Saturday, November 23, 2013

A little laughter, a few moments of terror...

Actually, the terror was a couple of days before the laugh.

On Wednesday I rode the park and ride commute on the Cotton Valley Trail for the first time in a week. A digestive complaint had kept me from eating or sleeping well for several days, so I ventured back out cautiously. The morning ride put me in a good mood for the day. I looked forward to the return trip in the dark.

Still unable to pound down my normal quantities of food and not entirely sure I was completely clear of the intestinal ninjas that had been ambushing me, I rode conservatively, but some sections encourage a little friskiness. There's one bit where the trail crosses a road, goes a few yards level, then hops up and over a small knoll. Coming down the back side of the knoll I always enjoy the acceleration and the way the generator light burns bright white.

The path runs outside the tracks here. Outbound, the tracks are  to the left. Just across them are a couple of houses on wooded lots. I could see lights inside and out on the house that sits closer to the tracks. I heard barking.

No big deal. I hear barking from houses along the trail all the time. This time, the barking went from a questioning woof to deep, aggressive, rapid barking. Crashing sounds in the undergrowth indicated that a large dog was charging me from the blackness to my left.

"Hey, dog," I said in a loud but friendly tone. Then "Hey! HEY! HEYYYYYY!!! GET YER DOG!"

As I bellowed for the dog's owner I was sprinting forward. Outside the light from my headlight all was blackness. Even with a good helmet light anything outside its beam would be in black shadow. I couldn't waste time or attention trying to see the beast that was thrashing after me. All I could do was crank as hard as I could and hope the stupid dog didn't crash into me or chomp down on any part it could grab.

In several years of incorporating that section of path into commutes in all seasons I have never had a problem there. Yesterday and today's rides followed the placid pattern I had come to expect. But now I have to be a little more alert in case the mysterious hound returns.

One day on, one day off: On Thursday I drove to work because that's the day I pay a musician to be my friend. I don't have time to do the bike commute in any of its forms and still get to the string band's meeting place on time.

Yesterday the weather was showery. The morning sleet almost convinced me to skip the ride, but I went for it instead. The dirt road and path were still frozen from the previous cold weather. On the evening ride the top layer had thawed, so it was like riding on flypaper. The tires didn't sink into glop but they stuck stuck stuck, demanding a full grunt from every pedal stroke. It was a real thigh burner.

And so we come to this morning. Things had frozen up again. My digestive system was still behaving itself. I was doing okay on time. The sun was out. Great.

As I started down from my parking point I did not seem to be getting as much speed out of the descent as I usually do. Maybe the road was still a little fly papery. Maybe my first cup of coffee in four or five days was making me tach up a little. I kept pushing, down and down until I got to the path.

Maybe my seat was too low. It felt a little low. It had felt a little high when I started using the mountain bike commuter this fall. Maybe I raised it last winter when I started wearing the Snow Sneakers and needed to raise it again now that I had gone back to them. I pulled one foot out of the toestrap so I could put my heel on the pedal to check leg extension. It seemed okay.

As I brought my foot back around to slip into the toeclip again I heard a weird metallic click as my shoe caught on something projecting from the bike. I discovered that one brake spring had popped out from my rear brake, probably from shoving the bike in the car and dragging it out again in a bit of a rush. A brake pad had been rubbing the rim since I started.

Wow, was I fast after that! At least until I hit the blasting headwind on the causeways where the path goes along the lakes. But headwinds in the morning are often tailwinds on the way home. And so it was.

The evening commute gained a whole lot of atmosphere when a thick snow squall moved in as I was starting from the shop. It was a snow shower at first, steady but light. It thickened after I got out of the downtown area and headed into the darkness. But that wind was behind me. The snowflakes flared in the headlight beam. Occasional big ones in just the right spot flashed brilliantly for an instant. The cone of floodlit snow streamed toward me as the dusting whitened the path. A wild evening.


Steve A said...

Excellent word pictures

cafiend said...

Thank you.