Obviously this isn’t technically a “commute,” but I’ve been getting out before work a lot to ride — often a similar distance or duration as I would if I were riding to the office — so I’m going to count these rides as one towards my goal of 20 commutes for this year.
Due to Covid-19, I’ve been working at home since March 17. As of right now, I’m not sure when I’ll be going back to the office, but I can’t say I’m in any hurry. Sometimes I do miss having somewhere that I need to go and people that I need to talk to in person, simply for the fact that it helps pull me out of my head, forces me to “put on a face” even when I’m not feeling it. But for the most part, I don’t mind working from home and I really love not having a car commute.
I’ve been waking up at 4:30 a.m. most weekdays. Evan is on an early work schedule, so he’s out the door by 5 or a little after. I wasn’t getting up with him all the time at first, but now that I’ve gotten used to it and we’re both going to bed early enough to accommodate, I really love the super early start to the day. I can leisurely drink my coffee and still be on the bike by 6 or 6:30, getting in a solid 2-hour ride in time to rush to make breakfast and brew another French press before hopping on a video conference. I love early mornings but I also need to regularly get 7-8 hours of sleep. Not having social events currently or any external pressures to adhere to a particular schedule has meant that the early mornings don’t necessarily come at the cost of not snoozing for long enough. Many evenings, Evan and I find ourselves crawling into bed before it’s fully dark outside, and I’m alright with that.
To be moving through the world so early in the morning is like a secret that only those of us willing to rise before dawn can know. There are a few folks out, some commuters on their way to work, turkey hunters in the state forest, fellow early birds enjoying the first rays of sun creeping over Stone Mountain. But it is generally quiet and serene.
I started this early morning ride routine in early May. For much of late March and early April, I was in a ride funk. I’m not entirely sure why. At the time, I wasn’t riding with anyone except Evan due to wanting to take precautions against Covid, and Evan wasn’t riding much at all, so I was basically just riding alone all the time. Which normally I love, and I do plenty of rides alone in normal times, but at the time, when weekends came around and I wasn’t meeting up with my usual little ride crew, it made me sad. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t as fired up about bikes as usual. I was also pretty preoccupied with projects around the yard — building a chicken coop, and digging and planting a huge new garden.
But the funk passed, of course, and I began to feel the motivation to get out and ride every day return. The coop got built and the garden got planted and the urgency to get those things done went away, so I began to spend more time riding again, getting back to my normal 10-15 hours a week.
Waking up before dawn has meant that I get to witness sunrise happening earlier and earlier as we creep closer to the solstice. In early May, I was sipping coffee for a solid hour before it began to get light outside. Now, twilight is happening as I’m pouring my first cup and usually by the time I get on the bike the sun is usually above the horizon.
It’s also strange to look back on how much my morning riding attire has changed over the course of just one month. In early May, there were a few mornings when I was wearing my winter boots. In late May, there were a few mornings when it was already 70 degrees and humid at 6 a.m. We always seem to get a big heat wave towards the end of May, shocking the system into getting acclimated to 90 degree weather and adding more incentive to get out and about early.
I’ve lived in Stone Valley for almost 6 years, but I’ve never ridden from home so much or so continuously as I have in the past 3 months. Normally, I’m doing a lot of riding from work in State College, or driving to other places to explore. In the past couple weeks I’ve felt antsy to venture elsewhere to do some rides again, but for all of April and May I was doing the majority of my rides from my front door with the exception of a few mountain bike rides from Greenwood Furnace and Coopers Gap, and a couple times when I hitched a ride to work with Evan and rode home. During the week, when I have to work and have limited time, riding from home is the best way to maximize saddle time. I’ve been keeping things fresh and interesting by trying to incorporate the roads I don’t ride as often, or do them in the reverse direction than normal.
It’s truly spectacular how much variety there is within a ride’s distance from home. Within two miles, I can be on gravel roads in Rothrock State Forest. I can climb up over the mountain into Big Valley and ride rolling roads in Amish country. I can do endless climbs on Stone Creek Ridge or ride through old growth hemlocks at Alan Seeger Natural Area. I can see farms and forests, lakes and streams, go into town or the middle of the woods. I can ride paved roads or gravel or mountain bike trails. I can ride my bike to trails to run and ride home.
When I say I feel an antsiness to explore new places it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate home. It is possible to feel both simultaneously. I always feel a desire to seek the unfamiliar, because there’s something special about not knowing what’s around the next bend. However, the effects of this pandemic, of not traveling at all and working and riding from home, have only made me more grateful for where I live. For many, recreating from home is very limiting, while I have infinite possibilities.