Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Switch

Controller of The Switch

Hamm's.  The only beer in the fridge.  I needed it.  The last hour was spent making my way home in 35 mph winds from the NorthWest, riding on ice with blowing snow.  For some unknown reason I must brave these conditions for the sake of saying, "I did it.  I made it into work today.  I did it without a car.  Eat my dust, kiss my grits."   Nothing strange about that.  This is something I choose to do every day.  For 10 months out of the year it's really not a big deal.  But yesterday out of the corner of my eye I saw the hand reach for and flip The Switch.

Sometimes The Switch is a off white plastic light switch.  Other times it is a large rubber coated handle with a "high voltage" sign near by.  Yesterday it had a large wooden handle like something out of a Frankenstein movie.  Moving my head to get a better view always fails because The Switch disappears.  The Switch controls the seasons.

Yes, I understand that the laws governing the physics of weather were established billions of years ago and that humans barely have a grasp on it.  No one walks up to this lever and changes the season with an outstretched hand.  But in Iowa it feels that way.  Take Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  Beautiful week and then ZONK its very cold and windy.  This week was extreme.  Nice near 40F December days and POW!!!!....Winter has arrived.  11.8" of snow with strong Arctic winds to drop the temperature significantly.  Single digits predicted for the morning low.  Little prospect of the snow to melt.

I thought I was ready.  New cross tires on the Red Phoenix.  New studded tires on the Trek 920 (blue bike).  Knobbies on Mary's Cannondale.  Located old studded tires for the Trek 520.  Studs are worn out but the tread cleats are good for snow.  Bring it on!  Flip that switch.  I dare you.

I changed 3 tires last night.  My hands still ache from it.  Dare not use the tire lever because pinched tubes suck.  Grabs and push the bead over the rim.  Should have been just 2 tires because last weekend I did this.  But Blue's rear wheel had 3 broken spokes.  I was shocked.  1 spoke I understand.  But 3???  This bike is a storage queen.  I have ridden maybe a handful of times this year.  Mary commuted on it for maybe a week earlier in the year.  I was pissed enough about the rusty chain but then the spokes...  Numbness.  take the wheel to Bike World and have Rummey or Steve fix it.  While at it, take the tandem wheel in to replace 1 spoke.  Yeah, over 100 miles on that wheel with a broken spoke.  But 3??  I remember it needing truing but good Lord Almighty, WTF happened.

Draco.  Winter Storm Draco.  They name these things now.  The weather people were announcing doom and gloom heading our way all week long.  Tuesday was the day I fetched the wheels.  Took the Phoenix and connected the Burley trailer to it and rode 20 miles round trip to bring the wheels home along with pizza, soda and a can of Fosters.  Seemed to be a Round theme in the Burley.  The Foster can looked round from the top.  Wednesday was the day I put the final studded tire on Blue and went for a test ride.

It was snowing.  Maybe 2" by 830 pm.  Wet and heavy.  Thunder snow.  Lightning, thunder and snow all at once.  This is Iowa.  I rode to Mullets and ordered a Molson.  Schools were canceling already.  serious shit.  Draco must be for real.  Blizzard warnings being issued.  Damn, the televisions in this establishment are not friendly tonight.  Two more Molsons, please.  It was 10 pm when I left.

Blue felt sluggish.  No ice, just wet, heavy snow to push through.  The forecast said that the temperatures would remain steady and drop slowly.  I needed a tire that was more narrow.  Take the Phoenix in the morning.  Now get home and finish the sangria.  A slight hangover will increase body temperature and keep me warm for the commute tomorrow.

I woke up dreading the ride.  I love to ride in snow but this was too wet, too heavy and too deep.  Must leave early in case it is really difficult.  Should just call in sick.  Everyone else will.

This looks familiar

The driveway was hidden.  Where the yard ended and the drive began was not apparent.  It was windy but the wind was a favorable cross.  Pushing wind as long as the bike heads west.  Turn north and take the brunt of the wind.

I recall a similar ride to work last year or maybe the year before.  I did not make the mistake of riding to the trail to rediscover that snow this deep and wet cannot be traversed by the FX.  Plowed roads all the way.  This saves time and cut a half mile off the commute.  SE1st, Indianola Rd/Thomas Beck Rd/Bell Ave (1 street 3 names and we wonder why the trails are named so poorly).  Then Flagg and Park Ave.  Few vehicles out.  Nobody honked or yelled.  Yeah, try to roll a window down to yell at me and Karma will keep it down for the rest of you journey.

The only time it got dicey with cars was on Park Ave.  Normally I turn up on SW56th and cut on Thornton.  But from experience these roads are never plowed and have the deepest snow.  I keep moving forward to avoid a walk.  Park narrows to two lanes and has a slight hill to climb and hide me when I descend.  I looked behind me and the vehicles were almost a mile away.  I had a chance.  Got as close to the edge as possible to facilitate them passing me.  And as I crested the hill I got passed by a Mid American truck then a LARGE Mid-American truck and the world's loudest Pontiac.  But as soon as they were gone I saw the Principal Financial Group call center, 6200 Park Ave!  Target acquired!

Large construction equipment was clearing the parking lot.  Caterpillar.  Yep, if you have deep pockets people tend to sue for slips and falls and bumps.  Best use that $$ for clearing the lot.

It was the earliest I had arrived at work in over a month.  Damn.  48 minutes.  And when I opened the Warehouse Cafe PFG people were glad to see me.  Yes, I sell caffeine and they need me.  They also needed to hear about how I got to work.  Driveway?  Not dug out.  My street plowed?  Probably not tonight.  Get your car stuck?  It's at home where it was parked yesterday.  Then I hit them with the truth.  If I would have drove today I could have possibly had to abandoned the car, caused thousands of dollars in damages and probably killed someone.  On my bicycle I just look stupid.  Yeah, only 15 extra minutes to work.

The ride home involved more exploration.  I took Thornton to avoid Park Ave for that small stretch and saw a police SUV stranded 200 meters away from 61st.  She was ok, having a warm vehicle, radio and a gun.  I should have taken a photo as I walked by.  Yes, too crappy to ride.

Ride safe!

Water Works had that road cleared for the Holly Jolly Lighters.  Gray's Lake was closed but I limboed the gate and road cleared parking lot and trail to the parking lot on Beck.  Then back on the road. 

For the most part the change in temperature turned everything to ice.  The Kenda Kross Pros did good on this, better than the slop of the morning.  Although they are not studded tires I never slipped or crashed.  Mere put my foot down twice all day.  And that was when somebody threw their snow in the streets.

Winter is here to stay.  At least for the foreseeable future.  I hope The Switch gets flipped back soon.  Maybe there should be a dial.  Do this gradually.  Have fun!

The end of the cleared trail, Gray's Lake

No comments:

Post a Comment