Friday Commute

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Okay, this photo isn’t very accurate because road conditions were different, plus I didn’t see a “Sheriff car” but it was the best I could do.

Just when I thought winter biking couldn’t get any better…

All the schools in the area took snow days and my boss decided to close early so I got a partial “snow day” too! And believe me it was a snow day. Starting out the journey home wasn’t too bad.

I made a deal with myself before I left work, if the weather was nasty when I got to the hiking trail I would stop and do some off road biking, but if it was nice I decided it would make sense to take advantage of the clear conditions while they lasted. When I arrived at the trail, visibility was low so I took to the woods.

The snow was a little deeper than last week, in a few places it was up to 10 inches. Biking through 10 inch snow is doable, but starting in it was impossible for me, so I would walk my bike to an area where the snow was not as deep. I took a jaunt through the woods for about half an hour.

Just before heading back to the main road I was struck by the sudden urge to test out a tip I had read online. Lowering the psi of your tires was supposed to give a bike more traction in the snow, and I knew I needed good traction to stay safe on the eight remaining miles. I didn’t have any equipment with me so I took a fallen twig and let air out of my tires until they were decently soft.

As soon as I started off, I realized what a huge mistake I had made. Why in the world had I never tried this before? It made a giant difference in my control over my bike. Fishtailing was almost completely eradicated and when it did occur it was a very lazy and half-hearted fishtail.

Visibility became so low I didn’t dare stay in the plowed lane. Instead, I took the shoulder where the snow was up to six inches deep (I used my fingers to measure depth). I went along slowly and steadily. The falling snow was magnificent and despite the adverse conditions I was thoroughly enjoying my ride. A guy passed me in his pickup and then pulled over to the side. As I came alongside him he asked me, “Are you going to work or are you out for fun?” Neither of these were the precise truth so I went with how I was feeling, “Oh, for fun.” “Holy cow! (He didn’t actually say cow, that is my G rated paraphrase) Be careful, don’t get wasted by a car!” I thanked him for stopping and continued on.

As I was coming up the last hill into town, the sky cleared. And then another car pulled up beside me, a jeep this time. Two guys and the man driving was our county Sheriff. The guy on the passenger side asked me,

“Are you okay, are you good?”

“Yeah, I am great!”

“Alright as long as you are fine…”

At this point the Sheriff gave me a smile and thumbs up.

“Thank you guys for asking, I really appreciate it!”

Oops, I would have said Sheriff or Sirs or something if I had thinking properly, but carrying on a conversation while handling my bike in deep snow is tough! I am pretty happy though, I now know for sure that my local Sheriff is not against winter biking unlike the mayor of a neighboring city.

I arrived home super tired but it is the good, endorphin-filled, satisfied tired of a good day’s ride. It was worst conditions I have biked in so far and I made it and loved it! That feels amazingly good!

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Whoa, who is behind the balaclava? A dark, brooding, mysterious….

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….um okay. You pull off the balaclava only to be met with this…creature.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:55 am

Weather
16F, 26 mph Southwest wind, snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles,
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: new winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: Perfectly warm.

From work plus trail riding (10-11 miles)
12:20pm to 2:35pm

Weather
21F, 18 mph West wind, 33 mph gusts, heavy snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: Overheated a bit when the wind took a break.

Monday Commute

Three weeks of non routine sleeping has finally caught up to me. I didn’t sleep well last night and setting my alarm early to make sure I got to work on time despite the weather didn’t help my sleep depravation.

Let me explain the weather we have been experiencing the past few days.

Saturday morning: nice thick cover of snow, below freezing temperatures
Saturday night: strong winds, temperature rises, results in heavy rain
Sunday: above freezing, very strong winds, most of the snows melts
Sunday night/early Monday morning: temperature drops, decent snowfall
Monday: temperature continues to drop

Weather can have some serious mood swings, I’m telling ya!

