Ah, Spring! Finally. I can put away the lights and go on night rides only when I'd like a change of pace, not out of necessity. Since it stays light until about 8pm, most evenings a fellow can set out after work on his trusty steed and beat darkness back to his door. And the days are getting longer still.
With that in mind, we all arrived for the weekly Thursday Night Explore Park ride with expectations of finishing with daylight to spare, then Murphy showed up with his law.
First to fall prey was Chris' rear tire. We all thought it may have been just a slow, annoying leak. Out came the pump, in went some volume, and on we rode. Less than 20 minutes later, Chris was heading for the car. It was a flat that wasn't getting any fixin'. He had enough.
On we rode again. This time, Murphy aimed at Paul's stomach. A trip to Burger King prior to our ride, and perhaps a touch of a flu bug forced him to call it quits a bit early as well. I have to admit it; we were going at a pretty fast pace. We hadn't ridden these trails more than once or twice in the daylight for over six months and it was nice to let 'er rip. Ron and Skip already have some races in their legs this year, and I've been putting in lots of hours getting ready for my first. Sometimes we just forget to pace ourselves.
On to the Expert Loop we went. Down along the mighty Roanoke River, and then back up the ridge to our favorite natural technical spots. The first is a scary roll off of a large rock - while going downhill. The second is a creek crossing with a sudden and difficult grunt over a large root outcropping. We all made several attempts at the rock and creek crossing - burning a bit more daylight - then headed on up the trail.
Once on the ridge, I caught a thorn in my front tire and heard the hiss every time the tire rotated. Then I realized I didn't put my seat pack on the bike. Once again, I have proven I'm part idiot. I begged a tube from Skip (did I mention I'm really glad Skip bought a 29er) and fixed the flat as daylight began to noticeably diminish.
I'm not worried about losing daylight and getting lost or stuck in the woods. Explore is a small park, and we've all ridden the trails hundreds of times. Besides, Ron brought his light and was planning on riding home from the park.
What I worry about as the ride leader is running out of daylight and having someone hit a rock or a root and break their collarbone or ankle. Stranger things have happened.
No worries though, I get my flat changed at dusk, leaving lots of time and light for us all to reach the parking lot.
Not 2 minutes after happy thoughts of getting out safely before dark cross my mind, Skip gets a flat...and his only tube (29er remember) is on my front wheel. Great, someone's gonna do a header in the dark and fracture their tibia or fibia because I forgot to bring a tube. I really am an idiot.
"Someone told me that you can stretch a 26 inch tube onto a 29er in a pinch", he says. It works. Three of us are stretching and pulling and prying at it, but it goes on, and it works. Now I feel a little better about taking Skips only 29er tube. I still feel like an idiot for not bringing mine. "No worries, Rock on". Thanks Skip. I owe you one for not killing me.
Just as darkness falls, we reach the parking lot- safely. The first daylight savings time Thursday evening ride ends in the dark. How fitting. But hey, all's well that ends well.