Ode to a RoadJan Heine
The German poet Friedrich Schiller wrote his Ode to Joy in 1785, celebrating friendship and the unity of humanity. Ludwing van Beethoven set the poem to music and incorporated it into his 9th Symphony as the final movement.
I was thinking about the Ode as we rode a favorite road a few weeks ago. Cycling brings me intense joy, both for the friendship with my fellow riders and for the unity with the universe we experience on our rides. The catalyst for this is the road on which we cycle. One of the most joyful roads is Reiter Road.
Reiter Road connects the towns of Gold Bar and Index – click here for a map. Its official purpose appears to be an evacuation route for the town of Index in case the North Fork of the Skykomish River sweeps away the bridge that is the town’s main access, as it did about a century ago.
As long as the bridge is intact, Reiter Road sees almost no use. The road hugs the hillside high above the valley, and has a wonderful rhythm of climbs and descents. Challenging curves are linked by short straights.
On a sunny day, there is a wonderful pattern of light and shadow on the road. And on a sunny autumn day, the colors of the leaves are just spectacular, as they were when we visited. We had picked a short break in the rainy weather for our ride from Seattle.
On the approach to Index, the road swoops down from the hillside before crossing the railway. Going through this section at speed is part of the joyful experience of this road.
Then the road heads along the tracks for a while, giving us a chance to admire the mountain scenery.
As we rode into town, the Amtrak train from Chicago crossed the bridge across the North Fork on its descent from Stevens Pass. Bicycles and trains both put the emphasis on the journey, not just the destination.
Index is famous for the majestic cliffs that start at the edge of town. It also has a general store to augment our picnic lunch.
While we ate our lunch, we saw huge clouds move in and swirl around Mount Index. Time to head home!
Usually, out-and-back rides are not a favorite of mine, and most of our ride from Seattle formed a large loop. But Reiter Road feels different in each direction. After having cycled it both ways, I am always tempted to turn around and ride it again. But not today, as clouds were moving in, and the skies became dark. We made it out of the mountains before the rain started, and arrived home just as the first drops fell in Seattle. A good week lay ahead: the joy of these rides carries over into our daily lives.