Saturday, February 8, 2014

More Early February Winter Madness

Tuesday would have been the best day.  20F, light snow and tailwind at 415 am.  Unfortunately, I was ill.  Woke up and I new I was not going to make it.  No way in hell would I be able to work today whether I got there by bicycle, automobile, panzer or helicopter.  Burn some sick hours.  Disappointing.  Wait an hour before waking my boss up and telling him the facts.  The rest of the week was downhill from that moment on.

I slept most of the day.  Missed his text telling me to go visit a doctor.  He thought it was the weekend's slip on the ice that landed me on my back, my head taking the brunt of it all and the head ache that lasted into Monday.  No, it was your basic common cold.  Chest felt tight, glands in the neck swollen, slight fever and occasion productive cough.  Need to bury myself under the covers and sleep so the body can go into repair mode.  But every time I glanced out a window it was still snowing.  Damn, I want to ride in that!

The only bike ride that day was to my bank across the river and to the Italian grocery store.  Cash and food.  4 miles on a single speed fat bike.  If only I would have changed on the rear cog for something better suited for climbing and easier cadence I would love to take the Beast to work the next day.  Not to be.  The trustworthy Trek FX would have that honor.

Wednesday morning it was cold at 6F but there was a strong wind from the north gusting up to 36 mph.  I can take the cold and I can take the wind but both at the same time really gets to wear me thin.  Because it snowed all day and into the night before we went to bed there was a good chance that the trails would not be plowed.  I would have to take to the streets.  Sure enough when we got to Mullets the trail was buried.  First we had to cross the pedestrian bridge at the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers.  Needless to say, the bridge was not clear of snow.

I rode it the best I could until I caught up with Mary and joined her in walking to a plowed street.  She was heading to Urbandale, me West Des Moines.  We would bust out of Des Moines together.  We took MLK.  Plowed wide road with little traffic.  The sidepath trail was never considered as it was not clear yet and if it was the intersections would be blocked form the plowing of the streets.  I actually enjoyed this.  No slipping, no drifts to battle, just enough snow to quiet the studded tires and well lit.  Most importantly few cars and no wind.  I wished that I could take MLK all the way but had to turn north at 15th St.

15th is a climb to Ingersoll.  4 traffic lights.  the first two we treated like stop signs because they never trip and we would have had to climb over a mountain of snow to hit the button.  In freezing temperatures I'll risk a ticket or getting hit by a car because I do not have the time to wait for a light I cannot trigger.  Once on Ingersoll we slowly climbed our way to the next turn.

At this point I had a decision to make.  Which route to work should I take?  Last year I took Ashworth to 50th and 50th to Westown Pkwy whenever I could not take the trail to Buffalo Rd.  However, this required me to take Ingersoll all the way to Grand Ave and the slow climb up Grand to 8th St.  Finally, it calls for the climb from 50th to Westown on a sidepath.  I doubt if West Des Moines would have had that path clear.  Traffic on 50th is a bit busier than I like for a snowy morning on a climb.  I opted for what i call the "Northern Route."

the Northern Route is when I turn north on Polk Blvd and take it to  University Ave.  Then i would take University all the way west and over the I-35/80 to work.  Just 3 hills on University itself and a slight climb by Valley west Mall and keep a careful eye on traffic entering and exiting the freeway.  Cagers are not used to seeing bicycles on this road.  But traffic is light enough that they have plenty of room to avoid me.  Another reason I chose this was because of the wind.  By going north on Polk I only need to take the brunt of the wind once in a relatively protected area.  I would be entering work from the north instead of the south.  Brilliant.

Somewhere on Polk Blvd Mary got the recall code from her work.  2 hour delay.  I told her to find somewhere to eat and stay warm and we parted.  We would have parted at University anyway.

