Exceptionally warm spring days are some of the greatest days for riding, but better still on a bike are the spring evenings shortly before sunset with storms on the edge of the horizon. Those first lazy afternoons of the season when the last hours before dark stretch long in a drawling lazy roll and though nature has donned her new green coat, just as the sun tucks away, the air becomes chilled with last whispers from the vanished cold months before.
The best way to see the muted sunset is to ride west until the clouds pack the horizon and mask the sun, and we turned back under the last rays peeking from between an impenetrable cloud bank. The air hangs heavier under the thunderhead approach, wet and fertile, the finest detail of every scent sharpened to an assault on the olfactory. The verdant new growth rushes forth young and excited, fresh and emerald glowing even in its scent, sometimes powerful and strongly grassy herbaceous like the torn leaves of spinach, other times clean and crisp and lightly whetted, distinctly like the soft smell of sliced cucumber.
Each tree radiates its own smell, especially the black locusts, suddenly all snowy blossomed and dripping with perfume. And something wild and floral, a smell I don’t recognize, a tree maybe, hung syrupy heavy as we passed, sickly sweet to the point of near nausea. Here and there a squalidly maintained prewar farmhouse, the cattle fields and horse pastures alternated, each with their own distinct odor stifling in the humidity, then passing over a river, the combined smell of pure water and filtering rock, a mysterious earthy subliminally familiar aroma, something primordial, something intuitive. An agog thoroughbred balked, usually lazy cattle sharply competed for the fresh pasture growth, gorging gluttonous, and on a wire a lone hawk, at rest, watching in unmoved apathetic curiosity. And like him, we had no aim, just relaxed curiosity on the backroads on a perfect riding evening.