So I set off this morning in the swirling snow. The roads were well plowed and other than a few white-outs the ride was uneventful. While the ride itself was uneventful, my mind was slightly off-kilter from lack of sleep. I kept thinking that I heard a snowplow coming up behind me and I would glance back…to see a completely deserted road.

But I kept coaching myself that I couldn’t become complacent (I used the example of the villagers in “Peter and the Wolf” to motivate myself) because the next time it would be an actual snowplow. The phantom snowplows continued to stalk me for the entire ride. (Can I get a restraining order against them?) Of course the only snowplows I ended up seeing were coming from the opposite direction.

The last two hours at work were a struggle, my eyelids kept asking pesky questions such as, “can we close now?” “what about now?” “who are you to tell us not to close?”. Thankfully I was able to get out of work right after three. Once on my bike I got my second wind, sadly, it turned out to be a mere cat’s paw. My solution to low energy? Low speed. I cheerfully, slowly trudged along, breathing in the brisk air.

A couple of guys in a pickup truck slowed down and the guy on the passenger side stuck his head out, “Are you alive?”. Now I realize that I was moving at the pace of something dying, but I thought it was obvious that I wasn’t dead quite yet. While I was still processing this he repeated, “Do you want a ride?” Ah ha! That makes more sense! After thanking them and declining the offer, I pedaled home.

To work (10 miles)
3:40 am to 4:35 am

Weather
25F, 24 mph West wind, 36 mph gusts, snowing

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, sneakers
Comments: My boots were still slightly damp from Saturday’s escapade, so I wore my sneakers and as many thick socks as I could manage. My feet stayed warm, yay.

From work (10 miles)
3:10pm to 4:25pm

Weather
10F, 8 mph Northwest, 17 mph gusts

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal underpants, rain pants
Feet: two pairs of socks, boots
Comments: My face felt cold when there were gusts of wind but I was good other than that.

Friday Commute (with bonus side trip )

I worked late today which was nice because I got to sleep in until 6:45, but it also weird because I am not used to getting to work at 9:45 am. During the middle of my ride to work I took a water break and realized I was going to arrive super early to work. I further realized that I was right next to a hiking trail covered in pristine white snow. Even though I was pretty sure the snow was too deep to actually traverse in I decided to try anyway.

Oh my! Why have I not tried this before! My mountain bike and I had such a thrill plowing through the 5 to 8 inches of powdery white snow. We went for about half a mile into the quiet woods when I decided it was time to turn back. I am so doing this again!

The rest of the ride to work was uneventful, the giant white dog chased and barked at me but that is pretty typical. But what happened at work was not typical. Get ready, Justl.

In the middle of my work day, a coworker tells me there is a giant white dog hanging around outside, instantly I know it is “my” giant white dog since he lives close to the restaurant. I go outside and slowly move toward him, avoiding direct eye contact. I reach out my hand, he sniffs it calmly then looks up at me with big sorrowful eyes. He seems a bit shy so I stand still until he walks away. Before this I was quite sure he would never actually hurt me, but it is nice to confirm that.

I am not absolutely sure, but I think he came over to apologize. My thought is that he made a New Year’s resolution to not bark or chase me anymore, but when I came riding by at an odd time of day he was so excited that he forgot. I could be wrong of course…

To work with side trip (11 miles)
8:20 am to 9:35 am

Weather 22F, 6 mph Northwest wind, snowing

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: My ski goggles always keep my face super warm, which can border on too warm.

From work (10 miles)
8:30pm to 9:25pm

Weather 14F, no wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, rain jacket hood
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Felt a little cold at first because my jacket was still damp from my morning exertion in the snow.

Monday Commute

We got a little snowfall overnight and the temperature has started dropping again so it almost feels like we are back to winter.

There are many health benefits to winter biking but I have discovered a health hazard as well. The main road I bike on gets salted to death and on dry days like this afternoon every time a car passed me a chalky, salty dust came into my nose and mouth. I am guessing that is not super healthy. Oh well, I suppose toxins are just a part of life….or I could buy a gas mask.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:45 am

Weather 29F, 8 mph West wind

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

Comments:  I couldn’t find my boots this morning (I think I left them at my parent’s house) so I just put on a thick pair of pink socks over my knee highs.

