Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Snow Ride of 2015/16

Just east of 63rd St.

After what seemed like a never ending autumn the cold and warm air collided with each other west of Iowa and an ugly line of snow and rain created a wall somewhere in the middle of Nebraska before pushing into my state.  It rained for days, a light gentle rain that slowly penetrates everything eventually.  Then one day of clear skies.  The stars and the moon shone at night, the sun was out during the day.  But the front was coming.  The Weather People warned us for days.  Originally the first snow was predicted for November 18th.  It came 2 days later, about the time of the evening commute.

I was prepared for it.  Plenty of warmth layers, waterproof and insulated boots and a baseball cap.  The hat would be worn to keep the snow or rain out of my eyes.  It was needed since after days of strong west winds it be be a minor gale force from the east or a headwind for that trip home.

Maybe I was not totally prepared for it.  My bike had a new set of Vittoria Randonneur Pro II tires, an unknown quality in the snow.  But I have ridden slicks in snow without issue.  The Red Phoenix was and still is on the bike stand in the kitchen waiting for me to finish the brake, cables and chain replacement.  Its studded tires should not be needed as the temperature would not be that cold.

All day I watched the radar.  A wonderful triangle of clear formed around the metro pushing the snow and rain north and south of us.  The rain is what I feared.  I do not like rain rides.  No matter what I wear for it it seems to get in.  Snow can be brushed off.  Rain was supposed to be first and then the snow.  I had two rain jackets just in case.  I used one.  At some point in this journey I thought it was raining and snowing at the same time.

People at work were like "be safe out there" ect.  They do not understand.  They do not possess the magic.  I have a 2 mile ride through a residential neighborhood to the trail.  Then 13 miles of trail to my residential neighborhood and then a half mile to my home.  My boss's car was rear ended on I-235 last week in good weather.  I cannot imagine how many vehicle collisions would occur when the snow really starts falling.  As I tell them, "I could cause thousands of dollars in damages and possibly kill people if I drove or be hurt or killed myself and lose my car if I drove on day like this.  On a bicycle I just look stupid."  According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa's most important newspaper,  11/21/15, 5" of snow by 930 pm, the DOT issued a no-travel advisory at 9 pm,  and between 3-830 pm the Polk County Sheriff's office had responded to 19 wrecks and 20 cars in ditches.  I wished everyone a safe drive home.  Only one other person rode to my work that day.  He rides a surly Krampus, he'd be ok.

The sword!

The flurries started in earnest as I left.  I made it to the Clive Greenbelt at 128th safely.  Streets were merely wet.  The landscape was a mix of green and white.  The snow was in my face.  I stopped under the overpass at NW 114th to put on the hooded rain jacket.  Another layer of protection and rolled on.  Near Miss Kitty's I spotted something strange.  I turned around to investigate and found a sword sticking in the ground like Excalibur.  I had to take this plastic toy.  Too weird to leave.  A souvenir of today's adventure.  

Only the bridges were covered with snow until I reached the Bill Riley Trail.  this had me a bit nervous.  Mary commented that her bike felt loose on wet wooden bridges.  She has the same tires, same age and miles on them, too.  Will Hildreth lost his bike from underneath him when he crossed one of these wooden bridges on the rainy day he headed to the Ragbrai.  But I did not feel a hint of slickness.  then the trail went from wet to white.  The bike handled fine.  700x32, 75 psi when I put the tires on a week or 2 ago.

The flood begins.  If it was warmer I go check it out today on my fatbike.
I found a good place to carry the sword right next to the electric flare.  the zipper was missing from the safety vest so I ditched it.

I stopped on the Bill Riley Trail underneath the rail trestle.  Walnut Creek was rising and spilling over the trail!  November floods!  We have had a lot of rainy days lately but this is getting old.  The creek appeared to be flowing backwards and it smelled.  On my way to work when I rode along the Raccoon River I thought the water seemed a bit high and was going to mention this to Mary but by the time I caught up up with her I forgot about it.  Perhaps when Joe Ayers passed us on his Schwinn roadie he erased that thought.  I wonder if he'll ride on Monday.

The display sponsored by Kyle's Bikes.

After the rail trestle I spotted a bright flashing bike light heading my way.  Some guy on a fatbike enjoying a chance to prove its worth.  He would have no problems.  The snow was sticking to the trail now.  It looked gorgeous!

Water Works Park was a sight to be seen!  The displays for the Holly Jolly lights were lit up.  No one was around.  I took the opportunity to see them all.  Although the official bike ride would be tomorrow I knew that it would be a cold miserable ride and possibly icy.  Seize the chance now.  I had the entire place to myself.  I noticed that the Raccoon River was high on the west end of the light show.  I pray it does not flood here.

When I got back to the WW bridge I saw another bike but it was traveling much faster that I and the gap was never closed.  About this time I had a strong hankering for a Madhouse Imperial Red Ale.  Only two places I knew where to obtain one, The Mad Meatball and the Madhouse Tap Room, both within easy reach of my route and within a mile of my house.  By now the snow was at least an inch or more on the trail.  Snow was sticking to my jacket and I was feeling a bit wet.  I saw Mullets and then looked at the street.  I did not want to take the road just yet.  Perhaps my thirst for this exquisite brew could be quenched here at Mullets.  No, but they had others and Joe was barkeeping and Zach was in and Ashley stopped in as well.  In the past on snow days I stop here and rest.  My favorite memory was the horrible storm that snarled traffic for hours and I was on the 520 with slicks and had no issues getting home.  When I walked in that day they played a track from my favorite band.  It was a sign from above.  No Imperial red, no New Order but good company, delicious beer, warmth and chance to check on my family's status.  My phone was beeping from text and Twitters and emails.  Pulling it out from the safety of the Zip-Loc baggie and having to take a glove off to work it was getting lame.  I'd have to go home and prepared the evening meal, baked fish, rice and veggies.

At Mullets

The road was shit.  Nothing worse than an unplowed street with a few inches of snow.  I found the cleanest snow possible to ride through but I made it.  As for the tires, on clean snow they did fine, no slipping, never lost grip.  Mary's comment was that the snow packed underneath her fenders and slowed her down.  The snow was deeper for her than me since she left for home a few hours after I started.  A 17 mile odyssey and motivation the finish the winter bikes.  32 mile day.  And a souvenir.

Home sweet home!

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