DST: Let the after work fun begin

Sunday, one of the kids asked how Daylight Saving Time came to be (a disgruntled kid, I should add, since she’d be waking for school an hour earlier the next morning). I spared her my discourse on a subject I’m peculiarly fascinated by and gave her the short version: Several countries adopted it in World War I as a way to save coal for the war effort. Most dropped it following the war, resumed it for WWII, then, to a large extent, stuck with it.

That’s the short version of the real story. What I wanted to say was: Daylight Saving Time was conceived so we’d have more time to play in the evening. The advent of Daylight Saving Time opens a world of recreational opportunities after work. Consider: Just two weeks ago, the sun set at 6:09 p.m. in Raleigh. Today, thanks to DST, the sun will set at 7:22 p.m. And civil twilight, more-or-less the point at which sunlight completely fades, isn’t until 7:47 p.m.; if you’ve got good eyes you can eek out nearly another half hour of fun.

Some thoughts on how you can put this new-found daylight to work.

Ride a bike

Daylight Savings Time marks the start of the group riding season for cyclists. Bike shops and clubs will start meeting during the week promptly at 6 p.m. for rides that initially won’t go much more than 25 miles but by mid summer could top 50. A favorite is the weekly (every Wednesday) Oh Melo Velo ride (pictured) out of Cary’s MacGregor Village. Ride leaders David Cole and Fast-Eddy-turned-Crash-Eddy Downing figure out the distance its participants can go before sunset at an average speed of 18 miles per hour. Tomorrow, for instance, on the first ride of the season, the sun sets at 7:23 p.m. Starting precisely (and they do) at 6 p.m., that’s 1 hour and 23 minutes of sun-kissed riding time. Assuming an 18-mile-per-hour pace, that means a 24.84-mile ride. Cole and Downing then devise a 24.84-mile route, complete with cue sheets.

Can’t maintain an 18-mph pace? No worries: The routes are out-and-backs; if you haven’t reached the turnaround within 41 minutes and 30 seconds (half of 1 hour and 23 minutes), you simply reverse course from where you are and return by sunset.

For other rides, consult your local bike shop, which either has its own after-work rides or can direct you to a local club that does. Good starting points include BikeCharlotte.com in the Queen City, Carolina Tarwheels in the Triangle, and Triad Cycling in the Triad.

Hit a state park

All winter, from November through February, North Carolina State Parks close their gates at 6 p.m. But come March, with naturally expanding daylight getting a boost from DST, the gates stay open an extra two hours — closing time isn’t until 8 p.m. That’s a whole lot of extra playtime. At such popular parks as Crowders Mountain, Umstead and Eno River, that’s extra time for hiking or trail running (and in the case of Umstead, mountain biking the 14 miles of bike and bridle trail).

Visit a greenway

Most greenways are, technically, open dawn-to-dusk. Right now that roughly means 7:30 p.m.. Greenways are especially good for taking a walk or heading out with the kids for a bike excursion. Click here to find the nearest greenway in a few select cities: Raleigh, Cary, Charlotte, Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

Explore your neighborhood

OK, so you still have to put in an 8-hour day at the salt mine. When the whistle blows at 5 p.m. you may, justifiably, be too pooped to contemplate driving somewhere to recreate. You have to: Your own neighborhood likely makes one of the best venues for a good 30-minute walk. See what’s in bloom and find out what the neighbors have been up to over the winter. (Not to mention venting the tension from a day of work.) Do it before dinner and you’ll likely suppress your appetite.

Explore your own backyard

With, say, a spade, a gardening hoe, some clippers. Gardening is highly underrated and under appreciated as a form of exercise. It not only can give you a good full-body workout, it’ll get those springtime chores out of the way, freeing up precious time on the weekends for more recreational pursuits.

Perhaps the best reason to take advantage of this extra hour of daylight at the end of the day?

It’ll get your mind off the hour you’re missing in the morning.

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