From work (10 miles)
4:00pm to 4:55pm

Weather 23F, 7 mph Northwest wind

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

Comments: My torso overheated a bit so I unzipped my jacket partway.

Monday Commute

I stayed an hour late at work today because we got rather busy in the afternoon. I didn’t realize what a wonderful blessing this was until I took to the road and noticed the sun setting in the horizon. I have never experienced sunset during my homebound commute before so it was a nice change of pace. While biking past a graveyard, I saw all the tombstones suddenly struck with a deep orange glow from the disappearing sun. It was tremendously beautiful. Is there some symbolic meaning behind that? A setting sun setting tombstones ablaze? I feel like there should be if there isn’t.

Because I had a long, busy day at work I countered that with a gentle bike ride home.

Until.

I was biking up a hill when I suddenly heard the sound of horseshoes on pavement. Turning to look behind me, I caught a glance of an Amish horse and buggy climbing up the hill behind me. Immediately my heart started to beat a little faster. You need to understand one thing. I own this road. This road is mine.

Belong

Since this is my road I have a sworn duty to not let any moving thing slower than a car pass me. As soon I heard the horse behind me my calm commute transformed into a race. Bike against buggy. My dignity, pride, honor and lots of other important things were at stake.

I was off like a rocket, daring the horse to try to overtake me. Poor equine, he didn’t have a chance, duh, this is my road. I pulled into my driveway, heart pounding, chest heaving, but proud of having asserted myself as master of my road.

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

Weather
20F, 9 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, balaclava
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: Warmness

From work (10 miles)
4:10 pm to 5:05 pm

Weather
34F, 6 mph Southeast wind

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

Comments: I was quite overheated so I unzipped my jacket which helped a lot. I forgot to bring knit gloves with me, so I had to wear my winter gloves which made my hands sweat like crazy.

Saturday Commute

Last night I checked the weather forecast before heading to bed and saw that the temp was supposed to be about 20F. But this morning when I went outside to walk my dogs I really thought it felt colder than that. It was. At 11F, today’s commute clocks in at the second coldest of the season, hooray! I stayed warm though until I got to work and had to change into my frozen work clothes in the freezing cold bathroom.

My commute home was perfect. It was your classic winter afternoon, cold, clear, no wind and sunny with sparkling snow everywhere. I spotted 17 turkeys out enjoying the sunshine.

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

Weather
11F, 5 mph East wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, balaclava
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves, knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I should have worn one more pair of pants as my legs got slightly cold.

From work (10 miles)
3:00 pm to 3:55 pm

Weather
22F, no wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, balaclava
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: Everything was awesome

Friday Commute

I am rather exhausted. I left my house yesterday at 6:30 am to bike up to my brother and sister-in-law’s house to babysit their three, two and one year olds. We had a great time together except for a slight mishap during story time.

The two year old came up to me and asked, “Read me a story?”

“What story should we read?” I asked.

He said, “Mother Goosey!”

So all four of us sat down together to read Mother Goose nursery rhymes. Because I am an awesome auntie I decided to switch the rhymes up a little to give them a bit of flavor. I might have changed “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed” to “Five green alligators jumping on the bed”.

“No, auntie, monkeys. Alligators don’t jump on the bed.” The three year old interrupted.

“Oh, I guess auntie was just being silly.” I said.

Two year old pipes up, “Yeah, that made me a little bit sad”. I suddenly notice he is almost to the point of tears.

Oops, auntie fail.

“Should I read it the right way?” I gently asked him.

“Yeah!” They both replied.

Aunties

My brother gave me a lift home because by the time I could leave it was already past my normal before work bedtime. So I had a full yet extremely fun day.

