Thursday, July 3, 2008

Heaven and hell

Out riding my bike along a new, less familiar route than my usual cycling haunts I pondered one of my recurring thoughts about Iowa in general.

While I hate to compare the beauty of a particular area of Iowa to say that one is more picturesque than another, there are some of the hillier areas that will give you a broader view of the landscape. And for some reason or other, human nature causes us to be more impressed by the sweeping vistas than of the smaller-scale pastoral views right in front of us.

It takes a concentrated effort, although not a tremendous amount of strength to see the beauty in the everyday... if only because it becomes a background to our daily scurrying about our very important business. And too often our daily business or busy-ness becomes an exercise in passing by unsmelled roses. Because I see my usual bike route more often than others, it can sometimes seem boring or uninteresting. But if I pretend to be new to the area and unfamiliar with the rolling to flat hills, straight country roads, weathered barns, fields of who-knows-what-yet... corn, beans, alfalfa... I can see the plainness exude a mercurial beauty unlike the scenery presented by a mountain view or an ocean-scape.

Iowa's beauty, hidden in that plainness suprises me each time seasons change. And sometimes again in between when the shadow of a cloud on a bright day reveals the shape of a hillside or a turn around a bend reveals a road curving around the next hill as if caressing the land.

And so it was as I biked my way along some new-to-me county roads a couple of weeks ago exploring my newly assigned territory of scenic byways. Pedaling along at an easy pace, I lallygagged and pondered up a hill... into the wind.

Out of nowhere Cujo began chasing me up that hill! This giant beast had a head the size of a horse... or at least a horse's head... and jaws large enough to crack my skull like a walnut... including the helmet. With no time to wonder if I had it in me to outrun the lathered hound, UPHILL, INTO THE WIND, I kicked into high gear.

Pedaling my heart out, I checked once: the creature was breathing fire onto my rear tire.

Kicking it up another notch, I spun for my life.

Adrenalin and knees pumping, I checked again: still the hell-hound held my pace.

Sure my heart would burst, I pedaled harder.

Checking one last time before I died in the slobbering jowls I glimpsed the monster far enough behind me that I could relent a little.

At the top of the hill I turned back one last time and saw a fiery hole close around the great fiend as he disappeared from whence he came.

A mile or so and a couple of big hills further down the road the adrenalin finally wore off and I began to shake. Soon I nearly forgot my brush with death.

But other than my accidental discovery of the beast guarding the gates of hell, it was a beautiful bike ride in the heavenly scenic hills of Iowa.