By Esther Lumsdon – I try to commute to work by bike twice per week. Starting around Halloween, I get to enjoy biking past holiday light displays on my route home, since it’s dark. Halloween and Diwali are the first light displays.
Every couple of years my husband and I manage to find a dry December evening when it’s warmer than 40 degrees, and we set out on bicycles to look at lights. This year we combined our lights ride with going to our favorite taqueria for dinner.
I suggested this plan on Sunday morning, December 3rd. We plugged in headlights, to make sure they had fully charged batteries. We set out while it was still light at 4:15pm and about 60 degrees. We packed a lock, and a bit of extra outerwear to handle temperature changes. It’s under 4 miles to Salsa Fresh. I rode my hybrid, which recently got a front wheel electric motor assist. It’s nice to be able to keep up with my speedy husband on hills! The route to Salsa Fresh is a bit shorter on a 2-wheel bike than on my ELF, because I can use the greenway through a local park instead of going around on the roads outside. The staff at Salsa Fresh is used to seeing us arrive by bicycle and locking up outside.
After a nice dinner, it was past sunset. We put on our extra layers and turned on our lights to start the fun! I had planned a route that covered part of my bike commute to work, so that my husband could enjoy some of the lights that I saw all the time. First we rode on a short greenway where I often see deer – no reason to say “oh, deer” today. We turned right and entered the first neighborhood street.
At this point we were on my typical route to work. Traffic was refreshingly light, since 5:40 pm Sunday night is not a peak time for getting to school or work! I work in Morrisville, North Carolina, which covers 10 square miles of varying densities. We crossed Town Hall Drive, in search of bright lights I had seen which were 1 or 2 blocks off my route. We stopped to admire the lights, and pedaled back to Town Hall Drive (well named, as the town hall, fire department, and police department headquarters are all on this road. This road is part of my commute, and has several neighborhood entrance roads on it. We turned right into 1 part of Twin Lakes where I cut through to get to Church Rd. I led my husband to the really decked out corner townhouse in this neighborhood, and we stopped to take pictures.
We were there for at least 15 minutes, trying pictures with flash, without flash, and using headlights to illuminate. I could hear distant voices that sounded like 2 neighbors having a long conversation outdoors. Someone in a car that was parked on the street pointing in our direction turned on the car’s headlights. That car was too far away to illuminate us. It occured to both of us that the neighborhood watch seemed to think our behavior was suspicious! I always thought that burglars would dress in dark clothing, not in highly reflective cyclist clothing sporting 800+ lumen headlights, to say nothing of the Christmassy red tail lights. The probable neighborhood watch did not come talk to us, and we finished taking photos and pedaled away.
We pedaled slowly through the Twin Lakes neighborhood, mostly on the route that I take home. We stopped to admire a few more displays. There was one which looked like a puzzling dim light sphere from a distance. One of us said a line from Star Trek “Captain, there’s an unknown energy field off the starboard bow!” When we got close, it turned out to be an inflatable Santa figure on a ground level chimney with a balloon rising from the chimney. While I took a photo of this yard, someone inside the house took a photo of us from one of their second floor windows!
At this point we left my commute route to meander over to Louis Stephens Rd and go past the Library. Because we were on a 2-lane cut through road, we pulled off into a driveway at one point to release motorists who were behind us. I find it’s safer to choose places where it’s safe for me to release faster vehicles, and encourage them to wait until I can assist them to safely pass me. This particular section of road has a poor surface and I think it’s reasonable for motorists to wait for me to cover half of this 0.6 miles and then be released to pass without my misjudging where patched pavement has crumbled. We pedaled past the Library and the Tennis Park, and entered the Preston neighborhood.
There were some nice light displays in Preston. We waved at a number of people who were walking dogs. There is one house on a corner lot which has lots of lights in their yard. Another house has really cool lights in the trees in their front yard which have a ‘dripping teardrop’ motion. Hanging multi-colored spheres made of lights from tree branches looks pretty. The temperature was dropping by this point, and I voted that it was too cold to pedal to Goodberry’s for frozen custard.
We enjoyed views of the full moon during our ride. I learned that it’s difficult to take a nice photo of the full moon! The temperature had dropped to 44 degrees by the time we were home. We covered 15 miles slowly, but got photos and had fun! I did not mind having left my ELF at home this time, because I would have missed a lot of moon views due to the roof.