Saturday, January 10, 2015

So This is Permanence, Winter Finally Hits

Wayfarers are great this time of year.  Kill the glare and provide more protection than my regular glasses.  plus I can wear them at night and still see.  This is important when faced with car lights and people who fail to dim their bicycle lights.

My last week of commuting to work has been a challenge.  The scary cold November faded away to a warm December.  And as if on a schedule, Winter's Ax slammed down hard on us about New Year's Day.  Well, three days late.

Our last warm ride was on January 3rd.  Had to ride to Johnston, Iowa, to make sure my mother was not in a diabetic coma, took her meds and ate dinner.  While there we stopped at Hy Vee and I purchased a 18 lb fresh turkey for $12.  Carried it home in a backpack.  It was 37F.  We were invited to meet people at Charlie's Filling Station afterwards but did not go.  When we left Mary Ellen's apartment we knew Winter was hitting.  The North Wind was howling.  Yep, the Front had arrived.  Thankfully it provided us with a tailwind all the way back to our home in Little Italy.  Must have been 8 or 9 pm.  We even saw snowflakes.  By the time we got home the wind had to be about 30 mph.  I texted Cynthia and wished her luck on her ride home.  It would be a bitch.

My usual winter parking spot.  the kickstand does not leave the bike in a good angle for the bike rack,  Usually they remove the rack this time of year so they can clear the snow.

Sunday was the next day.  I had to be the Lector at Church.  Rode the Beast. 4F.  Single digits.  One mile round trip.  Stayed inside and enjoyed a turkey dinner.  Made a second trip outside on a bike but turned around.  Too cold for non-important riding.  It was 11F.  Monday will be hell.

Monday's commute started at the appalling temperature of 2F.  I really don't remember much about it other than dressing in many, many layers.  I rode the Trek FX 7.5 because it had studded tires and flat pedals.  I would be wearing my warmest boots and snow was forecasted.  Many comments at work were as follows: "You rode your bike today?"  Yeah.

On the Greenbelt just after 86th St.

The snow began about 1130 am.  By 1 pm it was falling at an inch per hour.  I rolled out about 230 pm.  Took the usual route home crossing the north end of the pond and taking 123rd to the Clive's Campbell Rec Center.  By now 4" of snow.  I had trouble finding the trail but eventually found it and the Greenbelt.  The Greenbelt was fine.  The snow was fluffy making riding easy.  However there were two sets of human tracks and one set of dog tracks in the middle of the trail making the ride a bit bumpy.  Eventually I found two men walking their spaniel in the winter wonderland.

Mary called and said she was finished with work and we plotted an rendezvous point near Wal-Mart on the trail.  By the time we connected the snow was deep.  Mary's pedal strokes were hitting the snow and leaving tracks.  She was on her Windsor single speed mixte.  We exchanged bikes for a bit so I could get the feel of her ride.  Got along fine.  The issue was and continued to be staying on a trail buried in snow.

We made it.  Had to do sidewalk action when we reached our street since it had not been plowed.  Our bikes were no match for snow filled streets that millions of cars have crushed the snow into an unrideable surface.  Tires dig down and finally bite only to break through a layer and get hung up.  Sure we could have ridden our fat bikes but we needed panniers and speed.

Bike stuck on a snow drift near 7 Flags, Clive Greenbelt.

Tuesday morning forced me to avoid the trail since they were not plowed.  It would take too long riding them in the now deeper snow.  This is my Bad Winter Plan: ride through downtown and hook up with Ingersoll and take that to the Walnut Creek Trail.  Sometimes I cut up Polk Blvd to University and take that all the way to work.  Not today.  I thought I could easily handle 1.5 miles of snow covered trail until I reached Buffalo Rd.  Yes, slow, very slow.  I hit every fookin' red light.  Got to work late.  It did not help that I left 20 minutes late.  I had to finish prepping Mary's bike.  Back in November I put studded tires on a MTB for Mary.  Now in addition to getting myself ready I had to ensure the bike would be ready for her: lights, saddle height ect.  Yeah, should have done this a long time ago.  It was 2F.

