Monday, October 08, 2012

Migration; Of Butterflies & Bicycles.

 The incessant march of winter in the Midwest means gloomy, grey skies that turn summer-bronzed skin into something more akin to alabaster. The genetic code of the Monarch butterfly tells it that it is getting late..and it must find the will to head south to Mexico and create the next generation of schmetterling. It was cold this morning as I heard the "click" of my XPEDO road pedals engaging the plastic cleat affixed to my shoe. Thirty six degrees was the number discussed on the local radio station as I hopped out of the truck in Bexley to start my ride. "Hmmm..nasty day" I thought as I rolled down through the old Bexley neighborhood, rolling quickly by the art deco Drexel Theatre facade. Sunlight was clearly a thing of the past, and it was time to brace for winter.

Rolling south along the Alum Creek Trail, I couldn't help but think about the need for so many animals to find a warmer place in the winter. Just as I began to delve into the depths of despair, an errant beam of sunlight broke through the cloud cover, and over my shoulder was a butterfly. Stumbling it's way through the turbulent air, it was flying like a drunken sorority girl walks over broken sections of sidewalk without her frat-boy meathead date to prop her up until she gets home. It's amazing to think that these vulnerable little creatures make it for thousand of miles back to breed in the tropical Mexican sun. It was the sun that really mattered...that lone ray illuminated the brightly colored and segmented panels of this small insect, making it look more like the wondrous stained glass windows of Saint Paul's Cathedral in London. It was a mesmerizing dance of color, light, and erratic flapping of wings that fascinated me as I cruised along with this tiny warrior.

 The bike path so well laid out south of the city is a patchwork quilt of Metro Parks, city open spaces and new-construction apartment building easements. Weekdays are fantastic along this route, bringing a welcome respite from the often oblivious-to-everything-runner-choked Olentangy Trail...Columbus' main bike corridor. On this day in fact, I saw not a single person for the entire forty five mile out and back ride. Nothing but brightly colored leaves on trees, melting seamlessly into the ground where those that have already sacrificed their lives for the season lay in almost mirror-like reflection.
 Reflection is most of what you do on a solo road ride for hours at a time. Winter is coming. Do you plan to run the route of the Monarch, and head to more gloriously bright climates where fish tacos and margaritas dull the pain of what's coming for the next few months? Do you embrace it, boarding a train through the Adirondacks and make for the jewel of the frozen north, Montreal? Since just about every animal on the planet heads south, you probably should too. Take your bike, it's DNA probably wants it to go south as well, and climb something larger than the magnificently well placed bridge along the bike trail over Route 33 near Canal Winchester.
 Rolling over more creeks and streams than I could ever name, the Alum Creek South trail is a wonder of urban planning. Mile after mile of meandering pavement, rolling and undulating beneath you like the whipped up turbulence of air below the Monarch's wings. As I watched it making it's way across the meadow, I wondered how many bug calories he'd have to consume if he were to be lucky enough to get to his final stop...assuming he didn't get eaten by a bird, spread across a truckers' windshield, or just plain give up and check in to a Marriott and order some nectar. Without bottle cages on his wings or a Hydrapak to store water and gels in, I have no idea how he's doing it.
 Continuing east along the ride, you come to an old abandoned barn complex. Corn cobs litter the ground below an open hole in the patina'd and twisted sheet metal at the base of the adjacent silo. Clearly the work of resident squirrels and raccoons, I figured they didn't need to migrate as long as people kept abandoning their monuments to denuded forests. Free rent and an all-you-can-chomp corn buffet would probably make most animals stay put.
The turn around point came quickly today, as my usual desire to turn a smaller gear up front gave way to a strong feeling of fitness in the pins. The big ring just felt right today, and before I knew it I was at the trails' end, peering up into the rusted hulk of a train bridge under which the trail passes. "Time to head home" I thought to myself. I think that little mariposa may have just whispered that very same thing as we parted ways.


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