Friday Commute

If this post seems odd for some reason, I blame it on my downstairs neighbors who are currently gutting a deer directly below my window and making the strangest comments while doing so.

Today was my first commute to work in “real” winter weather. Last night in bed I kept almost falling asleep only to be woken up by thunder and lighting. I set my alarm for 2:22 am (an hour eariler than I usually wake up for work) in case it took me a long time to get to work due to heavy snow.

The few blocks I ride to get to the state road that takes me to work were badly plowed. I kept slipping and sliding around in the light powdery snow. It was kinda fun though, to be honest. Once I got to the state road it was smooth sailing, the road was alreadly clear so I didn’t need to worry about snow plows, thank goodness. Going downhill was still quite terrifing. My internal dialogue went thusly: “It’s gonna be okay, loosen your muscles, breathe, you are gonna make it…..” and I did. I arrived at work 40 minutes early. What can I say? I like being on time!

By the time I rode home in the afternoon the roads were nice and clear.

To work (10 miles)
3:10 am to 4:20 am

Weather
18F, 5 mph West wind, light snow off and on

I wore
Head: ear muffs, rain jacket hood, scarf, ski goggles
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: thinsulate gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I stayed warm until partway through the ride my legs randomly got cold for a few minutes.

From work (10 miles)

Weather
23F, 8 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs, rain jacket hood, scarf
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: thinsulate gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I have to get new gloves or mittens soon. My current ones make my hands sweat really badly.

Reasons that Rural Riding Rocks

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A tire on my sidewalk Monday when I got home from work.

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The tire Tuesday morning, before we got hammered with snow again today.

To everyone who commutes and bikes around in cities, I bow down to you. I simply do not know how you do it. Actually, living in the same rural area my whole life I cannot fathom how anyone could survive just living in a city. The longest stretch of time I “lived” in a city was two weeks. I barely made it.

Even though I have great respect for city cyclists, I just have to tell you that biking in the country is way better than the best biking perks a city has to offer.

I am a huge animal lover. So one of the reasons I think rural biking is best is because of all the animals I get to see on my commute. Every day while commuting I pass farms with:

Cows
Horses
Donkeys
Alpacas
Sheep
Goats
Chickens (careful not to run over the free range ones)
Guinea fowl
Pigs
Cats
Dogs (there is only one that chases me, he got hit by a car once while running after me, but his leg is better now and he is faster than ever)

Biking past livestock can actually be quite an experience. I was biking home one day when I saw a herd of 30ish cows grazing in a field next to the one they were supposed to be contained in. This did not surprise me since this farm had recently been dealing with escapees. I as went past I called out to the nearest bovine. “Hi there!” I said in a cheery tone of voice. (It is very rude to pass farm animals without a greeting.)
She stared at me transfixed for a moment and then bolted in the direction of the field she was supposed to be grazing in.
When the other cows noticed her running one by one they all started to run. If you have never seen dairy cows run before, you really should put it on your bucket list. It is quite a sight.
As cows were stampeding back to their pasture they climbed a small rise. Coming toward them on the other side of the rise was a herd of about twenty sheep, seeking out better grazing after their own escape.
When the sheep saw a herd of cows running toward them they turned tail and booked it back to their own pasture. I never got paid for my service as a herdbiker, but the reaction of those sheep was worth it.

I also see many wild animals.

deer
skunks
raccoons
coyotes
muskrats
beavers
opossums
porcupines
geese
ducks
great blue herons
owls
vultures
eagles
falcons
frogs
snakes
rabbits
mice
turtles (I have helped a couple of snapping turtles cross the road so if you ever lose a toe or a finger to a snapping turtle in NNY, blame me.)

It is amazing to see tons of different animals on my commute, it makes biking that much more enjoyable.

Just to warn you I will probably be doing more of these “rural riding” posts.

Some of My Bike Stuff

Here is some of my bike stuff. I am usually a very frugal person and kinda stingy when it comes to my own needs. It was hard for me to spend lots of money on some of this stuff, but I kept reminding myself of the context. I could either buy this gear or buy a car. So in reality I am saving money whenever I buy something that will enable to go through the winter without paying for a car.

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Tuvizo Reflective Vest

I call these my “safety suspenders”. I have a dark jacket so I wanted something to enhance my visibility.

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Waterproof Helmet Cover from J&G Cyclewear

I hang one of my taillights on the tab on the back of this cover. It makes me feel safer to have a blinking light at head level.

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Glacier Gloves

These gloves are warm but don’t seem very breathable, my hands get really sweaty. I am going to buy mitts soon, I think.

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Light and Motion’s Urban 550

Love this little guy.

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Taillight from Serfas

I just ordered another one of these. I am impressed at how bright this light is and how wide it spreads that light.

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Bolle Mojo Snow Goggles

These haven’t fogged up so far. So nice to bike in snow and rain without it hitting my face. I am buying another one of these without the tint for nighttime biking.

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Avenir Excursion Panniers

These are reflective, which is great.

Blood Donation and Biking

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My Bike

I hope you had a great day, because I had a great day.

Real winter Biking

All the local schools had a snow day. So I did the only rational thing possible, I set out for a bike ride. I went up a couple nice-sized hills to my parent’s house. My mom was really scared about me biking up, she kept asking my dad to come pick me up from town. (My parents are the sweetest.)

But when I finally made it up to their house (I went at a wind and caution induced speed) she told me a was a hero and made her feel like a wimp. She kept insisting I retain my biking gear so she could take pictures of me (lol) but she couldn’t find the camera, so I shed my gear, promising her that she could take pictures when I was leaving.

