Outside, the temperature has dipped to single digits and the wind shakes the house like an abnormally large toddler shakes a Christmas present in order to ascertain its contents. The snow keeps flying, painting the landscape in winter’s various shades of gray and brown — and my little 26″ wheels keep rising to the challenge. My goggles may fog in the single digit weather when I storm a frozen hill and my hub might be slowed and encrusted in ice, but I won’t stop! I will not give into the elements, or to the urge to step from inside an apartment to inside a car. Dodging the elements isn’t the point; the point is making them my bitch.
All in all, it’s been an entertaining couple weeks in winter riding. A few highlights from recent history:
Last Tuesday (11/16):
Tyler and I rode to the grocery store during the first storm of the week. Dillon, typically what we call the Donut Hole (snow all around the town, no snow on it) was getting hammered by snow. We decided to head out in the thick of the blizzard. The water had gone out in our apartment — apparently a pipe had broken and the main road past our apartment was coned into one single, slippery lane. A police officer stood waving panicked motorists through. We got strange looks from those bewildered passengers whose problems maneuvering in the powder precluded their absorption of our doing so more deftly on bikes.
The route to the grocery store takes us through a church parking lot and a neighborhood — and off the clogged roads of Highway 6. Our secondary route that night was wavy with drifts that road atop a sheet of ice like a pirate ship on a choppy sea. Our bikes slithered through like wheeled snakes, hissing through thick drifts and sliding across soft snow on the edges of half-snowed over tire tracks. Tyler’s bike slid more often than not, since he decided to charge the snow without studded tires. Mine transported me in halting steps, sliding a bit and then catching as a handful of studs woke up to the task at hand.
After a brief thaw in the grocery store (where we found that Tyler, in typical Tyler fashion, had “forgotten” his wallet), we headed across the highway and up to the post office. As we made the wobbly turn towards Dillon, a car stopped at the intersection. The driver rolled down his window.
“Are you guys seriously riding a bike right now?” He yelled as a gust of wind painted the scene white.
“You know it!” I yelled.
“Are you guys drunk?”
“Wooooooooo!” Tyler yelled, and rang his bell exuberantly.
Back at the 650 square foot ranch, the policeman was still quelling the fears of Dillon Valley drivers. As we approached him again, we recognized him as Mark, a good-natured sheriff we’d worked with in the past with the Forest Service. He gave our bikes an amused glance and filled us in on the rest of the chaos blown in by the storm.
“Somebody hit a snowplow on the Dam Road and then took off,” he said. There was also another fender bender down by Wendy’s and one at the top of the light.
We left Mark and his magical, waving wand for our warm apartment. Inside, we could still hear the equipment from the guys down in the hole with the broken pipe. Sometimes, their voices were drowned out by the yelling wind. Several hours later, we heard a victory yell from the road. Our water came back on shortly after.
I ride to work everyday, whether the sun is shining or hidden behind clouds brimming with snow. Usually, it’s not the ride to work that’s interesting, but the ride home — especially on a snowy, cold night with a winter storm warning hanging in the air.
The parking lot outside Starbucks looked like a fluffy, thick down blanket. I had no choice but to launch off the curb and tackle it head on. My co-w0rker did a half donut out of the parking lot, sterio blasting; I did the same with eyes focused behind goggles, letting out what I believe was a blood-curdling war cry as I dominated the parking lot. My back tire slid around like the tail of a kitten on too much catnip, but I kept up the momentum and burst out of the parking lot into the road. At the stoplight, a man tipped his hat to me.
As the unplowed back way was out of the question combined with an uphill topspeed of maybe 5 m.p.h., I decided to pedal up through Dillon. On the incline heading to the post office, I was reminded of “one step forward and two steps back…” for some reason it fit perfectly with a country twang. I hummed as I pedaled one stroke forward, two back as I lost traction every two seconds on the sheet of ice below the snow. Uphill was slow going, so I was surprised when a giant white snowplow pulled up beside me, matching my snail’s pace.
“How’s it goin out there?” The driver called.
“It’s a freaking ice rink,” I puffed.
To drive or not to drive is never the question. Aubrey invited Tyler and I down to Red Mountain Grill for a drink and it was only a question of how many layers to wear. Getting out of the apartment complex was dicey but we were soon busting through the apartments beside City Market. The road, once again, was laden with hidden drifts over even more hidden tire ruts. We were cracking up as we trickled through, sometimes barely keeping the rubber on the snow. Once, I had no other choice but to self-eject, running a few yards before looking back at my still-spinning wheels poking from the whiteness.
Getting through City Market was a whole other snow beast, dodging Iowa plates and passing Texas SUVs that were creeping slower than we were. Tyler dinged his bell at a clueless lady that walked out directly in front of him. A man walked by in ski boots; it suddenly felt as though the county was full of Them (tourons, gapers and Texans — oh my!).
Dismounting at Red Mountain Grill, a guy out front took a huge drag of his cigarette and remarked, “Looks like a good way to break a hip.”
I think it was just his way of saying he was too much of a pussy to attempt biking in the snow.
Wednesday (Today, 11/24):
Location, once again, City Market grocery store. Eggs in hand, I’m headed back to my bike. A monstrous Bubba truck pulls up to the curb, window down, interested-looking dude at the wheel.
“Hey, you need a ride?”
“Dude, I’ve got a bike — why would I need a ride?”
Interesting dude now looking put off. End of conversation. Window rolled up, cloud of diesel exhaust that blocks naked lady mudflaps for two seconds. Wow, I am so bummed I turned that one down.
On the other side of the frosted glass door, the temperature reads 4 degrees. Time to dig out the wooly mammoth suit, the electric underwear, the flask of Tequila — whatever helps to insulate on those sub artic winter days. Time for the group of skinny men that I hang with to eat three times the calories per day of five 15-year-old boys. Time to watch ski videos and drool on ourselves. Time to start scheming about ways to sneak into hot tubs and not pay for a snow day at Vail. And time already to eat Turkey and mashed potaters, drink wine and hot cider. And then — of course — time for another bike ride to burn it all off.
The ‘Sylva’ lining in all of this: Doing errands on a bike is never just doing errands — especially if you’re one of the five girls that lives in Summit County. And now that we’re on to the Holidays chapter of our winter: there may never be eggs or bread or milk at City Market but life in the high country certainly will not be dull.