The day began much as they always do. The sun rose, a general plan was forged and in the offing was one to be discerned. Your Humble Narrator was obliged to participate somewhat unwillingly, for inside it was warm and safe and the outside seemed cold and harsh.
Accordingly one waits for the proper moment to begin. Maybe it will warm up. Try to remember the adage "dress for the second mile", but be prepared for complications. But it turned out I was ill-prepared. I left my extra top at home - so much for layering. I brought tire levers and a spare tube, but no pump or CO2 inflator. I only had 1 bottle of water and no cell phone. This was no way to embark on a long day's journey into night.
OK it wasn't that cold.
The start of the trail is difficult to navigate, but the rider is fresh. Much effort is expended avoiding the obstacles and soggy ruts or when unavoidable, selecting the least muddy option. One hopes to get through with a minimum of contamination and in a position to reach a more clear path.
The path requires one to constantly pedal. It may seem uphill in both directions. But you see, the grade is quite mild. The peaceful, upper Potomac gives way to roiling rapids. The path conversely becomes more predictable. The rider generally makes headway according to his internal gearing but can be easily pulled into the vortex of both Id and Ego in the process.
Fortunately I was able to step off and assess my journey. Great Falls lied but 2 miles ahead. But 22 miles out, 90 minutes of daylight remaining, no water and the upper trail at the inevitable end of the ride - this was not something I wanted to navigate in the dark. So I chose to turn back.
The ghosts of the forest loomed in the lengthening shadows.
As I was chasing daylight, a great brown owl passed over the trail. Fortunately I was not on the menu.
There was a time when I would have pressed on to my destination. But fortunately for me I turned back, within sight of the Great Falls. I was able to see the path before me more clearly. And when I reach the second mile, I will not see the sign "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service", but I hope nonetheless to be dressed appropriately.