Then work today was really busy, which is good because it makes the day go by super fast but it also means I am feeling slightly drained. I think I will grab and shower, set out my gear for tomorrow and head to bed.

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

Weather
22F, 5 mph Northwest wind, freezing rain

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, balaclava
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I felt warm even though my jacket turned into a sheet of ice.

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

Weather
22F, 5 mph West wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, balaclava
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: My hands sweated a lot.

Saturday Commute

On the ride home today I had a new experience. I got to bike in freezing rain, the dream of every true cyclist. It actually was not that bad and thankfully the wind was very gentle on me. When I arrived home a thin layer of ice covered my jacket, helmet and the rims of my goggles.

To work (10 miles)
3:45 am to 4:40 am
Weather
23F, zero mph wind, this time I believe them

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ear muffs
Torso: thin thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 4:10 pm
Weather
28F, 2 mph Southeast wind, freezing rain

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ear muffs
Torso: thin thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: I started overheating spectacularly, so I unzipped my jacket halfway. I got a little wet but at least I didn’t sweat like crazy.

Friday Commute

I thought the roads were gonna to be nasty this morning since the forecast predicted overnight snowfall, so I set my alarm to wake up early. I got up at 2:40 only to discover that the road were perfectly clear. (I am not complaining though!) So I did some stuff around the house, took the little girls for a longer walk than normal and set off. There was lots of ice on the roads but my studded tires took it on like pros.

On the way back I had my first snowplow experience. (Snowplows have passed me before, but this one was actually plowing on my side of the road.) I used the method employed my this smart dude and carefully crossed to the other side of the road to allow the snow plow to pass. Yay for the start of conquering one of my winter fears!

I love biking with my ski goggles when it is snowing out because it keeps the snow out of my eyes.
like fireflies
The downside is it is much more difficult to look behind me to check the road with them on. So today I spent a fair chunk of my ride doing this exercise: bike on the white line, turn to look to the side and behind me, turn forward again, evaluate the position of my bike with regard to the white line, repeat. Now my neck is sore.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:40 am
Weather
22F, zero mph wind??? Whatever, there was some wind I swear

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ear muffs
Torso: thin thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Perfect.

From work (10 miles)
3:15 pm to 4:05 pm
Weather
23F, 5 mph West wind, snow

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ear muffs
Torso: thin thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: thin thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Overheated by the end of the ride.

Historic Monday Commute

So today I set two personal records.

It was my coldest bike ride ever, at 9F. We are in single digits, baby!

Also, today marks the first time I arrived late to work while biking. If you have read this post you already know that I will conquer even great difficulties to get to work before 5AM. So the very fact that I got to work late means that I must have had a super crazy morning.

Or not.

The reason I got to work late today was because….iwasthinkingaboutvegetables. In the middle of my commute I just kinda zoned out and pedaled along in my own little world, at my own pace, a pace slow enough to make myself five minutes late to work. Because of vegetables. Apparently thinking about the many awesome ways to cook and eat vegetables is my weak spot. Roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions and sautéed carrots do not a fast cyclist make. Forget what you learned in health class, veggies DO NOT insure stronger, faster muscles. And that is what I discovered at 5:05 this morning.

To work (10 miles)
4:00 am to 5:05 am

Weather
9F, 7 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, balaclava, ski goggles,
Torso: thin thermal undershirt, hoodie, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves, winter gloves
Legs: 2 pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: I kinda went a little overboard on the layer department, but I went so slow I didn’t overheat. Actually, come to think of it, I can’t really be sure, can I? I mean if hallucinations of vegetables are powerful enough to make me late to work, surely they can keep someone from realizing how cold or hot they are.

From work (10 miles)
3:35 pm to 4:35 pm

Weather
27F, 15 mph Southeast winds, 24 mph gusts

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, balaclava
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots

Comments: I stayed nice and warm. The only exception was one side of my forehead. When a gust of wind blew against it just right, I felt like I was getting a brain freeze. But it wasn’t bad enough for me to actually stop and put on my ski goggles.