Thursday, November 08, 2012

Chillin' on the bike

An icy wind blew the brown leaves around as I loaded my bike for the morning commute. My tendency to overdress had finally coincided nearly perfectly with the plunging temperature.

It was 27 degrees -- that's -2.7 for you Celsius types.

The dirt road from my parking spot drops almost continuously for a mile. It is now well-packed. At 27 degrees it was also solidly frozen. I've hit 30 mph on that section, but cold air must really be more dense than warm air, because I can't seem to crack 27 mph anymore. I might be sitting up more because my eyes are tearing so badly from the cold air that I can't see where I'm going. Knocking off three miles per hour will definitely soften the blow if I hit a tree, right?

The big difference since last week is the total darkness on the evening ride. The snow held off for me, so I wasn't riding in whiteout squalls, but the north wind still played hard. It gave my clothing another test as the temperature dropped from its afternoon high of around 33 down toward the upper 20s again. The route back out to my car is a long, gradual climb of more than seven miles. The few little declines are offset by the steady grade up the last mile.

Miniature surf crashed on the rocks of the long causeway beside Lake Wentworth. I chased the patch of light from my headlight through the darkness. Leaving the windswept lake I reentered the forest. Leaves swirled in the puffs of wind.

Last week I almost hit a deer on the path during the evening ride. I spotted the one to my right and remembered that they seldom travel alone. I saw the one coming across from my left just in time to lock up the brakes. The deer stared into my headlight.

"Sorry," I called. The deer looked at me strangely, like an apology was the last thing it ever expected to hear from a human being. It ambled on across the path to follow its companion into the darkness.

On another evening, or perhaps the same one, I spotted the mysterious Dusk Walker at the far limit of my headlight. This tall, gaunt man walks on the path in the evenings. He never seems too pleased to be disturbed, even by a polite cyclist who always slows down and says good evening. Now that the darkness has fully settled in my light announces my approach. Its power surprises people. I saw Dusk Walker looking at the growing light around him while he was still 100 feet or more ahead of me.

Once the snow comes I will have to park somewhere else if I can find a place at all from which to launch a ride. More likely I will park closer to town and ski the remaining distance on the days it suits the schedule. It's all the skiing I'm likely to get, but that's absolutely fine. I love it when a mode of transportation that most people consider recreational turns out to be practical. It's a matter of attitude.

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