Bike Pilgrimage Day 1: Riding In The Dark

Tuesday, November  10, 2015

It’s a good thing I’m unplanning what time I do things this month, other wise I’d be really stressed out. I’m officially starting my bike trip after sunset. I guess that’s just what I do now- start trips in the dark.

Last year, when we did our October bike trip, due to a mishap reading signs, we ended up leaving our starting point at sunset. The upside was I got an awesome photo out of it.

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Bike trail at sunset | Daegu, South Korea | 2014

This year I don’t misread any signs; I just take a long time to get ready. I’m learning that I take a long time to do things and I’m learning to be ok with that.

Now that I’m finally rolling along in the dark on the trail toward Cheongju, the first thing I notice is the silence. It surrounds me on all sides, rushing past my ears, covering me in a blanket of solitude.

I have a strong light and I’ve been on this trail in the dark before, so I’m not too afraid. I’ve learned that as long as I have a good light, the dark doesn’t impede my biking. Sometimes riding in the dark even has it’s advantages.


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The crew | Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi | 2011

The first extended bike trip I ever took was in Mississippi. Since we got off to a late start in the morning, we were really rushing at the end of the day, trying to beat the dark to our campsite. As dusk approached we came upon a grove of trees that was lit up with little white dots, as if Christmas lights had been strung up.

In fact, my first thought when I saw the lights was “I wonder who strung up those Christmas lights in the middle of nowhere.” But then my second thought was, “We’re in the middle of nowhere. Those can’t be Christmas lights. Besides, it’s May.”

As we got closer we realized the tiny lights were coming from a swarm of fireflies dancing in the little forest.  I was simply in awe. I’d never seen anything like it, nor have I ever seen anything like it since. Sometimes riding in the dark has its advantages.


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#TheBikeFiles Essentials: Super Strong Bike Light

Anyway, both of last year’s bike trips on the Incheon-Busan trail involved lots of night time riding, so I am expecting it on this trip as well.

I ride a few hours before my knee starts to bug me. The most important thing on this trip is to not injure my knee like I did last year, so I decide this is a signal to stop and set up camp. I pull into a bike parking lot along the right side of the trail, and set up my tent.

I know the hardest part of this trip will be the cold, and the hardest part of the cold will be sleeping in it. This first night feels the coldest. I attribute it to the fact that I’ve set my tent up over cement, so the thin aluminum lined picnic mat doesn’t stop the cold from seeping up from the ground. I vow to find a wooden pagoda for my next campsite. The wood has got to be better insulation from the cold than this cement.

I spend several hours praying to be kept warm enough to fall asleep. I practice the mindful meditation I’ve been learning and focus on the feeling of cold in my toes, labeling it “sensation sensation sensation,” trying not to attach aversion to it, just observing it.

It seems to help, but it is still cold.  Although I am uncomfortable, I know I won’t freeze. And somehow I eventually drift off to sleep.

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