From my blog:
...The sun was setting, but I felt secure with a blinker attached to my backpack, the reflectivity of my Illuminite cycling jacket, and the Bell Dawn Patrol headlamp I was using. Besides, I know the local roads, and I wasn't going to be out in the dark too long.
Man proposes, and God disposes. Sunset took place while I crossed the Kennedy covered bridge, and it was dusk as I reached the market. I parked, leaving my headlamp on, and went inside to get dinner. As I decided between vegetarian lasagna and a rice salad a fellow in the market said to me, "You've left your blinker on."
"It's easier to leave it on than reach back there to turn it off" I said. I mentally noted he must be a cyclist, and headed to the cashier with my lasagna.
Back in the parking lot, I straddled the bike to push off, and noticed a set of handlebars sticking up from the back of a truck. It was an Electra Amsterdam, a shiny new Dutch-style cruising bike. Never having seen one, I was fascinated by it. I waited a few minutes for the owner to come out of the market. The owner turned out to be the man in the market who spoke to me about my blinker. Although he drove for this trip, he is a bike commuter, and we talked bikes for 15 minutes. And lights:
"I have a great German light set from Peter White that makes this look like a motorcycle at night. You might want to get one."
"I have a nice headlamp for my commuting to work, but I'm just down the road, and this little light should be fine for me for now," I said. "I'd better get going though, as I don't want to become a hood ornament." And I pushed off onto the road.
I decided to take Pughtown Road instead of back roads. Yes, the traffic would be heavier, but the route was more direct, and it was starting to drizzle. And I was very visible, I thought. I pedaled across the intersection of Kimberton and Hare's Hill, the same intersection my car was struck in five months ago, and a truck quickly slowed down at the cross street. It was clear he hadn't seen me from a distance, and was preparing to run the intersection when he spotted me. So much for visibility, I thought, as I pedaled faster up the hill out of Kimberton.
The rain began to pick up. I took the lane, since there was little or no shoulder. Cars passed me in the other lane, and I was grateful for the additional light their headlamps provided. Then one car passed me and the road ahead was dark. I looked down at my headlamp, and it was dark too. I banged it with my hand, and it flickered on and off. I pressed the on button again and again, and it flickered dimly. I reached the top of the hill as the rain splashed around me, and dismounted.
No amount of tinkering made the light shine again. The light had failed. And I was faced with a four mile ride down a sizable and wooded hill and over French Creek, at night, in the rain, without a headlight. I took a deep breath, mounted the bike, and pushed off.
The descent was nerve-wracking, but uneventful. Passing car headlamps and the little ambient light from nearby homes helped illuminate the road for me. It helped that the road had been repaved and repainted that summer. I silently thanked the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as I rolled downward. As I approached the bottom and the road's curve to follow French Creek a car followed me a distance. He may have been trying to be cautious to avoid a cyclist at night, but for whatever reason his keeping behind me lit up the road enough that I could follow the road's curve with confidence. He sped past me as the road straightened, and the tree cover thinned enough to allow me to see my way across the steel grate bridge on French Creek. The tree cover ended, as did the rain, and I was less than three miles from home. All that stood between me and a warm fire was a busy road and an unlit bicycle. And off I pedaled.
The last stretch was the worst of my ride. The night had grown darker, the road markings were not as new as the ones I'd seen the past couple of miles, and cars passing in the other direction blinded me. At one point I was completely disoriented and only avoided a ditch by noticing the sound of gravel under my tires. As soon as I heard it I swerved back into the lane. As the car passed I noticed I'd been what appeared to be less than two inches from the ditch. After a few more feet I dismounted and began walking the bike.
After a quarter mile, I tried my headlamp one more time. I clicked the button, and the headlamp shone. I mounted the bike, pushed off, and made it home by six PM, about an hour and a half after sunset. Total miles for the ride, 12.50.