By the glow of Venus

With my gears once again righteously shifting (thanks to Brent at CC) and having come home early from work for a service call, I took off for the roads on my bike and managed to ride the last thirty-five miles to my goal of 3,000 miles. I’m now in uncharted territory (well, actually, I have been since I passed last year’s total of 2843 miles). Now I’m in the ranks of near craziness riding. I can’t claim total craziness, for there are guys out there with upwards of 5,000 miles for their year (see that blog I’ve added to my list by the guy in Seattle). But I’m still proud for my accomplishments this year–five century rides, over 500 miles of tandem riding, and a fulfilling year of exploring the many roads of Ohio.

Last night was an evening of warmth in a week of chillier temperatures. This morning it’s been rainy and it’s a chilly 40-something degrees. It was 64 degrees when I took off for the roads and it pretty much stayed pleasant with 58 degrees, as reported by the temperature monitor on my computer. The skies were mostly clear and it’s true that once darkness set in, Venus was my companion as I pushed myself an extra ten miles than I originally intended just to get in those final miles.

I left my house around 5:30 and returned home at 8pm (just in time for Gossip Girl) with a ride time of 2:44’44. I started my ride by heading into Kent intending on doing a reverse route of my 25 mile loop that goes through Streetsburo. Instead, I ended up detouring up Lake Rockwell Road to enjoy the beautiful fall colors of trees along these pristine lakes which supply Akron its water.

Once I reached Route 14, I didn’t know quite where to go because if I continued down Lake Rockwell, I’d end up going a little far and probably have to take 303 (busy and ugly state route) back into Streetsburo to make a loop. So I went down this bumpy chip-and-seal paved street just up 14 a little ways called Price. Two dogs chased me into the street, scaring the crap out of me, near one of the houses. Price was starting to look a little less civilized than I’d expected, so I turned at the next street–Webb. Passing several gravel companies, Webb wasn’t all that scenic but the pavement was decent and it had some hills. I wasn’t sure where it was going, but I hoped to get back to Lake Rockwell somehow and turn around. I eventually hit Infirmary Road, which is a little bit busy but not too bad, and so I turned right down it since I knew it would hit Lake Rockwell again.

So I went back down Lake Rockwell and the lakes, which turns out to be an easier direction than going up it. My original plan was to get back to Ravenna Road and head back to home through a bunch of really nice rolling back streets I know. It was just starting to get dark as I hit my favorite Seasons Road, going to opposite direction I usually take that road (which was harder than my usual direction). I turned on my light to alert oncoming cars since the roads were so rolling. I passed several people leaf blowing or mowing their lawns.

As I came up on the Summit County MetroParks bike and hike trail, which brings me very close to home, I realized I was at 27 miles. My mind that craves even numbers reminded me that I should round off the ride to 30 miles. Then, I realized that if I got 30 miles in, I would be just five miles away from the desired 3,000 mile goal I wanted to achieve this year. I couldn’t just stop when I was so very close!

“Well,” I thought. “I got a light. I know I can make a loop around town that will give me around 35…”

“GO FOR IT!” the Mileage Nazi in my head exclaimed.

The next thing I knew, I was pushing past my natural turn-off of Stow Road and continuing north up the bike and hike trail. My plan was to take the bike and hike to Barlow Road, then go up Barlow to the entrance to the bike and hike trail that loops back into Stow by basically paralleling Route 8. There’s a way I usually go home when I come up Quick Road from the valley that takes me on some side streets basically back to my house. I was pretty sure this route would give me the extra miles I needed.

I was surprised that the temperature didn’t drop much while I was out. I was comfortable in my long bike pants, wicking undershirt, and long sleeved flannel. The bike and hike trail at night was really cool and quiet. I was careful with my speed and my eyes were glued alertly ahead to prepare for any sudden stops I might have to make due to some passing nocturnal creature. Several cats crossed my path and I sighted deer (who promptly ran away from me) along the sides of the trail in several places. I actually wasn’t that nervous. It was really a beautiful night and I kept spotting Venus in the dark sky every time I hit a clearing of trees. I only encountered one other night cyclist, also with a bright LED light. We passed in the night, wordlessly, like two space ships in the key of space.

