Switching Gears: Winter, Schminter

130123_0001 On January 23, it was 66 degrees in Loveland, Co. Here, it was more like 40 degrees — which, to us heat-starved Summit-ians after the here-comes-the-next-ice-age temperatures a couple of weeks ago, felt like the Sahara. Out in the world, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez received physiotherapy after an operation six weeks ago to treat a cancer; young Syrians remain disillusioned in a country divided after the revolution; and the U.S. government still can’t figure out what to do about guns or the country’s finances.

But in my personal news, January 23 had some solid landmarks, including:

1. My first — and earliest ever — ride up Loveland Pass in 2013 (about 2890 feet of uphill fun).

2. De-flowering my new Surly Ogre on the aforementioned mild incline.

I started out after noon with the sun shining fiercely upon me. In typical Sylva form, I was colder than a chilled pint glass full of icy ice as I struck out; but about 15 minutes into the ride I was volcano-ing through all my layers and then ripping them off like an impatient kid on Christmas morning. All the while, my bike careened across the dirty shoulder like a rudderless ship in a storm.

I took the bike path to Summit Cove, nearly running over a Terrier-like creature that paid about as much attention to its owners commands as most Americans do their health. Traffic was thicker than Sarah Palin’s brain all the way to Keystone, and I received a bounty of curious glances. A red Jeep blew past and showered me with a tantalizing array of dried dirt, wet dirt, magnesium chloride and pure hatred which together boasted the consistency of dried boxed stuffing.

By the time I (thankfully) left Keystone in the past, the traffic thinned out considerably. The sun was so gloriously warm (40 whole degrees!) and I rocked out gleefully on my iPod to The Chemical Brothers while I chugged up the pass. A few miles in, a large semi honked his horn loudly several times and hung his hand out the window in a “hang ten.” A mini van full of bro-bras whizzed past, smelling like its passengers cleaned out several dispensaries and were currently sampling all the wares. At least five multi-neon-colored snowboards flopped haphazardly on its roof like squished Skittles.

At the lower entrance to A Basin, a grisly looking guy with a full beard and snowy skis waited for a lift. His head panned uphill as I passed, “What the…” painted across his weathered face. I waved and he slowly lifted his hand in return. A woman in a small SUV pulled out of the upper lot and gave me a cheerful thumbs up. I waved and smiled, encouraged. The air had grown suddenly colder as the sun began to disappear behind growing clouds. I zipped up layers and put my gloves back on, winding up above Arapahoe Basin to the more exposed road ahead.

Signs announced no stopping or standing due to avalanche danger, but I didn’t have much to fear from this year’s thin snowpack. Semis roared back down the road towards Keystone, their engine brakes roaring like irate dragons. A new Subaru Forrester pulled up to me as I pummeled the long straight stretch up the valley, leaving the ski area behind.

“Nice ride?” Said dad, a perplexed wife and curious kids bobbing in the background.

“Not too bad,” I said, popping my left ear bud out.

“You do this a lot?”

“More in the summer.”

He laughed. “Well, have fun then.” A Jetta had crept up behind him like a thief in the night, so we parted ways.

Higher up still, I began to feel tired. I remember a distinct moment where the brisk wind switched from tailwind to headwind, the clouds swirled and a jackass in a mini-van sprayed me with slush. Maybe other people would have called it a day, but that’s the thing about me: it’s not in my bones to turn around. Although I was completely cold, hungry and tired, but I simply had to suffer to the summit anyway.

And after cresting the grey, chilly Pass, I added two more layers, tucked my hood under my helmet and prepared to descend. Two people in a grey Audi had rolled their window down and were staring at me openly as I picked out appropriate music to cruise down by (Blackmoth Super Rainbow — some psychedelic, electronic rock fun). I waved to them and they waved back. And down I went.

January 23 is in fact the midst of winter, as I had almost forgotten as I rode in single-layer sunshine an hour earlier. But winter in Colorado means the weather changes its tune as frequently as a one man band with ADD. As I wound down a road completely devoid of ice, snow or slush I quickly felt winter anew — first in my hands and feet, then my face. As exposed as the Pass is, I had no choice but to continue down… down past perfectly preserved ski tracks from a month ago… down past a half-full parking lot and the occasional astounded stare/point from skiers… down past the dirty snow and the snowy dirt and back into the flatter, ever so slightly warmer roads by Keystone.

At the Summit Cove stoplight, a man in a red truck rolled his window down. I was pooped by then and had the brain power of a frozen waffle, but I pulled my ear bud out gamely. At any rate, I’m always excited to perpetuate good vibrations between cyclists and vehiclists.

“Good time?” He said, grinning. I realized I still had my hood on beneath my helmet and the jacket pulled up to cover my mouth and nose, my heavy gloves frozen around my neon pink grips like icicles on a gutter. I probably looked like a prehistoric cave woman chiseled out of a glacier in Antartica right after a saber-tooth tiger and before a wooly mammoth.

“Mmm, mmfffff, rrrrhhhthffmp,” I attempted from behind my jacket, since my fingers were still too frozen to help.

The light changed then and I decided it was in both of our best interests that I soldier on. Fifteen minutes later, I engulfed myself in warm apartment air, ice cream, my favorite Cheetah blanket and some more ice cream.

When my fingers thawed enough to flex slightly, I wiped some of the winter gunk of my new steed, ate some more ice cream and of course, made some coffee. Switching gears again, I swapped my helmet and gloves for a short skirt and a flat iron to prepare for the next wintertime battle: waiting tables.

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