Wednesday was supposed to be the worst day.  I think they said it would be -8F when I was to leave for work.  School was cancelled by 6pm on Tuesday so I did not have to worry about Mary or my children.  Dangerous wind chill would kill school children waiting outside for a bus.   But it was 2F and the wind was not as strong as predicted.  Just another cold day with a 30 mph NW wind to fight.  The trail offers a lot of protection from it.  So does my climb up Buffalo Rd.  This time I look forward to my two climbs as they burn more energy and produce more heat.  Westown Pkwy can be windy but by the time I reach 35th St I only have 2 miles left to ride.  The Day of Days did not kill me.

i am not the only one who rides to work.  I think he rode at least 3 maybe 4 days this week.  One day there were 3 bikes here this week!

When I left on Wednesday work it was 0F.  Fortunately, I had a tailwind all the way home so it did not feel that bad.  Also, thankfully, Clive, Windsor Heights and Des Moines had plowed their trails.  I almost had a clear ride all the way home.  Last year the City of Clive did a piss poor job clearing the Greenbelt.  They would leave about an inch on the surface to be fodder for foot prints and tire tracks that would turn into ice making the trail dangerous for all users.  I called them out on Twitter or maybe someone called them and they improved their snow removal.  Today it was perfect!  Windsor Heights did a decent job clearing their small section of the Walnut Creek Trail.  And Des Moines did a good job EXCEPT they stopped about 200 meters north of the bridge over the Raccoon River in Water Works Park.  The bridge was not done either.  I chose to ride on the snow covered grass to avoid where people already messed up the snow.

About 7 miles from home after raiding Hy Vee.  Dog food, meat and wine.  Someone commented that I had no vegetables or fruit.  Wine, dog food and meat were more important.

Thursday was colder in the morning but the wind overnight switched to the south and a warm up was expected.  -3F but a tailwind.  I made decent time to work and it was probably the best day of the week.  Lo and behold the wind changed directions during work and I had a 35 mph tailwind with gusts up to 52 mph for the return trip.  I stopped at Hy Vee in Windsor Heights and loaded up.  1 15 lb bag of dog food, 1 9 lb pork loin, 3 bottles of wine, 2 packages of bacon, 1 2 lb bag of tilapi, 1 2.5 lb bag of chicken breast and a quart of half and half.  Prepare for the weekend!  It was 25F, the warmest day of the week.  Des Moines finally finished plowing and I could ride across the bridge at Water Works without fighting the snow.

More about that tailwind.  Despite the pleasure it gave me I could not help but feel bad.  It sounded like the end of the world.  It sounded like all the love in the world had left and a vacuum of emptiness and despair was filling the void.  We could hear it all night long.  When will it end?  When will it end?

By 2 am it calmed down a bit.  I know this because that is when I let the dogs out.  Fritz was able to escape from my hands and ran out the small opening in the gate.  Jax followed and both crossed the street and ran full speed down the sidewalk.  My boots were untied, I did not have a hat on and I had to pee really, really bad.  They disappeared toward the school.  I gave up pursuit since they were now out of my sight and walked home.  Bathroom, better clothing, enlisted Mary's support and grabbed the Beast and a leash.  I could cover more ground quickly on the fatbike than on foot.  After about a mile cruising the neighborhood I spotted them and they ran toward me as happy as can be.  I leashed Fritz and he pulled my home on the bike while Mary carried Jax.  Bad dogs but I think they were on their way home.  I did think that the wind calmed down a bit and the temperature did not fall through the floor.  Good thing.

Friday was another cold morning.  Thursday's warm up was short lived.  4F for the morning commute with a 30 mph west wind in my face.  The overpass crossing I-35/80 was hell.  I did not break 17 mph on the down hill.  But I made it to work all five days. It was 11F when I left for home.  I stopped at The Rookie and visited Anders.  He too gave up on cars and now rides to work everyday.  I poisoned him with the idea that when it gets really cold we should take fatbikes on the frozen Walnut Creek.  He told me he has done this.  If he falls through and dies I will feel guilty.

Still managed to play Bicycle Ride & Seek.  Needed to take a photo of the bike near fake flowers in a pot or on the ground.  A vase is a pot in my book even if suspended on a fence.  This is the memorial for Zach Paulsen who was killed during a fight near this location,his family's business.  Very sad, he was only 21 years old.  Clive Greenbelt

I got home and let the dogs out.  Switched to a fatbike and rode to Mullets to meet Mary.  Beer and dinner and to celebrate our victory over the worst that Winter threw at us.  It has to improve.  There has to be a rainbow.


  1. Great write-up, Chris. That wind Thursday on the way home was evil. Had to put my foot down a few times to keep from being blown over.

  2. Another great post. Man you guys are real troopers.