October 13th, 2007

Night Rider

Because I had had a late dinner yesterday and then eaten a little ice cream while watching the Rockies-Diamondbacks game, the urge I've been feeling to resume my nighttime bicycle riding became a lot more forceful. I did go on one ride in August, during which I saw a rattlesnake, but the next time I went out the absence of a working front break nearly caused me to wipe out on some Monsoon-enhanced gravel. So I decided I'd better fix the brake before venturing out again. I bought a cable-repair kit two weeks ago and the grease it said I'd need the other day. Yesterday morning, I decided it was time to take on the task. After all, I'd fixed our solar screen without a drill the previous day. Why not my bicycle?

As I rapidly discovered, though, the kit didn't come with the nuts and bolts -- literally -- that I'd need to get the cables working properly. I thought of running down to the hardware store, but ran out of time. Hence, when I got the urge to ride tonight, I was weighing whether I should brave the moonless darkness without a front break. In the end, I decided it would be worth the risk. But when I went out to the garage to get the bike, I realized that the front tire, which I'd just inflated to the proper pressure in the morning, was flat in a way that would make it necessary to put in a new tube. Perhaps I had inadvertently run it over a cactus needle when I was taking it out to check the tires. At any rate, there was no chance of riding that bike. Then I had an inspiration. Why not take Kim's bike, which she rarely uses these days? Doing so would mean transferring the front and back lights from my bike to hers, but that wouldn't be too difficult, I wagered. And it wasn't.

Soon I was out on the road, surprisingly untroubled by the greater angle between the seat and handlebars on her bike, it being one with a smaller frame. I felt that great rush of heading down the hill out of our subdivision, across Northern Avenue, and into the much less existential multi-acre lot community to the west, the one where I go jogging as well. The only problem was that my front light, which I'd tried hard to tighten sufficiently, was still a little too loose. All of a sudden I was blinded by a flash of white. The light had swung up and beamed me in the face as its mount, jostled by an especially large bump in the very bumpy road, swiveled on the handlebars. Although I rapidly realized what had happened, the initial moment of feeling blind was intense and unwelcome. But I pressed on.

Fifty yards away, something large came bursting into the cone of my light. It was a barn owl. In the aftermath of my encounter, I was delighted. At the time, though, it was rather frightening. The bird came within inches of my head. And let me tell you, barn owls are big. I was still recovering from the shock when I was once again blinded by my front light. Reasoning that it would be too dangerous to proceed, I headed back home. When I got back, though, I figured out a way to fix the problem. I tore off a strip of aluminum foil, removed the mount, then put it back on with the foil wedged under the mount's front grip to keep it from slipping. It worked. So I got back on the bike and proceeded to complete my regular ride without incident. Unless you count seeing lots and lots of stars overhead an incident. Or feeling that burn in my quads that I've been missing the past few months.