A peek at the day early this morning as I drew back the bedroom draperies informed me there was some weather on the horizon. For the first time in the past week the sky over the Atlantic seashore was not a blue and cloudless dome. Instead there were strands of clouds. I sprung the balcony door and felt the very acceptable temperature. What I hadn’t however appreciated was the wind. We’re at Land’s End, significantly sheltered a matter of degrees off the unobstructed coast line.
After a cup of strong coffee and a sensible breakfast of eggs, prosciutto and avocado pear decorated with chopped scallions, we careered ourselves to the bike rack and pushed off for what we anticipated to be our usual two-hour healthful jaunt. Still secluded from the elements by the towering sea pines we cycled along South Sea Pines Drive until we reached the Beach Club where we turned and connected along the newly paved walkway with the beach. The moment we hit the sand we knew we what were up against! Located as we are at the more southerly end of the Island our only reasonable prospect is to cycle northerly towards Coligny Park. The project thus entailed cycling directly into a relentless gale force wind. Particles of sand-dust whirled like wisps of smoke across the face of the beach.
Our rental bikes have one gear. This cycling exploit promised to be work, no question! If it weren’t for the warm and brilliant sunshine and our deeply engrained Protestant Work Ethic we would have abandoned the project. We pushed on. Literally. There were times when the wind was so strong and my mechanical advantage so weak that I thought I’d capitulate to the indignity of walking my bike along the beach, feigning some leisurely matutinal introspection or maritime curiosity. Meanwhile cyclists coming from the opposite direction happily sailed by. I would have despised them if I hadn’t the conceited satisfaction of knowing the pain they were destined to endure upon their return voyage. It is remarkable how oblivious to impending misfortune one can be in the midst of ephemeral delight!
The Island beach is at almost any time vast in perspective. It is both uncommonly long and wide. The implementation of strict urban planning codes has ensured that the coastal homes look pretty much the same and succeed to blend surprisingly well with the local vegetation. It is in a word easy to lose sight of one’s progress on the boundless beach. Having cycled upon this beach for the past four years I have a good idea about where I am at any given point. In addition to understanding the Marker system (one every tenth of a mile) more importantly I remember specific landmarks, including for example the condominium we once had, or the hotel suite, or my favourite grand home on the beach. There is a huge relic tree trunk embedded in the sand and an abandoned catamaran with its ropes flapping against its mast creating some spooky percussive sound reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie soundtrack. As thrilling as it is re-establish these emotional bonds, it does very little, in fact nothing, to diminish the drudge of getting there. Indeed it almost tires one further to know the distance yet to be traveled.
As the labour of the crusade overtook me I jettisoned the customary nicety of exchanging “Morning!” with passing walkers and cyclists. Superfluities were an added burden. Unremitting focus upon the purgatory of the task was the sole object. I distracted myself by imagining how easy the return flight would be. My backside and legs were killing me!
When at last we reached Coligny Park, I hobbled off my bike and threw myself upon a bench in utter exhaustion. This hadn’t been a morning ride; it was boot camp!
The human body is somehow especially adapted to forget pain. After a reasonable pause we again mounted our bikes and directed ourselves along the William Hilton Parkway to a remote beach access at the northern end of the Island. We had of course chosen this particular route to avoid having to pedal into the wind. Once we regained the beach however and commenced our return trip home it was nothing but smooth sailing! The wide open beach was a veritable flight deck. Within less than an hour we accomplished what had taken us more than two hours to do in the opposite direction.
The consequences of the morning drill were not to be ignored. After speedily nourishing ourselves with a hearty vegetable soup I collapsed on a chaise long by the pool in the late afternoon sun. We both agreed that a day of rain tomorrow would be a good thing!