To compensate for my cautiously slow speed, I geared higher to ensure I was getting the aerobic workout I also enjoy, since the bike and hike is basically flat. I felt really good and energized and I was increasingly happy that I’d chosen this night and this manner to push myself to 3,000 miles. It was the perfect fall night with the damp smell of fall and the sound of crushing leaves at my wheels. Even in my reflection this morning, there’s a certain romanticism tied to that moment. It was so nice to be alone on the roads in the silence of the evening.

The only bad thing that happened was I experienced my first incident of anti-cyclist rage. On one of the side streets near my house, someone in a truck passing me in the oncoming lane pitched garbage at me. I know he was totally aiming for me (and I chose to assume that it was a male since men seem more inclined to enjoy the sport of throwing crap at cyclists; I can only imagine a woman screaming out the window, not throwing items, call me sexist). He had slowed down behind a car that was turning into a driveway behind me. I was hit square in the side by the trash, which shocked more than hurt, though it did sting. I shouted, “Asshole,” but too late and realized I was only feeding his satisfaction by responding. I couldn’t believe anyone would be so blatantly cruel to someone he didn’t even know. I was reminded of stories from other cyclists about having stuff pitched at them from passing cars. The only thing I can do in counter is imagine that the culprit is some overweight, fat-ass, couch potato who never does anything for his health and will probably die of a heart attack in a few years.

This incident didn’t ruin my whole evening, however. I had a great time, even riding through a small portion of Portage County (where, I add, the residents who aren’t even that used to cyclists treated me better). It was a beautiful, magical night and an awesome way to complete my crazy mileage streak. I love my new bike light–a NiteRider MiniNewt–as it lights up the road in a big bubble ahead of me and, I am sure, makes me completely visible to oncoming traffic (which may be good or bad depending on the driver of the vehicle). It was an expensive purchase, but one that was well worth it because now I’m not confined to daylight hours as the days get shorter. I don’t think enough people realize how cool it is to ride at night. Yeah, you have to be more cautious than normal so you can’t get your breakneck speed averages, but you get to experience a whole new set of sensations as you observe the world around you. I’ve always liked hiking at night too. It’s just different. An air of mystery surrounds you. Everything is quieter and still. And you feel like the only person on the planet. Which is sometimes a pleasant thing.

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2 thoughts on “By the glow of Venus

  1. I agree about the night time thing. So many things are better at night. Try it on a full moon, and I bet you wouldn’t even need the light much at all (except when you have oncoming traffic).

  2. Well, I’m always afraid of hitting deer, so I’m not so sure I could go lightless. I have this fear since it was a dog that caused my worse accident on a bike (where I was unconscious on impact and woke up a half hour later in an ambulance, which is singularly the scariest experience of my life because that means they loaded me onto a backboard and everything with me completely out).However, I have hiked up a 14er in Colorado by the light of the moon and it was MAGNIFICENT! I will always remember how different the mountain looked when hiked at night–the quiet, the glow of the moon, the shadows of rocks and bushes on the path, the bats circling the summit. This was the first summer that Mars was prominent in the sky (2003). So that was really cool. I would do another night hike like that in a heart beat. It was even better than climbing a mountain during the day, which in itself is magnificent.I guess hanging out at night is also why I love my much neglected hobby of astronomy. When I went to star parties, it was a bunch of us amateur astronomers on the field point our telescopes to the heavens. We’d drink coffee to stay up and occasionally chit-chat and look into each other’s scopes. I always thought of it as a worship service to the night. We’d stay up all night looking at stuff in the sky. And you were only allowed to use red lights (keeps your night vision) so it was incredibly dark. But you’d be amazed how you can work by the glow of the Milky Way Galaxy (star parties are never during full moon becaues the moon drowns the light of the more diffuse objects like galaxies and nebulae).

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