Riding PBP means riding at all times of day, including the dead of night. My wave rolled at 7:30pm, with the sun hanging inches above the horizon. The chaos and the rush of the start made it tough to appreciate the sunset, but night fell around us and my jitters calmed. We began to catch riders in prior start waves, and the infinite trail of red tail lights ahead looked like glowing coals marking the way to Brest. Every now and then I’d be tempted to look back, but it was always a mistake. Modern headlights are viciously bright. Even a brief glance would make my eyes wince in pain and leave spots in my vision. I had to glean whatever information about the situation behind me by watching the shadows dance. When the lines of my shadow sharpened, it meant someone was approaching from behind. As they faded, it meant we were separating.
Three hours into the ride, I stopped on the side of the road to relieve myself. As I stretched my back and neck, I looked up at the sky and for the first time noticed the half-moon and the stars of the Milky Way above. I took a few extra seconds to soak in the beauty of the moment — red lights marching on ahead, white lights slowly approaching from behind, and the cosmos above, twinkling softly like any other night. I remounted my bike and rejoined the endless stream of red and white making its way west.