I wake up at 4am and start looking out my French doors into the darkness of my backyard. It should take me about an hour, I keep telling myself, the last time I biked from Bar Harbor to the Parkman lot it took me a hair over an hour. Yet that was a couple years ago, and I am acutely aware of the softness of my body. I had only rode my bike for the first time the evening before, and I worried what I was about to attempt was more a reflection of my ambition than my ability. Part of me just figured my ability would soon catch up to my ambition, and I would just let the two work themselves out.
While I waited for a hint of light, I dressed for as if for a winter’s hike: long underwear, layers of shirts to wick away sweat, and of course the red-white-and-blue sweater of legends. I made myself a freegan breakfast of gifted goat cheese and English muffin, and I took down and folded my clothes drying from the rafters. Mostly I looked out the window and paced, and looked out the window and paced, and looked out the window more and paced.
At 5am, I was rearing to go. Sunrise was in half an hour, wisps of dawn should be here by now. I decided I would go for it. I grabbed my backpack, a rack not yet installed on my bike, and carried my bike out into the chill of the end of April, down the stairs of my deck and out into the backyard that I was only starting to have the time to know.
I had been working 65 hours a week for the past year, and I had not spent much time doing anything other than that, furiously determined to pay back the friends and family who loaned me money for a down payment. I did not care about the balance on my credit card as much as I cared about keeping my word to people who loved and trusted me more than they should. As if it were a hike requiring endurance, I paid back $10000 in a year and transferred the remaining $3000 I owed to an interest-free investor who I intend to pay by the end of 2016. My most pressing obligations behind me, renting out my house in various forms ahead of me, I quit the second job that had consumed my evenings and weekends. I wanted my time more than the money. The money would come especially on an island of plenty, but the time to be outside and exercise/exorcise would easily elude me if I let it.
I crossed my yard and walked my bike up the road to the social path that myself and the two neighbors share as access to the carriage roads behind my house. I am always asked the length of it between the road and the carriage roads, and I hesitate, distance never ever feeling accurate to me. One tenth of a mile? Two tenths? It is a bumpy tunnel through the woods, including carrying my bike over three or so blowdowns that only the park could remove and they never will. At the carriage road, I stop and look at my cell phone. 5:15. I am supposed to start breaking down freight at 630. I am never going to make it.
I jump on my bike and my delicate inner thighs are still sore from riding all over Somes Sound the day before. I do not really want the seat to touch my legs at all, and I am only starting my journey. True confessions: I do not like the endless conifers of my backyard, and I am quite relieved to finally pass the Giant Slide Trail, and soon after slip into the deciduous bliss of the forest before the trees have leafed out. This is the forest of my childhood, and pre-leafing is my favorite time to notice things in the woods.
I pass Aunt Betty Pond, and begin the slow ascent up the carriage path side of McFarland Hill. At 4am, I had been dreading it. All I could think about was the summer–I must have been nineteen or so–when I was riding up the hill past the Southwest IGA and some ten year old boys screamed at me: “you are never going to make it”. Then I was in the shape of my life, and I could make it without getting off my bike. Going up that endless hill on Monday morning? I could not breathe, I had to get off and walk a little. I did not want to look at the time, I was certain I would not make it.
Once the hill leveled out, I hopped back on and saw that gorgeous view of Sargent, only a few miles further than I last saw it but seemingly much more distant. I was slowly coming to grips with the beauty that was my life, and suddenly, as I careened downhill towards Bar Harbor, that beauty hit me all at once.
I passed the intersection near the Eagle Lake parking lot where I split my leg open and left in an ambulance, my bike dropped off at my house by strangers. I have so many memories embedded here, for better or worse, and I am slowly feeling comfortable with all of them.
I did not dare to look at the time on my cell phone until I was at the Duck Brook bridge. 6am! I was only moments from town. I could make it in a reasonable time frame.
I pulled into A & B just as the grocery manager arrived, the grocery manager whom I had told to harass me until I rode my bike to work. As it turned out, I did not need that much encouragement. Locking up my bike, I asked her the time. 6:15!
All of my 4am worries were futile. I made it.