Aside to Christopher: I'm working on my assignment, honest! But in the meantime, this came to me on tonight's ride.
I'd forgotten what an August ride in corn country really smells like until tonight, that thick humidity hanging over the fields, rich with pollen. Here on the flatlands, you'll never ride up out of it, so you just wade through, breathing in what the corn exhales. It takes me back to so many places... standing in the front yard shucking the sweet corn grandpa just picked, peeling back the thick husks to expose the delicate white-green silk over the plump yellow kernels. Or spinning down a country road on my dad's wheel, hypnotized by the drone of our breathing, our chains running over the cogs, and the cicadas.
Out in the sunlight, the smell has a spicier edge to it, almost a garlicky overtone, but when you ride into a rare patch of shade, it mellows to something mildly sugary -- maybe it's just an illusion, the perception of sweetness that comes from that sudden cool respite from the sun. I can almost taste sweet corn right off the cob, even though I know that what I'm smelling is nearly-inedible field corn destined to become cattle feed or high-fructose corn syrup.
In a week or so, the ragweed will overtake me, and my allergies will prevent me from smelling just about anything on these evening rides. But for a brief, blissful moment, I'll suffer through the heat and humidity just to enjoy this scent from my childhood.