|Newsletter - 2009 Archive|
Scott's machine for the EM 1240
Riding at Night
Riding at night, the world shrinks to the 20 foot circle of illumination that my light projects. Darkness is half the day here in Pennsylvania in late September/early October. Throw in grey days and there is little chance of sun burn on this ride. The sun sets quickly here, no lingering dusk or dawn interludes between night and day. Only the bright reds, oranges and yellows of the changing leaves adds colour to this area known for farming and logging.
The flickering lights of the little towns and villages that dot the route act as enticements to the rider, encouraging them onward. As seems typical in true farming areas, dogs have no interest in me. Their concerns are the stock of the farm and not some wandering cyclist, out in the predawn darkness. Only upon entering the villages and communities of the area, where the dogs are kept more as guards, do they stir when I wheel past their domains.
The darkness, especially in the autumn months, brings out different characters. Three of us arrived at an oasis of light, a pub, in an otherwise dark canyon. It was open until midnight and serving food. We headed inside and quickly ordered bowls of soup, mugs of hot coffee and chips to fortify us for more riding in the dark and cold. The locals (where they lived in this valley of darkness, we did not know) looked upon us with amusement and bewilderment, as if Halloween had come a month early. Soon, other riders arrived and the locals were outnumbered by lycra wearing cyclists, all keen on food and coffee.
Climbing to the top of the range on the night of day 2 in the dark, with 3 other bikes, was like the perpetual treadmill. All our eyes strained to see a respite; a sign that would indicate that this climb would be over and that we would be able to enjoy a free wheel into the valley below. There an overnight stop awaited us, where we could rest our bodies in anticipation of another day in the saddle tomorrow. Arrival at several false summits finally gave way to a true summit and a moon lit descent into the fog of the river valley below.
The equality of night and day meant that even the faster riders, who might get away with little or no night riding in the summer months, now had the same handicap as slower riders. Add in the rain that fell on days 2 and 3 and it further slowed riders. Peering through rain coated glasses to read cue sheets, road signs and road markings, fatigue came sooner then it might have in warm summer evenings.
As night fell for the 4th day, we rode through a heavily forested section, one where no ambient light entered. We sped over rolling terrain, roads seemingly engineered by a roller coaster designer. All we could see was the area illuminated by our headlights, everything else pitch black, as if in a tunnel. With no idea of speed and scared to look down from the road to the computer to confirm our speed, we pressed on, trying to maximize speed, while maintaining contact with the road surface.
As we entered the last 30 km of the ride, the ravines and ridges of south east Pennsylvania in the dark became a puzzle of lefts and rights. Our bodies ached as we tried to climbs these steep roads. Unable to see the summits through the forest, the roads and turns all became similar in the darkness that enveloped us. Only the changing street names reminded us that we had not come through here earlier.
Up ahead we spied the taillights of a fellow rider, his red taillight standing out in a sea of black. The only mistake in the route sheet happened with 3 km to go in the ride. Once the three of us, standing in the ambient orange sodium light of a rural farm house, decided on the correct course of action, we head out. We ride alongside a highway of cars, towards the finish line's welcoming lights and the warm congratulations of the volunteers and fellow riders, sure now that the darkness of the ride will be over soon.
Sept 30 - Oct 3, 2009
October 14, 2009