|Greg aka: Caution riding into the darkness|
It's that time of year. Gone are the long summer nights when the sun hangs in the sky forever. Now it runs to the horizon like its late for dinner and darkness drops like a thick blanket in an instant. One minute it's light and the next it's black.
I love this time of year though, my favorite season actually. The smells, the colors, the chill in the air and it is the run-up to the Holidays. Also, someone managed to throw my birthday in there as well.
Our weekly rides at Paradise Valley run from 6 to 8 usually. Wednesday night, however, night fell hard at 7:30. Even so, it was dark in the woods long before that. In the deep thick of Two Trees Trail or the black hollows of Llyod's Trail the way is not always clear even when the sun is at high noon. But at dusk, trees seem closer, the roots swallowed up in the dark shadows, bumps and dips appear flat and all around the dark blanket of night closes in.
It can be a bit creepy, dead leaves, quietly dark woods and then suddenly the deep, sharp hoot of an owl sends goosebumps across the skin and that pretty much seals the feeling. The temperature and the sun drop and so does the riding speed. Trails that normally record quick riding times turn into leg dragging zombies when night falls.
I often take for granted, the ability to clearly see the way ahead, the ground beneath, and more importantly the stumbling obstacles in my path. But a funny thing happens when the sight line disappears and I'm left with nothing but my memory of the trail and the feel of the bike as it responds to the conveyor belt of bumps and bobbles, twists and turns, and the ups and downs. My mind relaxes.
As I've mentioned before, Paradise Valley is awesome technical riding. Riding there is an exercise in rapid, consecutive, and complicated problem solving: what gear, what line, what effort, what apex, what's next? Quickly, bam-bam-bam and sometimes crash! But when all of the equation's variables are obscured by the black magic marker of night the problem becomes unsolvable.
And so we plow through it, the dark unknown, doing the best we can with what we have. Smiling the whole way.