Sunday, January 13, 2019

And then The Giant Snowball Hit Us

Look Ma!  No kickstands needed!

On December 29, 2018, I posted about winter or the lack of winter in Des Moines, IA.  It never arrived.  Some mornings were cold, 20s and 30s and the coldest morning commute was at 10*F.  My lawn and yard have turned into a swamp.  Perhaps the top 3cm  thawed and below it is frozen.  Rain has no where to go.  Living with a large dog is difficult, gotta clean paws every time he comes in and he likes to go out 2 times at night and once or twice before we go to work.  I keep my commuter bike in back of the house and now the path to the driveway is tore up from the bike sinking down into the mire.  I almost broke an ankle stepping on one of those frozen tracks, the few times it actually froze.  There may have been a day or two that I used the front door instead.

The worst thing about a weekend snowfall is that the trails won't get cleared until Monday.  Yet sometimes that is a good thing.  The snow was so deep that we did not deploy the kickstands.  A wonderful view of the Des Moines skyline.
As for riding, hell, it has been fantastic.  I think I may have had to add an extra leg layer once or twice this season for the ride to work.  Have not need to dress like an astronaut just to ride a bicycle to work.  Granted that work is only 2 and half miles away from home and I used to ride 12 to 15 miles to work last season.  Still, this I like.  After I cross the river the second time I have seen on several occasions this winter a full dressed motorcycle parked in front of the police station at least twice a week, often covered with frost.  A Gold Wing I believe.

As noted on my previous post, we took our best road bikes out for a 40 miler on January 5th.  That was 8 days ago.  The high was 56*F IIRC.  So everyday I look at The Red Phoenix, my winter bicycle with studded tires, the bike that has taken me on many epic winter commutes for the last decade, the bike that by March is ready for the scrapyard yet every November I rebuild it after a long Spring and Summer's nap, and it is uselessly in the damn way.  A sentinel waiting for that moment that it is actually needed.  It was time to place it back into its warm weather storage and wait for a real winter.

Then the Forecast was proclaimed.  Snow for late Friday night and most of Saturday.  Yeah right.  Des Moines was on the northern edge of the projection.  We might get a dusting to an inch.  The bike stays in the laundry room and a decision will be made on Saturday.  Been through this before, lots of hype about snow, City trucks pouring salt brine on the streets because their budget is fine since they have not had to plow.  Then nothing.  Snow misses us and dumps a metric shit tonne elsewhere.  Just to be safe we raid the grocery store Friday.  I wash the knives and pizza cutter and the ice cream scoop.  Coffee, half and half, pork loin, chicken, frozen pizzas, ice cream, dog food, cat food, kitty litter ect, all the essentials.  Swap parking spots of the Taurus and CR-V, the latter being having AWD and the former being quite crap in snow.  By 9 pm Friday night we are ready and the first flakes fall.

I recall that there was about 2 mm of snow on the deck when I left Fritz out at 230 am.  3 hours later we have several inches of snow and it is still falling.  Damn, they were right!  OK what's the plan?  Brew coffee, play on the internet, update Bike Log from yesterday's commute and watch a movie.  I picked the Battle of The Bulge since it is either hated for historical inaccuracies or loved as a star studded cast war yarn.  I only watched it as a child and the other day a co-worker lent it to me.  Watch the movie and hope that the snow ends sometime so I can shovel.  I pride myself on a well groomed winter sidewalk and driveway and path from the deck to the driveway and around the cars.

Somehow there is little to no snow in this movie based on the famous WWII battle.  I can forgive the lack of authentic German armor since there is only one or two King Tigers that roll under their own power but for the love of all that is good please try to accurately depict the battle.
Sometime into this film I decided that it was time to finish prepping Mary's winter bicycle.  Normally this would have been done by Thanksgiving.  That bike, a Specialized hybrid, has a spare set of wheels with a set of studded tires mounted already.  All I would have to do is swap the wheels, clean and lube the chain and adjust the brakes.  BUT I loaned those wheels to my son who wanted to commute by bicycle.  So I had to put on my old studded tires, Kenda Klondikes, on her remaining wheels.

Easier said then done.  I gave up during Thanksgiving break.  The scenario repeats.  On Saturday, November 24th, our anniversary, we take our best road bikes out for a 30 miler in the 50+ degree weather and the next day snow and ice.  Bike Log indicates not much snow but I rode my winter bike that day and the next day to work.  Mary had Monday off and when she returned to work on Tuesday she did not need studded tires.

And the lack of that need was a good thing.  I failed to mount those tires.  It was the worst time ever for me installing tires.  Just could not get the bead over the rim.  Tried dish soap and water but that did not work.  Used a lever on one and as expected the tube was ruined.  My hands abused, tore up and feeling arthritic.  So the wheels sat and her bike was left on the stand.  But the deeper we got into winter the likelihood that we needed to use our winter bicycles seemed remote.  Maybe once our twice I told her that she could ride mine and I'll take my adventure/gravel/roadie with wide tires instead.  Never happened.  Thought about buying new tires of a different brand maybe that would be easier.  Wheels and bike sat.

Then the giant snowball landed on Des Moines.  Time to get it done.  Secret weapon/tool...WD-40.  And it worked!  Both tires on and inflated!  Let them sit while I shoveled.  They held air!!  After shoveling it was time to clean the drivetrain and fix the brakes.  Her next winter bike will have disc brakes.  Disc brakes are easier to maintain.  I also adjusted my brakes.  By 430 pm it was time to ride.

My mug.  Had their Session Black IPA

Root Down!
 Just a short ride across the river and to the store and stop at the brew pub for some black IPA.  Photo op at the Jackson Street Bridge.  Where are all the bridge beer drinking bicyclists?  In warmer locations.  The Kansas City Chiefs were in the playoffs and that game was on.  We did find Walter, Jana and Kramer at Court Avenue Brewpub.  Time for one mug to celebrate successful bicycle work.  Walter bought a round of Root Downs for us (Jagermeister and root beer).  Thank you!  Walter and Jana biked home.  Kramer walked since he lives nearby.  Time for us to roll home as well.  One and done!  Chiefs win!  I needed to put a pork loin on the Weber grill for dinner.

The trail was plowed to Gray's Lake as far as I knew.  The Green Bridge was not.  One pass with the plow over the pedestrian bridge from Mullets to Principal Park.  The river walk was not plowed.  We took all three of these.  When we got home Mary's purse was not in her panniers.  We had to ride back  Fortunately, CABCo's staff secured it in the office and they tracked it by her mug number.  Whew!

What a day!  Probably my most productive Saturday in a long time.  One bicycle resurrected, another adjusted.  Shoveled.  Watched a movie and a few football games, Chelsea v Newcastle, KC v Indianapolis, Rams v Cowboys next.  Cooked a pork loin to perfection with indirect heat.  Rode my bicycle in the snow for the fun of it.  And watched a movie.  Really nice winter day.

January is the coldest month and we are half way through it.  In 7 or 8 weeks it will be March and Spring will be here soon.  The Red Phoenix will go back into storage to be neglected until around Thanksgiving break.  I'll have to pull those tires off Mary's bike and clean it up again.  And our roadies will start to accumulate miles.  The Cycle of Bike Life.

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