Tales from the Tarmac | Burning the Midnight Oil

Do you ever get the feeling that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day? I sure as hell do. Anyone who knows me even as just a casual acquaintance  has most likely heard me rail against winter’s sadistic lack of daylight as well as the downright confounding nature of daylight savings time. In fact, let me use this soap box to pile on a little more vitriol while I’m at it.

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Two roads diverged in northern San Luis Obispo County, I chose the one that led to beer. And that made all the difference.

Why on earth do we still abide by such an archaic system? It’s a question that should really be asked by every single person every single moment of their waking existence in my not-so-humble opinion. As a not-so-professional cyclist with a day job, I value my daylight, but furthermore, as a rational human being I question anything that utterly defies reason. Sure, I may be overreacting just a touch, but I’m most definitely not alone. Okay, maybe.

Ranting aside, even with this past month’s time change, I still find myself cursing the horizon for being too high and the sun for being too low on nearly a daily occasion. This past Thursday however,  I simply decided enough was enough. Setting out after work, I had one goal in mind—don’t let the the sun win.

Now, a note to your readers: I’m about as stubborn as a glass ketchup bottle at a rarely frequented diner—getting me to give up on something I’ve set my mind to—no matter how stupid and/or half-baked it may be—is harder than disguising the mystery meat du jour with a dollop of the vinegary red stuff.

So, deciding to go big as the day was getting shorter simply meant one thing: coming to terms with the dreaded darkness and burning a bit of the ol’ midnight oil. Heading out of town aimlessly by way of a 2-mile dirt climb, suddenly a spur-of-the-moment hankering for a beer only offered at the taproom of a local brewery decided my route for me.  However, there was one small hiccup. The taproom in question just so happened to be a good (hilly) forty miles away.

Remember what I said earlier about stupid, half-baked ideas? Yeah, this was definitely one of them. Thankfully, or perhaps fatefully, my trusty YiPsan brevet bike happened to be underfoot. Now, you see, this bike has a certain way of enabling my ill-thought decisions thanks to its ride-all-day comfort—and ride-all-night hub dynamo-powered light.

Winding my way through the desolate country roads of northern San Luis Obispo County, I couldn’t help but feel overcome by a healthy dose of smugness. Green hills, golden light, open roads and the promise of good beer ahead—I was living high on the hog and couldn’t exactly imagine anyone else in any other situation having it any better.

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It was time to tie up the trusty steed at the hitching post, while I put the feed bag on.

Pulling up to the Firestone Brewery taproom just as the sun was setting, it began to sink in that I would indeed have to ride all the way back in full darkness. Sure, I was prepared materially, with lights, my favorite warmers and a hi-viz vest, but mentally, I hadn’t really prepped myself for the ride home, much preferring to simply revel in the novelty of riding through a beautiful stretch of countryside during a stellar sunset.

Putting off this prep a bit longer, I instead chose to devote my attention to polishing off a wood-fired pizza and a pint of masterfully crafted saison-style ale. But, with the beer and the food being top-notch, that didn’t afford me a very long respite. Settling up, I really began to question my decision to ride past the comfort of daylight, my hand moving in the direction of my phone with a quickly galvanizing intent to call for a ride home.

There was one small problem, though. Remember that whole ketchup bottle bit? That meant that, unfortunately I wouldn’t be calling for a ride. Heading off into the darkness, I soon found myself enveloped in a lightless corridor of rolling hills,  with just the odd passing car for company.  In-between singing to myself and various spirited monologues, I realized this whole darkness thing wasn’t so bad. Sure, I could only see a 200-foot stretch of road in front of me, but the peacefulness afforded by it was actually rather revelatory.  Maybe all of my rhetoric had been misguided after all.

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I really blame Firestone for all of what transpired on what started as a perfectly harmless post-work ride.

But then, after a while, (I’m really not exactly sure how long, riding in the dark has a certain way of playing tricks on one’s internal clock) something funny thing happened. Both of my tires went soft at the same time—or so I thought. Getting off the bike to check them, to my surprise they were just as inflated as when I set out.

It was my legs that had gone soft. What then followed were 20 of the longest miles I’ve ever ridden. Out of food, and with nowhere open to remedy the situation, I settled into the bonk, mentally flipping through the pages of an imaginary Bon Appétit as if it were a publication of a much more illicit nature.

While dreaming of a  plate of pan-seared shrimp tacos, replete with a tequila-lime reduction, I begrudgingly came to terms with the fact that my options at this late hour were’t quite of that scope. As I limped up and over the final hill into town, I settled on the next best thing. Taco Bell.

Eating by myself, in full kit, at an hour where local college students are stumbling back home from the bars, my earlier sense of smugness was now tinged with a fair bit of shame. But, as a silver lining to all of it, I now possess the knowledge that a trio of Crunchwrap Supremes™ at Taco Bell makes for one of the most divine recovery meals ever experienced on our fair planet.

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Don’t Judge Me.