Saturday Commute

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As I crested a hill this morning I saw that a police car had pulled over a pickup truck. From the small snippet of conversation I overheard in passing, I believe Mr. Pickup was about to be ticketed for not wearing his seatbelt.

Benefit #876 of biking: I have never been stopped for not wearing a seatbelt.

I discovered a fun new winter biking game on the way home. At the side of the road some patches of snow and ice had been partially melted, leaving sections of snow/ice/dirt mix  slightly suspended above the road. My mission became clear: to crunch through as much ice as possible. I guess I was tired of commuting home so quietly while snowmobiles raced noisily through the countryside around me.

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Crunchable fun.

I crashed through the ice and snow, what a bumpy, loud ride! Shattering ice is lots of fun on a bike with studded tires.

To work (10 miles)
8:15 am to 9:35 am

Weather
3F, 9mph South wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Is it actually possible to be cold when the temperature is above zero?

From work (10 miles)
9:25 pm to 10:50 pm

Weather
7F, 9 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Warm.

Friday Commute

013009002Dinner at the restaurant was insanely busy tonight. I feel so alive working in a kitchen at non-stop, full-throttle speed. The tension of seeing a line of tickets hanging up and hearing more customers arrive challenges me and gives me the adrenalin to run around and cook like crazy. There is an incredible focus that comes with the knowledge that there are tables of customers waiting for the arrival of their food. During a dinner rush nothing in the world matters except those tickets and the food I am preparing.

Then a waitress bursts into the kitchen with an apology, “I forgot to hang up this ticket, can you get their food out quickly?” It’s a challenge I am always up for.

Finally, people stop coming in and it is time to clean and get ready for the next day with the residual adrenalin that I have left. My coworkers leave and I head into the bathroom to change from my sweaty, oily work clothes into my winter gear.

As I step out into the cold with the moon shining above, the last of the stress and adrenalin leave me and I hop on my bike ready for a calm, peaceful ride home.

Now I think I shall take a shower, see how many layers of dried food, oil and sweat I can scrub off and head to bed.

To work (10 miles)
8:20 am to 9:35 am

Weather
-2F, 3 mph South wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, head band
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Perfect.

From work (10 miles)
9:10 pm to 10:20 pm

Weather
10F, 12 mph Southwest wind, light snow

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Good stuff.

Let It Snow

I realize those are fighting words at this stage of winter. But I have to be honest here, I love winter and I am not ready for it to be over. Bring on the snow and the cold.

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Why is it considered normal human behavior to nag the weather gods for warmer weather and an early spring? Winter has its challenges but to me it is the most magical season. I have no idea how much longer winter will stick around so I am off to trample through the snow with my puppies and maybe make a few snow angels along the way.

Upper Body Update (week 12)

I can’t believe it has been three months since I started trying to strengthen my upper body. It has been so simple, just a few minutes of intense effort every day and the results have been worth it. I can do thirty pushups in a row! It is awesome knowing that I am in the best shape I have ever been in my life and I am only getting stronger.

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Monday Commute

003I have decided to switch careers, I am going to be a spy! I haven’t decided who I am going to spy for yet, so if you have any suggestions, just let me know.

While biking home from work, two different friends passed me in their cars. They don’t know about my winter biking exploits so when I waved at them, they had no clue who I was. One friend gave a cautious wave, probably wondering why the weird winter biker had singled them out for attention.

But their perplexed faces drove the point home in my mind. In my full winter regalia, I am the perfect undercover spy, no one can figure out my identity under all those layers! That lady who stopped the other afternoon wasn’t even sure of my gender, so I should be all set to begin life as an alter-ego ninja spy. And with all my flashing red lights, I don’t draw much attention to myself so I should be able to sneak around anywhere with ease.

I dropped off my rent on the way home. My landlord opened the door with this greeting, “Hello there, alien!” To me an alien and a spy are pretty comparable, so he is obviously on board with my plan.

I may have to stop blogging though, not sure if spies on top secret missions are supposed to publish on public websites.

To work (10 miles)004
3:25 am to 4:45 am

Weather
-2F, 7 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava,
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: I think my torso is an impenetrable fortress, it always stays warm. I wonder if it is immune to bullets as well, maybe I really should become a spy.

From work (10 miles)
4:10 pm to 5:25 pm

Weather
-6F, 9 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, headband
Torso: two thermal shirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice and warm.

Saturday Commute

011While biking up a hill to work this morning my back wheel started to give me problems. When I was almost to the crest of the hill it refused to turn at all and I ground to a halt. So I dismounted, took off my goggles, helmet and gloves to see what the issue was. I unhooked the rear brake and found an ice-covered pebble jammed in one of the brake pads. That would do it. After removing the ice chunk and putting my brake back on I was able to arrive uneventfully to work.

At work I was introduced on two separate occasions as “the girl who bikes in winter”. Hey, I will take it. It will be interesting to see if this phrase sticks to me even in the summer.

I didn’t attach my pannier properly on the way home, so mid-ride it started falling off and I stopped to fix it. In a field nearby some miniature horses and donkeys were standing by their barn, getting as much shelter as they could from the storm. One of the donkeys was braying loudly, demanding that someone rescue them from the snow.

