Yesterday it was decided that after work I would meet my brother and his wife for food and a movie.
Last time that happened, getting there was rather miserable, as it involves riding up one of the main roads in town--North Fairfield--for a few miles. At rush hour this is especially not fun. It involves riding the sidewalk. I despise riding the sidewalk. It's jarring, uncomfortable, slow, and unsafe.
After playing with Google Maps a bit, I came up with an alternate plan. I found what seemed to be a mostly-parallel street that would take me to almost exactly where I wanted to go, and it seemed to be the kind of dense residential area where drivers are slow and friendly. Excellent.
When I turned onto the first street, I noticed a green "Bike Route" sign. Looks like a good choice so far.
After a bit less than a mile, I see a green sign with an arrow pointing onto a side street. I decide to follow it, since it will at the very least not be going away from my destination. I keep seeing little green signs and following them, and they seem to keep taking me North and West, toward Fairfield Commons. All good so far.
I am dismayed to see that it dead-ends on North Fairfiel Road about a mile short of where I want to be, and a decent distance from where the rough sidewalk becomes a bike path. Oh well, it's better than riding the whole thing. Have I mentioned, though, that I am quite impressed with the way they have bike routes laid out here?
I arrive at Fox and Hound (a good little pub and grill type place), and begin looking for something to lock the bike to. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that my six foot cable has fallen off the bike where it was bungeed to the rear rack. I have my Kryptonite chain which is always almost long enough to work, and I have my U-lock which is not quite wide enough to go around a pole.
I end up U-locking the front wheel to the main triangle and running the chain around the top tube and a light pole. It leaves the rear wheel unlocked, but nothing's perfect.
We just walk from the restaurant to the movie, so the bike remains there until I'm ready to ride home.
Riding at night is always interesting. In many ways I feel that on busy streets I am more visible than in the daytime, because I've got a lot of red flashing lights going on. It does have a bit of a dampening effect on my appreciation of the scenery, though.
The trip south on North Fairfield to rejoin the bike path is rather pleasant, since at 11:00 most of the traffic is gone so I just take the right lane. It's also downhill for most of the way, and we all know that downhill is better than uphill.
After about three miles of North Fairfield I reach the path. It's completely separated from the roads and has no streetlights or anything, so I'll be depending entirely on my headlight. Luckily it is quite bright (not quite HID brightness, but not far from that either).
Riding down a tree-lined path on a dark night with the only light source on your handlebars is something everyone should experience. Just maybe not too often, since it gets creepy.
I usually prefer a bar mounted light because it shows the contours of the terrain better and keeps me from shining it into the eyes of all the cars I might look toward. It also means, however, that I can't see anything next to me.
My first big scary moment came when I aimed my bars to the left for a quick second to get a look at that side of the path and saw a big shape. I turned the bars back that way real quick for a better look and was face-to-face with a large and very angry deer. ..OK, it likely wasn't angry, but it was probably surprised and annoyed. Suddenly seeing a deer pop up right in front of you at night is pretty surprising, so I may have jumped a bit and sped off. Hey, deer are vicious carriers of rabies. And...anthrax. And err...botulism?
Having survived my enounter with the deer, I continued on my ride home, looking over my shounder every now and then to ensure that there wasn't a cloven-hoofed-ticked-off mother of Bambi pursuing me. Not like I could have seen it anyway, it was dark.
About half a mile from home, I had another wildlife encounter. I saw what seemed to be an adorable little kitten on the side of the path, ready to dart out in front of my wheels, which it of course did soon after. Animals all like to play chicken. I slowed down to avoid hitting it, and it scampered across the path in front of me. I said "Hi kitty!" as it went, because cats are fun sometimes.
It was not a kitty. It was in fact an angry raccoon. I know that it was angry because it looked at me and made a pretty disturbing growling/snarling sound as I rode past. I'm pretty sure its eyes also glowed red and then shot fire at me, but Wikipedia doesn't mention this as being something that raccoons have evolved to do. Maybe I should make an edit. People need to know these things. It could save someone's life one day.
Anyway, I arrived home without being mauled by any cute woodland creatures, so I guess yesterday's ride counts as a victory.
Going back home to Kentucky for the weekend, so no more rides until Monday.
Have a safe holiday, everyone!