Saturday, March 6, 2010

Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers (in faraday cages)

Tonight I decided to go for a nighttime trail ride. I've never mountain biked before after dark. It was a pretty cool experience. I started down by Red Mountain park and took advantage of every dirt trail I could to get up to Las Sendas where I caught a trail back into the Hawes system. I played it pretty conservatively so I did a little more hike a bike than normal even though my HID light I bought a few years back put out plenty of light. You just don't get as much depth perception at night I think.

My goal was to do a Usery Loop but on trails instead of pavement. I just about took out a cactus with my leg going down Twisted Sister (it has a lot of close to the trail cacti and fast turns. Things are really peaceful in the desert in the evening. I could see the lights of Fountain Hills down in the valley and the city lights of the main valley were turning the clouds pinkish orange behind me.

Wild Flowers by the light of the HID

Climbing up the wild horse trail I noticed a flash up on the mountain across the road. I thought maybe it was someone taking a picture until I heard the thunder, it was pretty wierd as there weren't any apparent storms around. At this point I was getting between 6 and 12 missippi's. I knew I had 1 or 2 miles so I wasn't too concerned yet.

Old man Saguaro

When I got back onto the pavement it was a different story. I heard one a long ways off and thought I was safe. Just as I was getting into the wide open pass I saw a bright flash on the hill to my right and I got 2 mississippi. I was a bit concerned but convinced myself the bolts were still happening a long ways apart. Within a minute the hill to my left got struck and it was less than 2 mississippi. Now it occurred to me that I was wearing a metal light on top of my head and it had a wire going down into my jersey pocket and I was on a metal bike. It was a bit disconcerting for me. In fact it was enough disconcerting that I took my helmet and light off, got off the bike, walked a ways away and did the lightning squat. The idea is if you squat on the ball of your feet and scrunch up the electricity goes around your heart if you are struck. Less than a minute later a truck passed and came back and the guy asked me if I wanted a ride. Of course I accepted. It was not a good time to be up in the pass. A vehicle is a very rudimentary Faraday Cage in that the lighting goes through the body of the car and not your body.

He gave me a ride down to the bottom of the hill and then dropped me off. He said I was lucky as he never picks up people but he saw that lightning and me squatting and decided he would stop. I think I lucked out on that one. Not that squatting with lightning striking all around you isn't fun. All's well that ends well I gues. It was a good ride, even with the lightning.

Earlier in the day I took the kids mountain biking down at San Tan Regional park. Below are some pictures of them. They went 7 miles and did 310 feet of climbing. Not too bad for 7 year olds and 1 six year old.

Josh and Joseph attacking the hill

The desert is green

The hill got a little too steep (even for me, but I was towing a 6 year old)

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