Friday Commute

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Dirty mountains of snow.

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Sugar Shanty.

The animals are starting to emerge now that the power of winter is weakening. I saw a skunk and a confused little field mouse on the way to work. Skunks were out in full force last year and it seems that the trend will continue this year as well. Though I don’t mind seeing skunks and it’s pretty easy to avoid them on a bike, I wish good luck to all the drivers on weaving a path through the minefield of walking stink bombs.

It was snowing on the way home! Okay, I shouldn’t really say it was “snowing” but there were snowflakes falling from the sky so it kinda-sorta counts. We may get up to three inches of snow tomorrow afternoon and all I can say is the shoulders of the roads better not be plowed when I get out of work or it will be a total rip-off.014

You know the saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”? I have had fun biking through the snow but I didn’t realize I would miss it quite so much when it no longer covered the road.

The past three nights I have been dreaming about bikes and snow in different  scenarios. (In one I was leading a group of friends in biking through this epic snow cave. They kept asking if  the walls would collapse since it was so warm outside and I would just reply, “Yeah, it is possible”, while calmly continuing to go father into the cave.)

So hopefully we will get some nice snow tomorrow or I may spend another night guiding my helpless friends to an icy demise.

To work (10 miles)
3:40 am to 4:40 am
Weather
20F, 7 mph Southeast wind

From work (10 miles)
3:15 pm to 4:20 pm
Weather
32F, 9 mph South wind

Saturday Commute

I had an odd day.

My morning started out great, I got to sleep in until 3:05 am! I am finding out that getting out the door takes less time when I don’t have to don a gazillion layers and tons of face gear paraphernalia. Plus, biking to work takes less time because my legs are actually free to pedal properly, the roads are clear and spring is having this weird “you should go faster” effect on me.

The ride into work was calm and peaceful, just the way I like it.

But mid-morning one of the waitresses told me to come out into the dining room, as one of the tables of customers wanted to see me. Instantly, I was nervous. I really dislike going into the dining room when there are lots of people around and I had no idea what this couple wanted. Did they have a complaint about their food?

Nope.

They had seen a crazy cyclist biking in a ice and rain storm in early January (from what they described I think it was this night) and had been wondering all winter who I was. This morning they had overheard a few of the “regulars” talking about me, put two and two together and found their mystery biker. They exclaimed that I was tough albeit insane. After chatting for a few minutes I went back to the kitchen.

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I apologize for the picture, but at least there is candy!

 

Along the way home from work I stopped into an adorable country store to buy cabbage and some goodies to surprise my brothers with at church tomorrow since they just finished the last game of their basketball season. I went inside, snapped a picture of the candy shelf only to have the owner of the store (a sweet Mennonite lady) pull me aside.

“So you are the girl who rides your bike all the time!”

Apparently, she and all the store employees have been keeping a close eye on me and my travels all winter long. She curiously plied me with many questions, which I was more than happy to answer. As she chattered on about the various conversations she, her family and employees had been having about me throughout the winter, I began to feel my stomach start to turn just a bit. When we ended the conversation, she happily told me that she was so excited to tell all her sisters (there are 16 siblings in her family) that she had finally talked to the winter biker!

I bought everything I needed, left the store and started packing my panniers. I was going to take a picture of the cute storefront, but when I turned around, camera in hand, several people were watching from the windows and I completely chickened out.

After getting back on the road, I had to take a few deep breaths and calm myself. All of a sudden the scrutiny of being the crazy girl biker felt overwhelming. I felt threatened and creeped out when I thought of all the cars that have passed me over the winter and wondered, maybe for months, just who I am and what I am doing on the road in the snow. All the times friends and family have told me about times they have overheard others talk about me came flooding into my mind, haunting me.

Obviously, the dread that had settled over me had been triggered by the day’s events and the shy, introverted side of myself was making me cower. Fearful thoughts started to bog down my mind.  I had take those thoughts firmly in hand and remind myself that the people I had spoken to today were just friendly, kind people who were concerned about my welfare (and sanity). The curiosity and concern of others is nothing to be afraid of.

And then I thought of an exchange between myself and a coworker that happened just before the end of my shift. She is considering buying a bike and riding to work because she wants to have more drive and energy while she is at work.

It is pretty amazing to know that I can maybe inspire people to ditch their car and pedal to work. Or maybe seeing me will remind them to dust off an old bike and go for a Sunday afternoon ride sometime this spring. That makes any scrutiny worth it.

