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37 2011-09-12 03:30 Tonight's commute
stories

i've been biking to work even more often. it's not a bad commute: only four miles one way (though there are some hills that are a lot more significant than flat miles). usually i take either the most direct way (all on roads, including busy 5 lane road) or a route that makes use of fayetteville's bike trails (then i just have to cross the busy road).

probably the main reason (psychologically) i like to bike is that it's more interesting/adventurous. (there are logical reasons too: exercise is healthy, saving a bit of gasoline, being a bit green. by the way i work for a green bio-energy company, so saving gas feels in the right spirit.) it feels more like i've accomplished something by getting to my destination. these are basically the same reasons i used to ride an 80cc honda before it broke and i took it apart without fixing it...)

i got a mountain bike last winter, and it's what i've been commuting on. it's not particularly well suited to paved roads, so i've been shopping for a dedicated commuting bike. but this reminded me that i haven't actually been mountain biking a lot lately. i think it's fair to blame this mostly on the super hot summer we had. i biked early in the morning a couple times during the summer, pulling my 3-year-old with her bike attached to mine. the last time went off-road was july 9.

anyway, the nice weather is here now, so i thought it was time for some mountain biking. so when i left work at 12:30am, i headed in a different direction. after one large hill i stopped at a walmart neighborhood market for some AAA batteries, as my helmet headlight was getting a bit dim. (it was my first ever time in this store, as i've boycotted it on principle ever since it was put in right across the street from another fairly new grocery store.) i walked right in with my bike, since i don't take a lock to work, and i seemed to be the only customer. one checkout was open but i had to find the cashier nearby.

then it was on to lake fayetteville under a full moon. i encountered maybe three dozen very surprised deer while on the paved part of the trail, followed by varied other fauna. then i turned on my headlight and veered into the woods. at the bottom of the first hill i stopped short twenty feet from a skunk. he did begin to retreat, but he was staying on the trail, and of course going much slower than i wanted to. after a minute or so of shining my light at him and ringing my pedestrian-alerting bell, he finally moved off the trail. in fact, he was out of sight, and i couldn't tell exactly where he was, though i was pretty sure he was still within eight feet of the trail. i took my chance and zipped past before he could do anything about it. it worked out ok.

after this, and maybe worst of all, were a series of big spider webs (and occupants) that i could see a fraction of a second in advance, just enough time to mostly duck under most of most of them. i say worst because ducking your head that fast (keep in mind i'm wearing a bike helmet with an LED headlamp strapped to it) is rough on the neck. actually, the downward motion is fine; it's the stopping of the downward motion that's rough. i may feel that tomorrow.

(i'm sure this little jaunt was nothing compared to k-ro's many muddy cambodian nightime rides.)

anyway, then it was on to another walmart for some groceries. again, no lock, and by now it's 1:30am, so i again propped my bike just inside the door (which is by the produce, which was what i wanted), but this is not just a neighborhood market, there are actually some customers and quite a few employees in sight one of whom informs me that i can't leave my bike there. i say, ok, i won't, and wheel it on into the store with me. they didn't have a single piece of organic fruit. but i grab a few things, and since my bike is safely with me i feel ok going all the way to the peanut butter aisle near the back. i check out and still get home at the same time that i did after having to stay late at work yesterday.

reminds me of a midnight ride or two (and numerous runs) that phil swope and i went on in college. on one, i hit an unseen hole in the road at high speed, had to bail off the seat, and, still holding the handlebars, skated down the road on the metal cleats attached to my bike shoes, no harm done. maybe i was little lucky there. but a couple more miles out, near the city limits, my free wheel broke, and i had too push the bike back to the dorm like a scooter.

also reminiscent of when i road to west fork at night on the not-yet-paved I-540. with no light that time. and a light-less, moon-less hike a couple miles through the woods as part of a "bachelor party". and a lightless cave exit (best way to avoid both falling and head-bumping is to crawl backwards). interestingly memorable, this category of activities.