If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as it is, particularly the natural earth. — J.R.R. Tolkien
Awakening from a dream only to find another. For a week at the beginning of December each day began shrouded in fog and mist. And on a few sub-freezing days the world was painted with ice crystals while riding in frozen fog.
I understand Tolkien’s wonder and delight at the world. I need not go far to find it myself. The Vespa has transported me to and through many wonders.
These mornings have been the coldest riding so far this fall and for the first time required some extended thought and consideration of the road surface and potential for ice. For successful winter riding I believe a fundamental shift in thought and temperament is essential. I counsel against sub-freezing riding for the simple reason that most riders have a difficult time becoming someone else in winter.
Riding in frozen fog is doubly challenging due to limited vision on top of the potential for ice on the road. Riding is different; more controlled and governed. Roads covered in frozen fog aren’t the place to lean aggressively through turns or push the envelop of speed and power. It’s a different kind of riding.
Subdued, ice covered scenes lined each side of the road as I wandered along on the Vespa. Making photographs was, in part, an excuse to test the surface of the road with the sole of my boots. Most of the ride showed little ice on the pavement but since there’s been no salt yet this season I couldn’t count on a dry surface.
And cold. The time has come to put the Tucano Urbano muffs over the handgrips to keep the wind away from my aging fingers.
When I find myself wishing I wonder if I’m sensing time slipping by more quickly, or maybe just realizing how fleeting all of these experiences really are. Like fog and frost.
I’ve driven or ridden this stretch of forest road countless times since I first made the journey in my VW Beetle back in 1972. And now I stand there thinking I may never pass this way again. Fear and anxiety live in the fog and mist.
Riding down the mountain toward town I had to stop periodically to warm my hands — additional evidence that I need to get the muffs on.
Making photographs in the cold weather calls on me to sacrifice my hands in order to manipulate the tiny buttons and wheels on the digital camera. After all these years you would think I would have solved that problem.
At this moment I decide to ride toward hot tea and warmth and give up the pursuit of the magic landscape.
Perhaps overwhelmed by the visual part of the ride, the constant scanning for ice, the continual eye movements looking for vehicles fore and aft, I begin to fall slowly back to earth from the creations in my head, unexpectedly exhausted from the ride.
And that is a glimpse of what it’s like for me to ride in frozen fog…