Stopped by the Ice

ice 2My ride home from work today was aided by a rare beast: the tailwind. It is about time, he seems to avoid me as much as he can when I am pedaling home after work.

The roads were clear and I was setting a good pace. I was excited about the possibility of arriving at my apartment earlier than normal.

As I crossed the river, with four miles left to go, I noticed something cool (as in actually cool) in the trees.

It was ice. Big slabs of ice.

The receding water had left ice shelves in the swamp area near the river. I had to check it out.

Leaving my bike leaning against the guard rail, I scrambled down the bank, approaching the frozen swamp with caution. Was it really as frozen as it appeared or would it crack under my weight?

Then I realized the water had already receded, the only thing underneath the ice was shallow pockets of air. Emboldened, I stepped onto the ice and found it to be as firm as a concrete floor. I walked around on the icy, snow covered surface; looking at the tiny footprints left by woodland creatures and snapping photos of the stunning ice shelves. Some looked like tiny caves and others looked like tables. It is in these moments that I wish I knew how to take better pictures and/or had invested in a better camera. I want to remember how wonderful these unique ice sculptures really were!ice 1ice 5ice 3ice 4

As I headed back up to the road, I saw a man striding from my bike back to his car. I suppose he stopped to see if the abandoned bicycle was a sign of a human in distress, but once he saw me returning from my swamp wandering, he figured I was okay.

By the time I reached town, the sun was beginning to set. I arrived at my apartment much later than I had originally anticipated with a huge smile on my face. That is the magic of biking in winter, it slows me down but in the process it gives me memories I hope I will never forget.

The Snow and The Missing Dog

We are only two days into 2016 and already it has managed to be an adventure!

winter stormA good amount of snow fell yesterday so I had the chance to do one of my favorite things-bike through a silent, snow covered woods. The new year couldn’t have started out much better than that.

I am typically a very cautious bike handler-I avoid anything that puts me in danger of falling like the plague.

But when I am alone in the woods, sheltered by the trees, I feel bold enough to go beyond my normal comfort zone. It must be the thick layer of snow, making the ground seem closer and softer in case of a crash. Every time I get a chance to ride in a snowy forest, I leave with a better understanding of how to handle my bike.

That is not why I bike in the woods though. I bike in the woods because it is a blast!winter berries

We got even more snow overnight, I saw lots of snowplows on my commute this morning. When my shift was over, the coworker who was taking over for me mentioned that her red lab, Brady, had gone missing that morning. She asked me to keep an eye out for him on my way home.

As a fellow dog lover, my heart sank. There is nothing worse than not knowing where your dog might have run off to.

But I had a hunch.

If I were a dog, exploring the world by myself for the day, I would head over to visit the free-spirited, bold animals that reside on Fence Fail Farm. Who knows? They might even share a few valuable tips from their years of experience as escape artists to a fellow escapee.biking by the stream

I didn’t have a lot of faith in my theory, because my coworker lives a mile or two away from Fence Fail Farm, but as I pedaled slowly past the farm, I carefully scrutinized each dog on the property. The two border collies, a beagle, a non-descript hound…

…and a red Labrador.

I chuckled and called my coworker. Then I tried to coax Brady over, but he was clearly enjoying his newfound freedom and was not interested in leaving his new friends. Even bribing him with my emergency stash of energy bars didn’t work. He gobbled one chunk of Clif bar that I tossed his way but he didn’t seem too enthused about the taste. Maybe peanut butter flavored bars would have been more alluring!

My coworker’s husband soon came in his truck to pick up the wayward canine and once the pair were reunited, I went on my way.

Biking commuting has so many benefits, but I never expected finding a lost dog to be one of them.

Three out of Three

DSC01251I had not one, not two, but three exciting commutes this week. My life is just one thrill right after another, I tell ya!

My Monday commute was an event of historic proportions. My sister biked along with me! For the first time ever an actual, real person woke up at 3:30 am just to bike ten miles with me. I didn’t even bribe or blackmail her, she wanted to come along.

For once I got to talk aloud on my commute without all the skunks alongside the road thinking I was going crazy. But I bet most of the regular early morning drivers thought they were going crazy-or seeing double. “Now there are TWO of them?” They probably thought to themselves.

My sister and I spent the ride talking, laughing and trying to find stars in the cloudy sky. It was a special bike ride that I will never forget.

My second exciting commute was on Friday. Although I felt tired after working all day, I hit the road home with an energy and speed that I didn’t know I was capable of. For maybe the third time since spring I had a tailwind on my commute home and it was a nice, steady one. I broke the old record for my ride home by three minutes and it felt amazing. Thanks tailwind, come back again soon.

Then, of course, today decided to be exciting as well. My morning commute started out great, with the temperature hovering around freezing. I was enjoying the crisp air. As I was going down the hill out of town, at about 25 mph, I looked up to take in the night sky.

Ahh, so beautiful!

Suddenly, my bike lurched and flew, awkwardly, over some large obstacle. We landed, miraculously upright, with a sickening, startling thud. I checked over everything mentally.

“The bike’s okay, I’m okay. I think we made it.”

Thud, thud, thud.

“Nope, the tire didn’t make it.”

So I switched out tubes carefully, but also as fast as I could in the darkness. Then I jumped back on and set off, speeding down the road as fast as I could to make up for lost time. No more looking toward the sky on this ride! I made it to work ten minutes late but I had so much adrenalin that I quickly made up for lost time. It wasn’t until I got out of work that I noticed that my little morning escapade had broken the plastic reflector on my rear wheel.