University Ave was pretty good.  Light traffic.  Like everywhere else this morning if you eliminated all the pick up trucks with snow blades traffic would be almost nonexistent.  In Clive I noticed that the sidepath along the road was clear but the entrance to it was buried by plowing.  And soon it was apparent that only a few sections of the trail were clear.  All intersections were about 2' deep in plowed snow.  If you want me to take the trail please plow them and plow the intersections.  I watched a bus almost totally slide through the intersection of 86th and University.  This was good because it distracted the other drivers enough to allow me to get a jump on the light and take the jog on 86th to the other part of University.  The rest of the ride was easy.

Coming home I took the direct route.  I could have done what I did last year and reversed the Ashworth route but I like now to just head straight to Wal-Mart via Westown/Buffalo Rd.  This does require constant attention to traffic.  especially at 50th where people want to turn right.  Because the entrance to the side walk on the other side of 50th is buried by plowed snow I need to get on the street when the light turns green.  Look at the car next to me and make them aware that I am there.  Don't worry about traffic because the sidewalk is worse.  Poorly plowed and crap intersections and always a goddamn car in the intersection blocking my way.

NOTE:  Take most of the lane.  Make them switch lanes to pass you.  If you give them room they will take more and push you to the curb.  State law requires cars to change lanes when passing a bike.

I do take the sidewalk if I can on Buffalo Rd in the afternoon.  Narrow, curve and traffic.  but sometimes the sidewalks need to be shoveled or shoveled again.  One time this week when I was forced to walk I walked through their lawn.  I hope they understood my point.  Crossing 8th that day I got into the traffic and waited for the green light.  I usually leave enough room for those turning right on red to get through.  Straight into Wal-mart and abort the left turn onto the trail because at 4 pm it had not been plowed yet.  Windsor Heights let me down!

I rolled through the parking lot and walked it over the shortest distance from the lot to the trail.  Wind cleared it somewhat and a moment later when I was in Colby Park there was one lane open on the trail.  One pass through was enough for me.  When I got to the dog park the trail was clear shoulder to shoulder all the way to Mullets.  It was 7F when I left work.

Thursday morning was almost as cold as they predicted.  -5F at 430 am.  Mary and I rode together.  We took the trail and rode in silence.  Head down and grateful that the wind was not evil.  Back to normal.  Trail to Wal-mart and then the climb up Buffalo Rd and Westown Pky.  Somewhere during the first mile was passed a crow on the ground flapping one wing.  Not sure what had happened.  Broken wing or frozen to the trail.  We did not stop.  We are not veterinarians and one less crow would not cause the extinction of the species.  Perhaps the fox would come upon it and have a meal.  The circle of life, the redistribution of protein.  Yet it haunted me for a moment.  Omen?  Living metaphor for winter riding?  Prediction of my future?  Need a few more miles to warm up.  Focus on forward progress.  7 more miles until I can climb the hills and really generate heat.  Two miles after that the feet will start getting cold.  Move my toes to keep them warm.  Pedal on in silence.  Too cold to talk.

It's the face that freezes first.  Everything else can be covered.  But always exposed skin below the eyes.  And the nose.  Sometimes I take off one glove to warm these places up and brush off the ice that is building on my mask.  I tried goggles but they steam up on me.  I want to get a Daft Punk helmet.

Once at work strip off the top layers straight to the base layer.  Wash my hands and face and hair and then dry them off and comb my hair.  Grab a glass of water and a large coffee.  The best part is changing socks and putting on my work boots.  Comfy and warm.  8 hours later I will be out in the cold again.

The trails were replowed and plowed if they were not before.  Back to normal.  They are doing a better job this year.  I remember waiting 3 days for the section from Pal Joey's to the bridge in Water Works to get cleared.  Bullshit..

Friday it was better.  Only -2F but the wind was starting to come around from the south.  Warmth and moisture.  It got as warm as 17F after work.  I met Craig and Angel at University Pub on my home.  And then enjoyed a night ride the remaining 8 miles to my house.  I saw an old friend and her giant 220 lb dog near SW30th.  We both agreed that it felt nice outside.  12F and it felt nice.  Slap me for typing that.  Must be getting used to the winter.  It's got to warm up sometime.

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