A little ice makes everything nice.
I’m typing this up before power decides to leave the city due to all the ice that’s falling & forming everywhere right now.
If you’ve been reading my tweets, or my blog the past couple years you know I love riding in nutso weather. Thunderstorms, hail, wind, snow, sub-zero temperatures, etc. Sunny days in the 70s are just … easy to come by. There’s no excuse to not go riding or outside and enjoy that weather. Doing that is expected.
Today started out interesting. 30º when I left. A sleety mix had turned to snow. Snowflakes are a bit of an understatement here. We’re talking blobs of snow falling 3-4cm in diameter. When they hit your face there was no twinkle of Winter that melted on your cheek – it was like getting hit in the face with a snowball from that kid who always picked on you back in the 4th grade. They might’ve been falling at terminal velocity for all I know. In fact, these weren’t snow flakes. These were snowbombs. I swear I got hit by one on my helmet and it made me flinch. I didn’t see any squirrels … they knew to stay hiding.
After a couple miles of riding the air-raid stopped. Something more sinister was in the works. Rain. Cold rain. It was light … but it was still rain. The freshly bombed ground covered in white was quickly turning opaque and freezing. The bike path was turning into a sheet of ice – and the roads weren’t any better for a little bit either. Was precarious on the remaining miles as it was a mix of slush (from salt trucks – thank you Union plowers. 😉 ) and where it had not yet melted, a half-inch thick layer of ice that still somehow provided a little bit of traction. Starting from a stop remained a wheel-spinning good time though. The frozen parking lot at the store had turned to complete slush just a half hour after I got there. Temperatures were on the rise as the rain continued to fall. One co-worker drove 9mph the entire way to work on the ice-covered roads in his AWD Subaru. Another almost slid into a ditch on the highway.
What came at the end of the day could only be described as “miserable conditions.” This is also where you wouldn’t expect someone to ride. This is where the fun really begins. Sustained 15-20mph winds. Temperatures dropping to just below freezing. The rain … picking up and melting everything, all the while also coming down as little shards of ice meant to kill small creatures (or cyclists) who weren’t prepared for the weather.
Mineral Point Rd. was a river of flowing water from all the snowmelt. This struck me as odd, with the same tenacity as the ice shards striking my face. If you haven’t had a bare-skinned face be hit by ice before, it feels like needles pricking your skin. Only harder, and without some (hopefully) cute nurse telling you you’re so brave.
This kept up for all 8 miles of my commute home. The temperatures dropped a little more. I noticed my bike started getting a little more … sparkly than if it was just raining. Slush was parted by my tyres … onto my boots. Which filled up with water and ice. Guess I should’ve worn my taller gaiters. My face stung from being hit by the ice – and I could only block it with my hand by covering my face before I needed to return it to my handlebars to keep control on the ice. A 3″ deep puddle was somehow ice-covered at one point on the bike path … didn’t expect the ice to give way like that when I rode over it — especially since I thought it was just solid ground. Monster truck tyres FTW.
This continued on. Till my front light gave out. (I’m not making this up.) The part I really needed it for was behind me as I had returned to the safety of the multi-use bicycle commuter path. The cloud-cover and city glow kept things an eerie orange which left enough illumination to see just what kinds of slush I was riding over. The crunch it made was stellar. I could feel the tires slip every now and then, but all in all there was a decent amount of traction. Continued on – lightless – for a couple miles, and pulled into my driveway. Soaked – but still warm. (Thanks gear!) My bike … well, I don’t think I was prepared to see what the cold wind and freezing rain had done to everything.
Somehow my rear derailleur still shifted. My front gave up once in the morning – wasn’t going to try on the way home.
Upon closer inspection of the bike … there was ice on the derailleurs, all the tubes, shift cables, shifters, my light, my bags, my racks … I only wish the temperature had dropped a little faster to see what would’ve really happened.
My backpack faired a little better than the cold metal on the bike. My straps had frozen though. There was ice on my shoulder straps, and my bottle-opener on my pack was also covered in ice. Sleet had frozen to my sloshy-water-filled-boots. My cheeks hurt. It wasn’t until I took off my helmet that I realized … how awesome this all was.
This picture makes me giggle. It’s things like this … that make it all worthwhile.
The 20 minute shower afterwards was pretty sweet too. Not gonna lie.
We have 6″ of snow expected. Then I’m off to Florida to watch the launch of STS-133 with Jen. The temperatures will be 70º and sunny almost the entire time I’m there.
I guess I’ll just have to find someway to make due. 😉
Catch ya on the flip-side!