Monday, August 1, 2011

Night Rider

I don't typically advocate riding at night, though I've found myself out in the wee hours of the morning quite often.  At 4 or 5 am Sunday morning, traffic is almost non-existent, and I am pretty confident my blinky lights are very visible from a distance.  Traffic, however, isn't the only concern in the lack of light.

This little obstacle looked quite different at 4:40am and nearly wrecked my ride only 10 minutes in.
Just 10 minutes in to my ride, at 4:40 am, I almost ate it when I tried to divert around what looked like a box on the trail.  The 4 inch black water pipe was invisible until I was right on it - I went off trail to the right (left in the photo since I was going the other way) and luckily didn't ditch.  Not 5 minutes after that a rabbit tried to attack my bike.  He was on the road side of the trail hanging out and heard me approaching.  His little ears went alert and his head twitched.  I thought he was going to tough it out, but right when I cut him off from the woods he lunged for safety directly into my front wheel.  Poor little guy bounced up into my pedal before somehow launching himself between my wheels and skittering to woods.

Another interesting sighting came near the tail end of Gateway Park in Fort Worth.  Something giant cut out a few feet in front of me and ran across the field on the west end of the park.  (Well, at least giant for 5:30 in the morning...)  Based on it's size and speed, I can only assume it was a bobcat since they are often sighted in the area.

Bobcat in the wild at River Legacy Park, not far from where I spotted one (photo from
Creatures and critters are out hunting and doing their thing and aren't prepared for you to come up that fast and they startle easily, usually when you are right on top of them, creating a problem for rider and critter alike.  This trip I counted 2 possum, 1 raccoon, 1 bobcat, 5 or 6 or more rabbits, and countless other things at I heard rushing into the brush unseen.

Another problem with trails at night is just general visibility.  Even familiar trails can present dangers like the hydrant hose above, but get on an unfamiliar trail and it is down right dangerous.  River Legacy, Quanah, and Gateway park all had winding trails through the woods with dense tree cover not even letting the starlight through.  My headlight is average and mounts to my bike, so it is difficult to anticipate a turn since your wheel isn't pointed that direction yet.  Coming into a corner you get a great shot of the trees straight ahead but nothing of the trail itself.  I found myself wagging my handle bars to get a glimpse of the the curves before it was too late.  Parts of Gateway Park trail were under construction and I nearly ran into a fence blocking it off.  I came around a corner pretty fast and as my light caught up to the trail the fence jumped right out at me.

The main river trail was very nice.  There is a paved trail that runs the full length on one side and a crushed limestone trail that parallels on both sides of the river.  That was nice since many of the runners chose the crushed limestone, it helped break up the traffic some.  I took an unpaved leg up to the Naval Air Station.  The crushed limestone rides nice, not bumpy or jittery.  It is messy, though, my water bottles were covered in a layer of grit.  I had to spit water from my Camelbak onto one to down some Cytomax with getting a mouthful of chalky mess.  It wouldn't have been pleasant if I hadn't had something to rinse them with first.  Regardless, I'd take the crushed limestone over Texas highway chip-seal any day!

Chipseal vs. crushed limestone

Natural falls near the Naval Air Station
I stopped for sunrise at 6:15 and had a nice juxtaposition of downtown FW to the west and river wilderness to the east.

Sunrise on the Trinity.

Downtown Fort Worth
What you can't see in the photo is the other side of the river is paved.  I missed the first dam bridge and ended up riding the crushed limestone side for several miles right from the start.  Not having been on the trail before, I just assumed parts of it would be unpaved so I went with it.  Just another hazard of riding at night.

The dam bridge that continues the paved trail - not so visible in the dark.

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