Keith and I set off just after 0530 this morning. We decided to ride far and fast today. We had both taken two days off and had fresh legs.
It was about twenty minutes before the sun rose and still fairly dark, but not too dark. We both rode without lights and with our sunglasses stowed. We started spinning down the road in front of the headquarters, dodging potholes and armored vehicles and cutting through road construction detours.
As we rode along and over canals, black forms swooped incessantly overhead. They were the barely seen outline of a hundred bats scooping up the bugs that habitually hover above the water only water source for miles.
On our right a nearly full moon greeted us blinking balefully through the occasional tree, obscured occasionally by the thrown up dust of a passing vehicle. This moon was tired and dropping rapidly, yellowing and fading as it dipped towards a hazy, dirty horizon chased by the magnificent view on our left.
On our left were the quickly retreating deep purples and reds that signal the coming of the sun. Every moment led to a brighter one and soon the glasses returned to their rightful perch on our noses, as much to protect from the sun as from the flying dust and stones. Before long, and entirely too soon, the sun peaked over the horizon, barely visible. The haze that had covered the moon also proved a worthy adversary to the rising sun.
We were treated to the sight of the sun’s battle with the haze as we had turned east after completing the entire north to south leg of the Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, Iraq. Today’s ride was the first time I had tried to circumvent the entire complex. Keith had done it a week earlier without me and I had labored to convince him to do it again, not because of the difficulty of the ride but because of the poor quality of the road. We had only been riding for twenty minutes and both of our faces were already grimy from the flying dust and our hands tingled slightly from riding roads that closely resembled washboards.
As we got into the more populated portions of the complex we came upon a lake we had both ridden around ten or more times. Today we hit the lake at the perfect time. The sun had finally broken free of its bonds and was shining full strength at an almost perfect horizontal. The light illuminated several of the buildings in the center of a palace complex surrounding the free-form man-made lake. The light was fantastic, with great reflections from the lake, and highlights that clearly showed the intricate stone work on the edifices of the buildings and casting intricate shadows as it played across the “floating oases” randomly strewn throughout the lake.
We continued to ride past these sights passing runners and other cyclists, getting looks and exclamations as we scared pedestrians unaware of us due to our rapid progress. The temperature continued to rise, as did the pace. We maintained a pace that four miles into the ride I was sure I could only maintain for another few minutes. We ended up doing 26 miles in a bit over an hour and a half. I finished tired but extremely happy and I gobbled hydration drinks to replenish the lost water and the lost salt that was still encrusted on the sides of my face.
The best part about this ride was the pictures. The pictures I took are fantastic and I would love to share them with you but I can’t. The pictures are only in my mind. My point and shoot camera crapped out unexpectedly a few days ago.
So, like the title says, “almost perfect.” It only could have been better if I could have shared the pictures. Ah well, at least Keith has the same photos I do, I will share with him.