% push [l.b. noire] The burning in my quadriceps tells me that my legs are nearing exhaustion but I have to keep pumping the pedals to reach the crest of the hill. I've always prided myself on using that bit of long-suppressed rage to carry me through situations that require extending yourself beyond your capabilities. This time, I'm not sure if I can summon the anger to surpass my physical limits. The anger is no longer there. I feel as if my best friend since I was ten has now betrayed me and left me at the time I need him most. My limit is reached and my leg muscles withdraw in terror from the imminent pain. My mountain bike slows to a crawl during the climb and I shift to the lowest gear. This does nothing to help the situation because I am now just spinning the pedals while inching forward at an intolerable rate. I jump from my saddle without even bothering to use the brakes. Gravity is enough to bring the bike to a stop. As usual, I didn't think about the consequences of my actions so my now-useless legs give out when I put my full weight on them. I fall first to my backside. This undignified position is made worse when my bike, lacking a kickstand, cannot stand on its own and sprawls across me sending me to the ground on my back. I lie there for a few seconds wondering if my heart, now pumping at 180 beats per minute, is going to rupture. I usually take my heart for granted and barely give it a second thought. However, right now I can feel it as another aching muscle in my body simply wanting more oxygen and a brief rest. I look down at my bike before I push it off my chest and to the side. Then I put my hands behind my head and decide to rest here for a few minutes. I look at the sky and observe the dissipating clouds dancing through the setting sunlight which gives them colors ranging from a bright shade of orange on their western sides to a light hue of purple on their eastern sides. I can feel the sunlight on my face which makes me look over to the setting sun on my right. I suddenly realize I had reached the crest of the hill and start laughing out loud. For once, I had actually accomplished something without having to rely on a spirit I dread to summon. Adolescent energy has dissolved into the past taking with it naivete, innocence, ignorance, and haste. Emerging in its place is a maturity bringing with it wisdom, experience, awareness, and patience. After resting, I move my bike to the side and stand up, brushing the grass and dirt off my shorts. I look around to assess my situation: The sun is beginning to set; I am almost fifteen miles from town on a ranch road in the middle of the hill country; the temperature is starting to fall from sixty-five degrees to Dog-only-knows what in the thirties with a slight southwestern wind adding to the drop; and, it doesn't matter that I am nowhere near a phone because I have no money. I decide to continue to my destination instead of turning home because I am so close. Although it would be easier at this point to turn back, I need to finish this ride. I lift my bike and straddle the seat. One more look around reinforces the fact that I'm in the middle of somewhere: Trees, hills, rocks, shrubs and cacti stretch to the horizon in every direction. The only synthetic interruption to this blanket of green and brown is the solitary ranch road waving over the hills until it disappears in a valley between two large hills which actually resemble small mountains. I shiver at the temperature and the thought of having to cross this distance to get to my destination, but it is something that simply has to be done if I want to get there. The thought of using the full potential of my mountain bike crosses my mind. I had recently become more skilled at off-road riding when a friend had to teach me the vast difference between road cycling and off-road cycling. It took me several weeks (and numerous cuts and bruises from falls) before I learned the basics of crossing rough terrain. However, since it is getting dark I decide not to do this right now. I'm not too familiar with the countryside of the Devil's Backbone to attempt its crossing in the dark. There are a few of ravines and cliffs that could put a quick end to my ride if I didn't see them in time. Also, the idea of hitting a rock and being thrown onto a cactus isn't very thrilling. This trip will have to be finished along the road. I push off with my right foot and begin coasting down the hill. Acceleration. Within seconds I have reached the bottom of the hill and must begin another climb on another hill. However, the climb is made much easier by using the momentum from the previous hill. The funny thing I discovered about myself and cycling is circles. The word "cycling" alone holds much meaning. If I were to look at the long distance of a ride I was about to make, I wouldn't even start. However, I simply start without worrying about the distance. It's not an ignorance of the distance for I have to know my own limits. Instead, it's a way of not becoming overwhelmed with the trip ahead. I simply look down at the ground and concentrate on where I am with an awareness of my destination. Concentration. Concentration on little circles. I look at my feet and concentrate on the little circles I'm making with the peddles. They seem to be moving in a continuous cycle never moving anywhere and never accomplishing anything. A large dualie pick-up truck passes inches from my left side at a speed which is surely much higher than the posted speed limit. The suction of the passing truck nearly rips me from the bike and onto the road. I momentarily consider shouting some form of obscenities at the shrinking truck, but restrain myself because it won't accomplish much more than emptying my lungs of much needed oxygen. Besides, I'm not adequately armed to fend off an attack from Joe Bob and Bubba who are probably carrying an ax handle and a shotgun. Cycles. My feet continue to circle endlessly like gerbils on exercise wheels. They seem to never move more than the few inches back and forth, but it is this motion that drives me forward. The motion of the cycle that gets me to my destination. It's at this destination that I look up and realize that I have passed between twin hills and into a large valley. The sun has completely set by now and I'm following the road partially through feel and partially through the faint moonlight illuminating the center line. I cross the bridge over the river. I can't see the river since it is too dark, but I can hear the water flowing over the rocks below. I coast for another two hundred yards before stopping at the only light along the main street of this small town of a few hundred people. I pull up to the small gas station and get off my bike. I lean it against the wall near the door and bend over with my hands on my knees to catch my breath. After a minute, I stand up straight and walk inside. An elderly couple are running the place tonight. The man is sitting at an old wooden desk going through receipts. The woman had been reading a magazine but came over to the counter when I walked in. I ask her if there is a phone I could use. She tells me of the payphone right outside the door. I thank her and walk out feeling foolish because I now realize I had leaned my bike against the wall right under the payphone. I pick up the handset, punch in a carrier access code, a telephone number, and my calling card number (which I had memorized after repeated uses). Ring once. Ring twice. "Hello?" my fiance answers with a sleepy voice. "Hey, I'm sorry to bother you. Were you asleep?" "No," she lies, "I had just laid down." "I'm sorry. I was wondering if you could do me a favor." "Yeah." "I'm kind of stranded twenty-five miles from my apartment. I was wondering if you could pick me up." "Where are you?" "I'm at the first gas station in Wimberly. I rode here on my bicycle, but I'm too tired to ride back and it's getting cold and . . ." I trail off. She giggles. "Okay. Let me get dressed and I can be there in about thirty minutes." "Thanks. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this." "It's okay." "All right. I'll see you in a little bit." I'm getting ready to hang up the handset. "Hey!" I managed to hear her yell before I hung up. "What?" "I love you." I laugh a little at my forgetfulness and say, "I love you, too." "I'll see you soon." "Bye." I hang up the phone with a smile on my face. I look up at the moon. It has risen to its zenith and is throwing its full light on the ground. I smile again and walk inside to the warmth to wait.