Plus, this was my first winter biking, by next year I will lose my novelty status. Two winters from now I will be a standard part of the landscape and hopefully joined by other winter bikers. That would be downright awesome!

To work (10 miles)
3:30 am to 4:30 am
Weather
33F, 16 mph Southeast wind

From work plus store stop (10 miles)
3:15 pm to 4:45 pm
Weather
40F, 8 mph Southeast wind

Errand #10 Country Store (Store)
Distance: 4 miles

Monday Commute

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Early morning in the restaurant.

Yesterday after church I went up to my parent’s house. I made tacos and then my dad and I did some maintenance stuff on my bike. My mom offered to spread some old blankets over the living room floor so I was able to hang out with my brothers while cleaning my bike. (They stole my laptop to watch America’s Got Talent youtube clips on the couch.)

We took apart the front wheel and I learned about cone wrenches, jam nuts and the 20 little bearings that make my wheel spin. Once I finished cleaning all the pieces I put it back together with a little coaching from my dad. He will make a bike mechanic out of me yet!

My view of daylight savings time in the fall:
“Yay, one more hour to sleep tonight!”

My view of daylight savings time in the spring:
An evil government conspiracy to make us believe they can control time.

I made the mistake of not putting all my clocks forward so this morning when I woke up the clock on the stove read 1:55. Mentally, that was pretty disheartening. So I changed the time and instantly felt slightly more energetic. That is a lie, changing a stove clock does not create energy.

But do you know what does make me more energetic? Getting out on the road and being under the light of a smiling moon. It was unbelievably warm out and it felt so good to have the wind blowing against my face.

As soon as the sun came up, we tipped over into above freezing temperatures! Oddly enough, even though the weather was so warm outside, the frost is so deep that the town I work in has a frozen pipe advisory.

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First sign of spring: bare roads.

The ride home was beautiful, bright and warm. What more can I ask for?

To work (10 miles)
3:25 am to 4:20 am
Weather
31F, 12 mph West wind, 20 mph gusts

From work (10 miles)
3:30 pm to 4:25 pm
Weather
36F, 20 mph West wind, 31 mph gusts

Errand #5 Work (Work or Volunteering)
Distance: 20 miles

Monday Commute

file2151245044275I try to bike very defensively. My mantra on the road is, “Don’t give cars a chance to hit you”. I don’t care whether I have the right of way or not, my main concern is making sure that I stay safe. That caution paid off this morning.

Most of my commute is on a state road and there are several side roads that intersect it along the way. Vehicles on the state road have the right of way, all side roads have stop signs at the intersections. Regardless of the fact that drivers by law must stop before turning or crossing the road, I always pause when a vehicle and I are coming up to an intersection simultaneously until I know that the driver sees me. Sometimes I feel silly being so cautious, cars stop at stop signs, right? Not always.

This morning about a mile away from work I noticed the headlights of a pickup truck approaching from a side road. I was about to cross the intersection but paused waiting to see what the truck would do. He never slowed down for the stop sign and turned left-right in front of me. My heart started to pound, if I had not slowed down we probably would have collided.

On the way home I paused at several intersections, but this time I did not feel silly in the slightest.

To work (10 miles)
3:45 am to 4:50 am

Weather
32F, 9 mph West wind, snow/sleet/rain stuff

I wore
Head: head band, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: It was so warm out!

From work (10 miles)
3:50 pm to 4:55 pm

Weather
25F, 10 mph West wind, snow

I wore
Head: headband, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit glove
Legs: yoga pant, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice and warm without overheating.

Monday Commute

Last night I checked the pressure of my tires and oh my! When I said I lowered the tire pressure I meant it. Both tires clocked in at just above 25 psi! Pretty sure that is a lot less than what the manufacturer recommends as the minimum pressure, oops. I pumped them up to 60 psi, I believe they were originally at 80 psi.

I felt like I was flying on the commute this morning, although it was snowing a bit the roads were clear and my tires actually had some air in them! While at work the owner’s husband came in and started playing around with my headlight, he nearly blinded my boss. Then he asked me lots of questions: where did you get it, what kind of batteries does it use, how long does it last, etc. I love talking to people about my equipment, maybe someday one of them will feel inspired to bike.

