We were blessed with yet another stunningly beautiful fall afternoon in NorCal today. You couldn’t order up better weather for a bike ride.
Posted 11.16.08 in Riding | Bookmark or Share
I’m jealous! But we did have a similar stretch of glorious days in October. This past weekend in MontrÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©al was rainy — it started about halfway through our 45-minute ride to the market on Saturday morning, and after our shopping we rode back home through a steady downpour. I like riding in the rain, although next time I have to remember to bring a plastic bag to ensure that sacks of flour and other items that need to stay dry don’t get wet!
Last evening I cycled through snow showers to the liquor store to get a bottle of wine. Riding home in the dark through a curtain of wet snowflakes was a magical experience.
We’re having unusually temperate weather this fall; a normal November would be bringing far more rain and cold. We need more rain, but I’m not going to complain.
I haven’t ridden in a snow shower since I moved from the Pacific Northwest to Northern California many years ago. I remember it being magical as well, though after about 20 minutes – when the snow started soaking through my clothes – a bit of the luster wore off.. :-)
I can recall coming home from work in the Federal Triangle section of Washington, DC, one evening and having a ‘time of it’ in the winter weather. It had snowed the previous day, then there was an additional light dusting overnight. In the morning, an inversion caused a rain drizzle to overcoat the snow, then temps went below freezing again by noon, so by quitting time (and dark) a crust of heavy ice covered the snow, sidewalks and streets. Drivers were experiencing a “skating rink” and our mass transit system was snarled by ice-covered Metro tracks at the outlying (above ground) stations. My normal route home took me over the downstream sidewalk of Memorial Bridge, which had become glare ice and demanded every bit of skill I had to stay upright on the bike (no studded tires). I noted that my other five senses subordinated themselves almost TOTALLY to the very fine sense of ‘balance’ and marveled at the very intricate inter-connection of the brain and the muscles in arms and legs that controlled pedal force, steering and balance — with all synapses firing at a VERY accelerated rate to maintain control. At the far end of the bridge (VA side of the river), I went down at the curve in the sidewalk and almost slid off the sidewalk into the lane of oncoming car traffic. Then I got up and walked toward my usual path down over an embankment just south of the bridge and across two separate lanes of the George Washington Parkway to connect with the Mt. Vernon Bike Trail next to the Potomac River. I gingerly walked down the embankment, firmly smashing my feet through the ice crust to stay upright, trying also to manhandle the bike — which wanted to slide ahead and pull me with it — and got across the two lanes of traffic okay. But on the far side, both I and the bike went down on the ice crust and started sliding down the slope toward the river, which was not frozen, but probably certainly ‘freezing’ in temperature. Panic! Somehow, I got stopped, then wrestled for a couple of heartbeats whether or not to let the bike go — as it was pulling me toward the water. I somehow got it stopped, too. Then the dilemma of how to get up again, or crawl back up onto the trail, pulling the bike after me. In the almost complete darkness next to the bridge, nobody would have seen me go into the river and with the cold, hypothermia would have been “instant.” Somehow, I got myself and the bike back up onto the bike trail, then went into the tunnel under the bridge and rested there for a few moments to get my heartbeat, adrenaline and thoughts back under control. On the far end of the tunnel, I encountered the ice sheet again and knew I could never ride on it — WAY too treacherous !! So I elected to walk the one mile or so distance to the Roosevelt Island parking lot, then up the pedestrian bridge over the Parkway to the Rosslyn traffic circle at the VA end of Key Bridge, where the streets had been heavily salted and I could continue on my way riding the bike. Another 4-1/2 miles and I was home, getting a hot shower and some hot soup….and reflecting on how I might have handled things differently. Before starting the ride home, I should have checked conditions, which would have given me the option of leaving the bike locked up in our secure parking area at the office and just taking public transit home. But for “real men”, sometimes our stupid bravery and pride tells us we can tackle ‘anything’. Now I know better…and will try to do it the safe way next time.
Blessings….and be safe out there, everybuddy