Switching Gears: Tread Whitely


Today, I went to the post office.

I stood outside under the roof of the building, out-of-the-way but near the front door. The wind howled in my ear about blizzards and snowplows and bit my cheeks like a frantic Terrier puppy. I tried to cram a wonderfully gigantic box of Christmas goodies sent by my best friend Kelly and her hubby, Jacob into my bike’s pannier. Of course, the box was millimeters too large to fit, so I set about ripping the tape apart with my house keys. Bags of hallowed goodies straight from grocery heaven (Trader Joe’s) poured out like edible gold: a bag of Christmas candy corn, milled soap from France, four kinds of angelic mustard…

In the midst of Trader Joe surgery, an older man approached me curiously. “You got good tires on that thing?” He pushed his glasses down along the bridge of his nose. The man leaned so close to my snow-caked front tire I thought he might lick it.

“Not yet,” I said, stuffing bag of Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups into the pannier. “Guess I better stop being lazy and put my snow tires on.”

“They make snow tires for bikes?” He said, pushing his glasses back up, intrigued. Behind him, a woman in jeans and a puffy jacket walked by without a word.

“Sure do,” I said. “With studs.” I particularly enjoy this part of the conversation — when people not only realize I am crazy enough to ride a bike in the snow, but also crazy enough to spend money on studded snows in order to do so.

“Nice day for a bike ride,” said Joe — a regular from my Starbucks days — squinting at the heavens which spit snow at the ground like an insulted llama. Another woman in a pants suit glanced my way and went inside.

“Every day is a good day for a bike ride,” I said. A gust of wind rattled what we dubbed “The Precious” during an infamous weekend of Halloween drunkenness and debauchery: chocolate covered mango candies that tasted like the sound of angels singing on Christmas morning. I stuffed it in the pannier, alongside a delectable set of flavored olive oils and a diabetic’s nightmare worth of cookies and chocolate.

“You’re nuts,” Joe said, smiling. “And nice goggles.” As he drove off, a short man in a very festive snowflake sweater stopped abruptly in front of his blue truck.

“Now this would make a great picture for the Summit Daily,” he said.

“Where’s your camera?” I said, cramming toffee candies and pumpkin waffle mix into my other pannier (both now bulged grotesquely like chipmunk cheeks and with each gust of wind, my bike wobbled perceptibly).

“Well, I didn’t think I was gonna see anything like this today,” he said and laughed. “Watch out for cars! There are loonies out there.”

“Will do,” I said. I glanced up the road to Highway 6 which looked like the ramp into Noah’s Ark — cars cruised two by two in both directions on the four lane highway with little room to spare. In the background, the angrier than usual hornet-like hum of I-70 gave away the arrival of more “loonies.”

I finally finished uncrating the package and went inside to throw away the evidence. Outside again, I stretched the latches over the pregnant panniers. A middle-aged man with a friendly smile gave me a mock salute.

“Nice work braving the weather,” he said.

“It makes errands fun,” I said as he shook his head in amazement.

And it’s true — going to the post office by bike in the snow amasses so much additional intrigue: I might fall over, I might run into a snow bank, I might not even make it to the post office.

On this particular day, I made it to and from work and the post office. The extra loot in my panniers helped my plight; instead of my bike’s butt end swinging around like a protractor when I busted a slushy berm, the bike merely jogged gently and righted itself.

At the traffic light that separates Dillon from home, a woman in the passenger seat of a mini-van with Indiana plates gave me a blank stare. As I smiled at her, I noticed the corners of bread loaves and egg containers peeking out sheepishly from a plastic grocery bag on her lap. The traffic limped forward again and the mini-van hung back, fearful of the power my long-johned legs could unleash upon the pedals of my steel stallion.

I grinned as I crested the hill to the soundtrack of a wine bottle clinking suggestively against a jar of pumpkin butter. Tomorrow, I’ll tackle the grocery store.

Switching Gears is a weekly post about anything and everything bike — from winter riding to sealant explosions. Stay tuned for the another round of bicycle skullduggery.

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