while the broader rose blossoms are equally slightly pinkish. Likewise, blackberry leaves are on the bluish side of the green spectrum, while rose leaves are inclined, again ever so slightly, to the yellowish side.
While smelling the roses literally, I have been smelling them figuratively as well. A couple of days ago I took a quantum leap by increasing my riding range from 15 ½ to 21 ½ miles. I hadn’t really planned to go that much farther, but it was a great day, cool, sunny, dry, and the place I had planned to turn around offered no place to rest. So I just went on. Luckily, the terrain between Wiehle Ave. and Van Buren St. is relatively flat, with only one dip and one overpass. My new turnaround is only about a mile and a half from my old standard turnaround on the W&OD going in that direction, so it may not be too long before I am doing my whole “old normal” ride.
That said, I’m probably only about 75% of normal strength, but a lot of that is just building conditioning back. I still am fatigued more quickly, and my overall pace is a couple of ticks slower. But I’m already motivated to push the envelope of my new comfort zone. And pretty much the whole summer lies ahead!
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016