Sunday, October 23, 2005

Interesting Evening Commute

Last Friday I headed out the trail after work, in the last few minutes of daylight. The walkers and runners I met looked at me like I was a nasty skin rash they thought they’d gotten rid of. I wished them good evening. Most of them said nothing in return. We sidled past each other on the long causeways where the railroad used to cross parts of Crescent Lake or Lake Wentworth. The rails were left in place for a rail-car club, so two-way traffic is supposed to be able to fit in the width of what may not have been a full-gauge railway in the first place.

Except for the causeways, the trail runs beside the tracks, where it can be wider.

Further out, a husband and wife exercising their sled dog team were much more cordial. They knew their presence on the trail was even more controversial than mine, so they were being nice to everybody. Eight yipping huskies were excited but not aggressive.

The dusk deepened under the trees. I switched on the Wall of Fire, my two LED headlights and the 10-watt Vista light on the handlebars. I was testing the 10-watt after running the 5-watt the week before. The fiver wasn’t bad, but I wanted more! More! I switched it off to save it for the real darkness.

With the lights, I don’t bother to hurry home the way I do when the days are a bit longer and I’m racing to beat the dusk. I can’t win that race now, so I prefer to dawdle on the path and let the darkness establish itself. Then I can take the long way home, avoiding much of Route 28 by taking Route 109 to minor roads to the east.

Back on the open road, I knocked one of my LED lights off its bracket at the start of a descent, just as a car came over the rise behind me. I was able to wave him off with the other lights so I could rescue the lost one as it spun in the road.

In summer, the trip over the dirt is just a pleasant afternoon tour. In the dark, approaching Halloween, it’s hard to quell all spooky thoughts, entering a dark tunnel through the forest. Hungry goats at a farm on the first bit of dirt bleated so shrilly they sounded like someone screaming. A minute later I heard a chainsaw fire up in the black forest to my left. It wasn’t very close, but it’s a disturbing sound. Who the hell is out there chainsawing in the dark?

From the height of land I could look across miles of country, across Lakes Wentworth, part of Winnipesaukee and over toward the Sandwich Range and the Ossipee Mountains. Below the dark blue bowl of the night sky, the horizon glowed with the last orange of the vanished sun.

No werewolves or people in hockey masks came charging toward me.

From that height the route is basically downhill for ten miles to my house. There are minor climbs, but much more descending. It was time for the 10-watt light.

The light held up all the way to Route 28, where I rejoin the highway to go down to Route 16 for the short jump to my next exit onto secondary roads. Then I noticed it dimming. That threw me back on just the LED lights. I knew motorists could see me, but the light patch from the LEDs wasn’t strong enough for me to see through the headlight glare aimed at me.

Life is an adventure race. You deal with challenges as they arise. When the road was dark I could flit along steadily. I could even snap on the big light for quick snapshots of the road ahead, or to signal strongly to approaching cars. Maybe the old stick battery has seen its best day. Another ride or two will tell me more.

No comments: