Friday Commute

011It was on my journey home from work that it became crystal clear that spring has arrived.

Sugaring season is here!

All along my route Maple trees had been tapped and the gentle “tink, tink” noise of drops of sap against the bottom of pails could be heard.

Maple syrup is magical. Simply collect the sap from Sugar Maple trees and then boil until the density is just about right, and voila! Maple syrup. Not only is it a 100% natural sweetener, it also has a beautiful flavor that nothing else in the world compares to.

And if maple syrup bores you, you can just take it, boil it a little longer, pour it over the snow in swirls and then eat the taffy-like result with a fork right out of the snow.

Or boil it a little longer, stir it while it cools and make yourself some maple butter.

Or boil it a little longer and make maple candy. I told you maple syrup is magical!

The sap runs best when the temperature remains below freezing during the night but soars above freezing during the day with the aid of the early spring sun. We hope for a good run of those temperatures so that there will be a successful sugaring season. The sap is collected from the trees and taken to sugar shanties which are basically sheds where wood fires are kept burning brightly to boil the sap. I will try to remember to take a picture of a sugar shanty tomorrow.

We are fanatical about our maple syrup around here. The syrup we make in our area is the best in the world and if anyone tries to argue otherwise, we just laugh and shake our heads because we know the truth.
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To work (10 miles)
3:35 am to 4:40 am
Weather
17F, 10 mph Southeast wind

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 4:25 pm
Weather
41F, 13 mph Southeast wind

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Friday Commute

As I started my ride I was awestruck by the beauty around me. The snowy landscape was gleaming from the light of a full moon making it the brightest morning I’ve experienced so far this winter. Two deer crossed the road underneath the moon night and I drew in a deep, contented breath, knowing this was going to be a peaceful, beautiful bike ride through the snow.

Until it wasn’t.

I had just descended the hill coming out of town, when my bike decided to revolt.

My bike and I have come to a mutual agreement about subzero rides. As long as I keep pedaling constantly, my bike will be nice to me. But if I coast at all, my bike does have the right to let the chain slip, which I then have to adjust before moving on.

But this morning my bike was having none of our little contract. The chain was slipping over and off of the gears, while I was pedaling. Not cool.

I readjusted the chain, and started pedaling. Success only lasted for three pedal strokes, however. After going through this process multiple times and having more trouble and less success each time, I realized that I was going to have to attempt getting to work without the help of my bike. (My dad’s hypothesis is that trapped moisture somehow prevented the freewheel from working in the cold.)

Maybe I could lower the seat and use the bike as a scooter? Nope, the seat would not budge. Then I discovered that while sitting on the saddle I could kick the snow bank on the edge of the road with my right foot and propel myself forward.

This proved effective as well as strenuous. I took breaks from bike-scooter-ing by jogging alongside my bike. It felt like a bizarre workout; push my bike along until my leg was on fire, then run until I was out of breath, repeat.

At almost the five mile mark, I checked the time. There was no way I could make it to work on time at this pace, or even make it before the restaurant opened. It was time to call in a rescue vehicle. Stink. Figuring that my dad (who had kindly come and installed new derailleur pulleys as well as serviced my front brakes the night before) wanted to wake up early on a Friday morning, I dialed his number. In fifteen seconds flat our conversation was over and he was on the way. (Isn’t he the best?)

In the interest of staying warm and with the thought that there was a chance I could still magically make it to work without the need for rescue, I continued my scooter/jog routine.

I was disappointed with my inability to make it to work on my own, but the irony of the situation began to amuse me.

-When I started using my bike as a form of transportation a few years ago, most days I rode while secretly hopeing that someone would offer me a ride. If the weather was the least bit nasty (rain or wind, horrors!) I would be glad to use it as an excuse not to bike. But here I was in out in -16F, desperately trying to make it to work somehow.

-I was apprehensive about many aspects of year-round biking when winter began. The cold was not one of them, I knew I could handle subzero temps no problem. But the cold has turned out to be my bike’s arch nemesis.

-I was able to complete every commute in November, December, January and February. The first week of March is a different story.

-My dad and I were talking last night and he made the comment, “This could be the last time we get below zero temperatures this winter.” I expressed that I would miss them and that I was glad I had learned how to bike successfully in them. Oops.

All these things flashed through my mind and I had to laugh at the extreme irony of my morning. But when I looked to the sky, I realized the moon had been laughing at me the entire time.

Half way to work (5 miles)
3:20 am to 4:40 am

Weather
-16F, 8 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ski goggles, balaclava, headband
Torso: thermal shirt, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: 2 pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Who knew bike-scooter-ing is actually a really good way to stay warm?

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

Weather
18F, 17 mph Southwest wind, 23 mph gusts
I wore
Head: headband
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Sure, my face got a little cold, but it feels like spring!

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The giant white dog makes a cameo!

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.

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.

Saturday Commute

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Graveyard in winter.

One of my coworkers was complaining about her car today, so I suggested she use a bike instead. She instantly protested, “That’s just for you, only you bike in winter.” But I had a great comeback. I had noticed earlier in the day that one of the newspapers on the stand had a front page picture of a guy biking through the snow.

She was completely speechless when I showed her man on his bike, riding through the snow. It was then that I realized that she really, truly thought that I was actually the only winter cyclist. (AH!) Maybe I should print out pictures of people biking in snow to show to when questioned about my winter biking activities. “Yup, I bike in the winter just like all of these people.”

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My little Urban family, with the newcomer below my 550.

Guess who came in the mail today? My little light’s big brother. I opened the package to find a Urban 700 inside, which is a newer model than my Urban 550. Cool beans.

I may have been disappointed with my headlight’s performance in the cold, but at least there was stellar customer sevice behind the glitch. I could not be more impressed with how Light & Motion dealt with my battery issue.

Now I will have to find out how the 700 does in the subzero, it is predicted that next week will give me a few opportunities.

To work (10 miles)
3:30 am to 4:40 am

Weather
16F, 6 mph Northeast wind

I wore
Head: headband
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: I feel like as winter progresses my body is getting better and better at staying at an ideal temperature no matter what I wear. This was great.

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 5:00 pm

Weather
13F, 10 mph Northeast wind, light snow

I wore
Head: headband, ski goggles
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My lower face got cold from the snow/wind combo, but not cold enough to actually stop and put a scarf on.

 

Friday Commute

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Main road on the commute to work.

I worked the later shift today so I got to sleep in!

But the downside is I had to work later than I am used to working so I was tired by the end of my shift. The last hour at work was a rush, I tried to get everything done as fast as possible so that I could head home.

As soon as hopped on my bike and started out under the clear, glittering sky I could relax and breathe again. I love biking at night, especially when stars and moon light the way.

I was climbing a hill when I noticed a car stuck in a snow bank, hopelessly spinning its wheels. The rear of the vehicle was jutting out into the road and as a car whizzed by it honked angrily at the obstacle. A few other cars also passed by, heedless to their fellow vehicle’s predicament. Shouldn’t vehicles be ready to assist their own kind?

Side road on the way to work.

Side road on the way to work.

I was slightly cautious while approaching the car. I instinctively fear sports cars that are revving their engines. But a breathed a sigh of relief when I could see that the driver was an anxious young lady. She rolled down the passenger window and accepted my offer of help. After a childhood filled with pushing a 15 passenger van out of snow banks, helping a little sports car was a piece of cake.  The driver thanked me and drove off. Nothing else exciting happened on the way home so I got to thinking and decided there are at least four reasons why winter cyclists are a better option than the typical motorist for rescuing stuck cars.

1. We are dressed for success. People in cars often are only dressed to sit in a heated car, not push cars out of snow. But winter bikers? We have our boots, hats, balaclavas and layers on, we are prepared to be in the snow and cold (because we are in the snow and cold).

2. We are more observant of the helpless cars around us. Vehicles may miss out on a car in distress due to their great speed, but us slow and steady bikers won’t miss a thing.

3. Bikes are non-obstructive. When a motorist rescues another motorist they must first find a safe place to park their vehicle so it will not obstruct traffic, something that can be tricky in winter time. But when you are on a bike you can just pick it up and stash in the nearest snow bank if need be.

4. Our strong legs come in handy when pushing out a trapped car.

And think of the benefits to the cycling community, I doubt that girl will tell the next biker she sees, “GET OFF THE ROAD!!!” So let’s rescue all the cars we can, they need our help.

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This highly sophisticated design, which utilized a knit glove secured with electrical tape proved unsuccessful.

On a sad note, my first prototype of the highly anticipated insulated bike headlight failed. My light did last until I arrived at home but the temperature wasn’t severely subzero either. Back to the drawing board.

To work (10 miles)
9:30 am to 10:35 am

Weather
15F, 14mph North wind, 22 mile gusts, snow

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Very nice

From work (10 miles)
8:40 pm to 9:55 pm

Weather
-3F, 8 mph North wind

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

Saturday Commute

Hanging out with my family tonight. All us kids are tired, sleep deprived and slightly grumpy. My mom and I made an apple crisp and when my mom suggested that we have chocolate ice cream with it we all instantly snapped at her, “Chocolate!?!” No way can you eat apple crisp with chocolate ice cream, it has to be vanilla, always.

After having apple crisp with vanilla ice cream (my mom had chocolate anyways because she is a rebel) we watched Mom’s Night Out together. My brothers both kept saying it was a dumb movie and though they threatened to leave, at the end of the movie we were all laughing.  Now I must go to bed because my brain feels like death.

To work (10 miles)
3:40 am to 4:45 am

Weather
18F, 5 mph South wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: I didn’t tighten my bootlaces very well and apparently that makes my feet cold. Good to know.

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

Weather
27F, 10 mph West wind

I wore
Head: headband, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Great.