On my commute home nothing “exciting” happened. But the weather was perfection. I had a tailwind for the second day in a row and the temperature was fifty degrees. I don’t really understand it, but weather like this does stuff to me. I feel like a newborn lamb in spring-I just want to frolic and dance. Frolicking and dancing while pedaling a bike is hard, but I managed as best as I could.

Ordinary Mornings

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This is actually a picture from months ago, but I forgot to bring my camera with me today…

3:30am
Gentle tones suddenly echoed through my bedroom from a small cellphone, insisting that it was time for me to get out of bed. But I stubbornly rolled over and kept my eyes closed, because I knew that I still had sixty seconds until…

Ah! There it was. The alarm changed from gentle soothing noises to the loudest, most obnoxious tune known to man, yes, now it was time to wake up. Before I knew it I was out the door and on my bike, darting through side streets in the predawn morning, until I reached the state road that would take me to my workplace.

The air had a slight edge of cold. I took a deep breath and looked to the dark, black sky. A tiny sliver of moon shone, dyed orange and gleaming brightly. I followed the light of the moon down the road as it wound its way to the river. As I followed the river, the moon’s reflection appeared in the water, as a smudge of color dancing on the dark surface. Fog rose from the river, spilled onto the road and soon I plunged into it. The beam from my headlight morphed into a cone of lit fog, causing the beam to appear three dimensional.

As I climbed up the hill, away from the river, away from the fog, I heard a car cautiously approach from behind. Many of the vehicles on the road this time of the morning are familiar ones; the milk truck, the blue mini van, the black pickup, the utility van with reflective tape, but the current vehicle, I guessed, was a newcomer to early morning on this state road.

“What are those flashing red lights?” The driver may have wondered. They then solidified their newbie status by passing me with their turn signal on. No one else does that.

I crested the hill, pedaling steadily, shifting into a higher gear for the descent into the little village that lay ahead. Underneath the street lights, I checked the display on my cycle computer.

4:36am.
Perfect. Five miles down, five miles to go and I was right on schedule, no need to hurry. Groves of trees continually tried to obscure the sliver of the moon from my view, but always, as I rode on, the moon lifted above the trees, taunting them from the sky. I realized the sky had turned to a navy blue and slowly the moon was losing some of its orange glow. To the east, I could see fragile hints of colors, purple and pink were cautiously making their way into the sky.

I heard a bird sing softly and hesitantly, as if it was not quite sure if the sun was on its way. But then another bird backed up first bird’s soft singing with a triumphant trill. “The sun is coming, it will be here soon,” it proclaimed into the semi-darkness.

Underneath the navy blue sky, I thought many thoughts. Some were deep, others were silly, a few were sad or frightening, one was exciting, but most were happy, joyful thoughts. While I was consumed with a swirl of ponderings, a van pulled in onto the shoulder in front of me and stopped.

Instantly, my pulse increased its tempo and my senses became fully alert. What was this van up to and what should I do next? But then I chuckled. The van was delivering newspapers, there was no need for raised hackles. On I pedaled and then I went into my drops for a small downhill section. As I moved my hands, I noticed several strands of silk threads stretched across my handlebar. Those spiders! How do they manage to get my bike every single time?

My bike and I sailed down the hill and then came across a herd of cows, sleeping out in a field. They were flopped every which way and in the dim light I could not make out much more than their basic shapes. Onward we went, a fading moon leading the way. Turning a corner, I could now see, laid out, the beginning of dawn and it was beautiful. I began to sing,

“The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes”
From 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

I made it my prayer, under the dark blue sky. And then I was biking into town, only one small hill left between me and work. As I climbed it, none other than the giant white dog came out to greet me, his bark reverberating loudly through the sleeping town. I passed by him and a minute later I pulled into the parking lot at work. I tucked my bike carefully into the shed, unlocked the door to the restaurant and took one last, happy look at the eastern sky before stepping inside.

A few minutes later my coworker asked me how my bike ride was. Part of me wanted to spill a load of superlatives like: perfect and magical, stunning and beautiful, exciting and breathtaking, but it didn’t really make sense to say that. If I did, then she might ask why my ride was so magnificent. And what could I say? Nothing about my ride was out of the ordinary, it was just a mundane ten miles to work on my bike. But everything was so special, it always is. It is those ordinary morning rides that I hold close to my heart, the ones where nothing really happens but I arrive at work feeling alive from head to toe.

So I smiled at her and said, “It was good, really good.”

Top Five Memorable Commutes

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The giant white dog says hello.

It’s been fun chronicling each day’s ride to and from work this winter. One of the greatest things about biking in the snow and cold is that every single day is an adventure. I am so glad that I have everything written down so that years from now I can look back over my first year of winter commuting.

But today is the first day of spring (on my calendar at least, Google claims otherwise) plus it rained on my trip home so I think it is high time to retire the “commuting to work” posts. Not that I won’t be posting about interesting things that occur on my rides to and from work in the future, but I don’t feel the need to journal every trip now that I completed my first winter of biking. The exciting part is when I do post about my commute I will actually take the time to think of an appropriate title instead the tedious titles I wore out over the winter.

In lieu of posting about today’s ride, here are the links to the five commuting days that stick out in my mind.

My Favorite Commute

The Funnest Commute of all Time

My Encounter with the Sheriff

The Bloodiest Commute

The Commute of Torture

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

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