A gruelling journey home
On a cold Saturday in January I drive back home after a pleasant evening with friends. I drive that route more often and I know the way like the back of my hand. In any case, the road mainly goes straight on, straight on and then even further straight on. This evening, that is especially convenient…
After the freezing cold at the end of last year, it has been very cold again the last few days. Tonight, it is freezing tonight and it is even slippery in some parts. So I wrapped myself up well, because you don't want to know how cold you get when you sit still for an hour with this temperature! In my wheelchair with electric add-on hand bike, the only thing that moves is my right hand: that is where the throttle is.
My add-on hand bike can go 23 kilometers per hour and at that speed the freezing cold becomes downright vicious. That is why I packed myself well: thick winter coat, ski pants, hat and hood, and no fewer than three layers of knitted gloves. Yet I feel the cold right through my coat.
Tonight it is not only cold, but also foggy. It is beautiful: around me I see shreds of low-hanging clouds passing by. Sometimes more, other times less. The fog is of course moist and that makes the wind chill even much lower!
By the time I drive past the municipal border, my glasses are full of tiny droplets. That obstructs the view considerably, but cleaning is of little use: in no time the fog has sprayed my glasses again.
Fortunately, I still have a good view in the top right corner of my right glass. Because I ride on a separate cycle path the entire way, it remains responsible what I do. Still, the oncoming cars racing past on the N-road along the bike path are annoying. The headlights blind me more than usual tonight.
Suddenly I think of visually impaired friends of mine. Some of them still have little sight somewhere in a corner of their field of vision. Tonight's experience makes me (slightly) better able to put myself in their situation.
It is January and evening, so it is no surprise that it is dark. But suddenly it is very, very dark. I know this route is unlit in two places: on this N-road there are only streetlights at the exits. Yet it is seldom as dark as tonight. Why is this evening different from other evenings?
It takes a while before the answer bubbles up: it is a new moon tonight! We are right between the Longest Night Moon and the Ice Moon. So tonight there is no moon to give light. I have never before realised that the moon makes such a big difference on this dark part.
This time I have to rely entirely on my own lighting. Fortunately, my bicycle lamp can bridge up to 45 meters. But with the fog, my dripped glasses and the headlights of oncoming cars, the result is quite disappointing. At the worst part I have about 10 meters of decent visibility and beyond that it is all pretty blurry. Sometimes I even have to guess where the bike path is exactly. Luckily I know the way well.
After a little longer than usual - I am driving carefully tonight - I come home numb. My cat greets me impatiently: where have I been? It is way past dinner time!