We couldn't have timed it better. After riding 150 miles of seemingly endless rolling hills and short steep climbs on the route that trended up, we reached Ellenville, NY. Then we started the 4.5 mile climb up the Shawangunk (pronounced SHON-gun) Mountains just as the sun began to set. Our road, Route 52 East, climbs 1400 feet. On our left, the setting sun sets the bare rock aglow in warm light. On our right, a lush green valley of manicured farms and occasional pristine points of church spires unveils itself as we ascend; the buildings shrinking into the expanding scenery. The sun gently illuminates the valley, filling it with a final light, closing the curtain on a beautiful day. Miles away, west of the valley, another mountain range runs parallel to our route. The distant range receives the setting sun as a sleepy child receives a parent's gentle kiss: softly, with stillness, believing in the promise of tomorrow.
I seem to climb in time with the setting sun, rising as it descends, which pauses it in the sky, slowing time, extending the spectacle. The quiet beauty of the vista magnifies the labored effort it takes for me to make this climb. A young couple, barely teenagers, watches the sunset from an overlook. As I approach, they turn to me and with the eager shyness of two young people on their first date, they smile, clap a little, and congratulate me on my effort. I smile, imagining that they see someone doing an evening fitness ride and think that they have no idea how I got here and how far I have yet to go. I call out "Thank you! But I'm not done yet!" The boy replied, "You're almost there!" I smiled, thinking - yup, just 100 more miles to go.