So I puttered around the house for a few hours helping out with some cooking and cleaning, getting stuff ready for Thanksgiving. Then I set out to head home.

I chose a different route going back which was kind of a mistake. One of the roads was covered with gravel, and therefore I discovered a fun fact about combining gravel roads, studded tires and strong winds. Progress is slow. I think I could have walked faster.

Luckily the next road I turned onto headed in the perfect direction to catch a lovely tailwind. It felt like flying. But then I miscalculated the location of the edge of the road, slid and fell. Now in an earlier post I detailed that falling is one of my greatest biking fears. So I was shocked to find that I was not hurt at all and neither was my bike. Phew.

Got home, left my panniers, grabbed my ID, told my disappointed dogs I would be home for “real” soon, and rushed out the door to head to the blood drive.

Donating Blood

It was only about a mile bike ride to the blood drive but the roads were not well plowed. I slid around a little whenever I went through a thick layer of powdery snow, which was somewhat terrifying, but doable.

As a first time blood donor I was kinda unsure what to expect but the process was easy, simple and almost painless. I told my needle stick-er person (that is the official term) that I had been out biking for a lot of the day. When she took my pulse, she was slightly shocked. “Your pulse is not very high for having just biked here. You must bike a lot.” I swelled with pride. But then I remembered that “pride goes before a fall” and I stopped swelling. I didn’t want to fall on the way back home.  I arrived without any mishaps.

I am currently home, safe and sound cuddling my babies in bed.

Weather

19-21F, 21-26 mph Southwest wind, 35 mph gusts

I wore

Head: rain jacket hood, fleece hat, ski goggles, scarf                                                  Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket                                                             Hands: thinsulate gloves                                                                                                       Legs: yoga pants, rain pants                                                                                               Feet: pair of socks, boots

Comments: I stayed very warm, my face was overheating most of the time. I had to keep pulling my scarf down to uncover my mouth to cool down, but then a gust of wind would make me want to cover my face up again.

Monday Commute

To work (10 miles)
3:55 am to 4:45 am

Weather
32F, 7 mph Southeast wind, light rain/snow

I wore
Head: headband, scarf, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: pair of knit gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: The ski goggles I bought are orange-tinted so they really minimize how well I can see at night. They will be great for those bright winter days, but I need to order goggles that aren’t tinted for night/early morning biking.

From work (10 miles)
2:20 pm to 3:12 pm

Weather
34F, 10 mph Southeast wind, rain

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: pair of knit gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: I was passed by six snow plows on the way home. They weren’t plowing, just heading to or from plowing. Hopefully I stuck out to them, maybe they will realize that there will be life forms other then motor vehicles on the road during the winter. There are epic ways to die but being squashed by a snow plow is not one of them.

My Downward Spiral

Biking has become an addiction for me. I am trapped in its web and I don’t think I can possibly break free anytime soon. But as a warning to others I will outline my downward spiral into the world of cycling.

When I was a child my parents forced me to go on bike rides with my siblings. It was awful, I hated it. Biking was just not for me. Definitely. But of course my parents still got me a mountain bike when I was in my late teens. Thanks.

When I was eighteen I started my first “real” job and I decided I would rather bike to work than learn how to drive a car. I hated the thought of driving a car more than biking, apparently. This was the beginning of it all.

Stage 1
Biking four miles (downhill) to work. But I would never bike uphill, in rain or in the dark.

Seems completely innocent, right? I remained at that stage for over a year but then I got a new job and my sanity began to quickly erode. You see, I actually started to enjoy biking.

Stage 2

Occasionally biking ten miles to work. But only if I couldn’t catch a ride with someone.

Stage 3
Biking ten miles to work. But I would never bike home, in rain or in the dark.

Then I went to Brazil for a month. Many people in cities have crazy long commutes on public transportation every day. I came back to the States with a new attitude. If Brazilians didn’t complain about transportation taking up a large part of the day, why was I complaining? Plus biking was actually really fun and relaxing. That’s when I began to believe that it is impossible for me to waste time on a bike.

Stage 4
Biking back and forth to work if it was daylight. But I would never bike in the dark. That would be insane.

Then winter came and I couldn’t bike at all. For the first time in my life I hated winter. I decided that when spring came I would buy some good quality bike lights and try biking in the dark.

Stage 5
Biking twenty miles back and forth to work. In the rain, in the dark, no matter what.

I immediately fell in love with biking in the dark. But my ten mile morning commute started to feel really short and routine.

Stage 6
Biking twenty miles back and forth to work, plus a couple of ten to twenty mile morning bike rides on my days off.

Ever since the start of spring I have been weighing my options for winter. Should I buy a car or try biking? The answer was obvious.

Stage 7
Live car free no matter the season.

I am currently at Stage 7. The scary thing is the downward spiral may continue and I have no clue what will come next.

Saturday Commute

To work (10 miles)
8:50 am to 9:35 am

Weather
27F, 2 mph West wind

I wore
Head: headband, rain jacket hood, scarf
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: two pairs of socks, sneakers

Comments: Started out warm and got a bit over heated on the way.

From work (10 miles)
7:55 pm to 8:40 pm

Weather
32F, 7 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, headband, ski goggles, scarf
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: two pairs of socks, sneakers

Comments: Snow was gently falling for most of the ride, so beautiful. I got quite overheated though since I dressed for mid-twenties (which was the predicted temperature) and when I arrived home I realized it was actually 32F. Cars were definitely slowing down when they passed me, wondering what in the world a orange-goggled, blinking creature was doing out at night. It made me feel rather self-conscious but I suppose I just have to get used to the scrutiny.