Outside it continued to snow lazily through most of the day. When I see those big, fat snowflakes float gently to the ground all I want to do is go outside, lay down in the snow and watch them fall. But since I am such a responsible adult I resisted the urge while I was at work.

I hit the road at 4:00pm, the shoulders of the road were covered in snow,  but visibility was decent so I took the lane. I stopped to pick up some stuff at the grocery store, the guy in the pickup truck next to me asked, “You got snow tires on that thing?” Winter biking is a great conversation starter, apparently.  The side roads I took to reach my apartment were covered in a snow/slush mixture and at 60 psi my tires had more traction than at 80 psi but I still fishtailed a bit. I am guessing that in snow 40 psi will work well. Now I just have to buy a portable bike pump so that I can adjust to the ever-changing road conditions.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:50 am

Weather
30F, 10 mph Southwest wind, light snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles,
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My face overheated from the balaclava but did I bother to stop and take it off? Of course not! Do you realize what a difference decent tire pressure makes? I was so happy to be flying along that nothing in all of creation could have compelled me to stop that bike.

From work plus grocery stop (10 miles)
4:00pm to 5:10pm

Weather
28F, 3 mph West wind, snow

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

Saturday Commute

I headed out the door as soon as I could this morning determined to spend as much time on that trail as I could, despite my best intentions ten minutes earlier was the best I could do. I was able to spend thirty minutes in the woods plowing through snow left and right. My bike handling skills are not great, to put it gently, so it was a challenge to stay upright. What a great place to gain more confidence and experience, with the thick layer of snow getting injured from a fall was unlikely.

I stopped in the middle of my ride to take in the stillness of the woods and I let out a squeal of utter joy and delight, yup, it was as dignified as it sounds. God’s love for me is constant but sometimes I feel it in an overwhelming way. At that moment I felt his love around me, through me and in me. It made me feel so alive, so happy, so free.

Now for my tale of the journey home. The road conditions were exciting to say the least. It was raining steadily and there were frequent gusts of wind. As I hit the road I was faced with a choice, take the lane where biking would be easy, or ride on the shoulder which was covered in sheets of ice and chunks of snow. I chose ice. It was great, my bike was happily crunching through whatever had been pushed to the side by cars and snowplows.

Snowplows were out in full force but they were only plowing the lanes, not the shoulders. As I continued on my commute the temperature changed and the ice and snow of the shoulder turned to thick, heavy slush. I didn’t have much traction and decided it would be safer take the lane and trust the cars to see me in my reflective gear and flashing red lights. Which they did, although a few weren’t very happy about it. One car blared its horn and another guy stuck his head out of the window to shout, “GET OFF THE ROAD!!!!”

So I got off the road, found shelter in a snow bank, huddled down into the snow and waited until spring. Or not. It was a bit startling, as that is the first time someone has yelled out of a car at me in years, but it just gave me more adrenaline to finish my ride, so thank you random dude.

To work with side trip (11.5ish miles)
8:10 am to 9:40 am

Weather
15F, 6 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My hands were numb for the first ten minutes but I balled them into fists until they got warm and from then on I had no problem. Also, I decided not to wear goggles and my eyes were fine in the cold, I did get eyelash icicles though.

From work (10 miles)
8:20pm to 9:45pm

Weather 32F, 14 mph Southeast wind with gusts, rain

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: I didn’t bring my leg bands so I tucked my rain pants into my boots. With the steady rain and heavy slush my feet got drenched. Not an exaggeration, at the end of the ride the water was up past my ankle, my feet were swimming! Thankfully it wasn’t cold out so my feet didn’t get chilled, although they looked like white raisins.

Saturday Commute

I saw a little cottontail rabbit while walking out to the shed this morning, what a cutie! A perfect way to start my day.

On the way home from work I saw a lot of people out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather. I also noticed tons of caterpillars crawling on the road. They all had the same coloring, off-white with black spines and underbelly. I must have seen fifty of them in total. One little guy was crawling across the white line into car territory so I picked him up, put him in the pocket of my panniers, took a few pictures so I can figure out what kind of caterpillars would randomly start appearing in the middle of winter and then “using mainly spoons I dug a tunnel under the city and released him into the wild”.

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Little fuzzy next to a dime

 

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:45 am

Weather
39F, 5 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: Good.

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

Weather
48F, 10 mph South wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: Loved it!