When they noticed the curious creature stopped by the side of the road they all lined up to gawk at me. It was quite cute.004

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To work (10 miles)
3:30 am to 4:55 am

Weather
-3F, 14 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, head band
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

From work (10 miles)
3:10 pm to 4:40 pm

Weather
18F, 8 mph Southeast wind, snow

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: We had such a heat wave this afternoon, I probably would have stayed warm in a t-shirt and shorts. Probably.

Friday Commute

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A mailbox struggling to remain seen above the snow.

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001Do temperatures above freezing actually exist or are they the figment of an active imagination from the pre-ice age?

The good news is I am getting proficient at subzero early morning rides. I have no idea what I am going to do with myself when I can actually coast on the way to work without my chain slipping.

I am also getting better at handling my bike in snow. On the way back from work I ran my tires at full pressure even though I had to bike through decently deep snow in some places. I have learned to be very gentle on the handlebars and almost let the front wheel choose its own way through the snow. Then I use my body to keep the bike balanced and upright. Seems to work well.

At the beginning of winter, I would tense up all the time while biking through snow, especially the sandy, brown, snirty stuff. My fists would clench around the handlebars and I would force the front wheel to remain rigid. I had to make myself loosen up multiple times on a ride. But now I am pretty confident in my ability to stay balanced even when I slip or slide.

I shocked our supplier again today when he asked if I had biked in to work this morning.

Helpful coworker: “She bikes in every time she works!”

To work (10 miles)
3:25 am to 4:55 am

Weather
-8F, 10 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, head band
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Toasty warm.

From work (10 miles)
3:30 pm to 4:45 pm

Weather
4F, 16 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Gusts of wind blew through the little vent holes in my balaclava and made the side of my face feel numb. Thankfully, the crosswind didn’t last too long.

Upper Body Update (week 11)

I didn’t feel like pushing myself this week, so I just maintained last week’s numbers. Last Tuesday I had to dig deep to get up to 23 pushups in a row and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to duplicate that today, but I was able to reach 23 and even add 4 to that number. It is awesome to feel myself growing stronger week by week.

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Monday Commute

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I didn’t sleep well last night and had lots of weird nightmares. When my alarm went off I had a headache and I felt like I had a fever. It wasn’t a bad headache, but I don’t usually get them so when my head does ache I am a bit of a baby. Convinced that I had a temperature, I stuck a thermometer under my tongue. Two minutes later I discovered my temperature was normal. Okay then, time to get dressed and head out the door.

Even though I felt a little off at first, after a few miles of biking I was fine. I was somewhat lethargic at work, but hey, I made it!

On the way home a car passed me and pulled over ahead of me. As I approached the car, the sweetest little lady popped out and came to the back of the car.

“Are you a young lady under all of that?”

After I answered in the affirmative, she went on tell me that she often sees me biking and wondered if she could give me rides “in a warm car”. I reassured her that if I did need a ride I had lots of family and friends that I could call. So she asked me if I needed a car.  I explained that lived car-free intentionally. Then she shared that she also loves biking and has her bike on a trainer in the winter.

She honestly put such a huge smile on my face with her genuine thoughtfulness. If I am remembering correctly, she is the first woman to offer me a ride this winter. I should have asked if we could meet up sometime to bike together in the summer, but those are the kind of things I don’t remember until after conversations are over.

To work (10 miles)
3:15 am to 4:35 am

Weather
-18F, 6 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, head band
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My legs started getting cold toward the end which is normal. The thing is I could buy actual winter pants to keep me warm, but the problem is I really don’t mind my legs feeling cold. Am I weird?

From work (10 miles)
3:05 pm to 4:20 pm

Weather
3F, 6 mph Northwest wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

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Saturday Commute

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An old railroad bridge.

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That awkward moment when you have to tell a tree that autumn is over.

On the way to work my chain was behaving strangely again so I pulled over to take a look and found that the derailleur pulley (I think that is what it is called) was not moving freely. When I got to work I sprayed some WD-40 on it and that seemed to ease the problem on the way home. I look at it again tomorrow.

The sky was dropping huge flakes of snow on the way home, totally beautiful. I will never get over the stillness and peace of biking in a heavy snowfall, it feels special every time.

When I was a few miles from home the giant flakes morphed into fine, little powdery ones and the snow let off. But then a crosswind thought it would have its own share of fun. It blew the powdery new snow from the tops of the snow banks (which were about the height of my handlebars) and across the road. This created an odd effect: I could see everywhere except the road in front of me. I pedaled carefully, hoping that there were no obstacles hidden under the cloud of billowing snow. Nothing was blocking the path and I made it home safe and sound. (I did experience one epic fishtail, though.)

To work (10 miles)004
8:10 am to 9:35 am

Weather
8F, 16 mph Southeast wind, snow

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: two thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, two pairs of thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

From work (10 miles)
8:35 pm to 9:55 pm

Weather
5F, 9 mph Northwest wind, snow

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: two thermal shirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs thermal pants, yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.