Friday, November 04, 2005

Last Ride of the Velo-Pumpkin

I rode to church choir again. It was 64F outside Wednesday night and the ladies were meeting early, us men weren't due until 7:40, so I figured what the heck, the pumpkin on the back of the Marin isn't rotten yet, let's light 'er up and ride to church.

The Marin has big beefy 26" X 1.75" tires on it, all the better for pounding over unseen potholes and obstacles, plus the rear basket and pumpkin were already installed. I headed out right at 6:30.

The main difference between this week and last is the end of Daylight Savings Time. It was basically completely dark out as I left, though I wasn't quite as anonymous as I thought; I passed a couple walking a few blocks from home and they called out, where's the skeleton?, a result of my Adventures on Halloween.

I went west on Hoyt, through the Fairgrounds, illicitly down the last bit of Intercampus Transitway to Como, and along Raymond to Pelham. I like to think the flickering pumpkin looked good floating along in the darkened State Fair Grounds, for instance, but it's hard to tell when it's behind you.

I had a pumpkin malfunction on Pelham and had to stop and find the top and reset it and the bungee cord. I didn't see as many cyclists this time, but the lightless ones could pass by unseen pretty easily. I rode across the Lake Street bridge and down the West River Parkway bike trail. There didn't seem to be as many pedestrians out as last week, either, even though this week was warmer.

I did run into some cyclists along the Minnehaha bike path, all showing lights. Of course, in the dark, you can't really see the person, you just get dazzled by the headlight and then they flash by. I was using my Blackburn Quadrant front light. It throws just enough light to be useful in the really dark bits and is probably pretty visible to oncoming traffic.

I got behind another commuter for a while. He seemed annoyed that I was behind him. He'd speed way up and slow down while I plugged along behind. He wasn't so slow that I felt compelled to overtake him nor so fast that I wouldn't catch back up. He finally took off in a standing sprint and got a long way ahead of me and made a green light where I caught the red, and I didn't see him again. He had a helmet light on but it was pretty dim. He also had a taillight, but it was hidden by a bag strapped to his rack so that it wasn't visible until you were almost on top of him. Not like my pumpkin, with five LED blinkies all blazing away inside it. I think it's stupid not to show lights when riding at light.

I got to church right about 7:45. I've done the ride in 1:05 (on the Atlantis, in daylight) but 1:15 seems more realistic, allowing for lights, pumpkin malfunctions, etc. The one trouble is, choir-wise, my throat gets dried out and the tone of my voice isn't as good as it should be. We're just rehearsing, it's Sunday mornings that count, but I may need to come up with a good warming-up drink to help me when I ride there, not that that will happen much more this season.

Going home, I rode 46th and then 42nd Streets, then north mostly on 46th Avenue. I think the streets are actually better than the trails in the dark. At least cars all have lights, the street lighting is brighter, you don't have the picturesque meanderings along the creek which all of a sudden are dark, ill-lit turns concealing dog-walking pedestrians, oncoming lightless bikes, etc. If you do see other bikes (and I saw a couple of others), you aren't confined to a narrow pathway. I think in the dark, I prefer the streets.

Once home I took all five blinkies out of the pumpkin and removed it from my basket lest it rot in position. Garbage ain't 'til Tuesday. I don't know what people thought of it, whether it provided moments of confusion or annoyance or happy delight. Often you don't know how you affect others, and hope only that on the whole it's positive. I like the whimsy of the pumpkin taillight and will undoubtedly do it again next year.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Oh, shoot! We both blew it:

Great Pumpkin Drop: Recycle unpainted, wax-free pumpkins for use as animal feed. Remove any candles or wax prior to the drop. Saturday, November 5th, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Immanuel Lutheran Church, 104 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul.