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Monday, December 13, 2010

Ice Cream Run

I rode my bike to Wal-Mart on Saturday to get a few groceries and the colored pencils and glue stick Em needed to finish her dread Huck Finn homework. It was 25ºF when I left the house, and a brisk wind was blowing out of the north-northwest. I mailed a bill, paid the trash man, got to Wal-Mart without my lock.

It's not like Gardner is a cesspool of crime, but I didn't want to do all my grocery shopping just trusting my luck. I gave one of my Disappointment Artist business cards to the high school kids caroling at the Salvation Army bucket and said, Anyone rides off in that thing that doesn't have a pink helmet poof, call my cell, alright?

I was due to buy a lock for the bike anyway because the one I use on my rack is too short and I prefer locking the bike rack to the car even when the bike isn't there. So I got a six footer and locked up, did my shopping and returned home.

By the time the stuff was in the panniers, my fingers were already ice cold. And it was noticeably colder and windier than when I arrived. Snow had fallen, not much, but still.

A mile later, riding into that headwind, I had to stop at a gas station and warm up my aching hands. Then I slugged my way back home and was busy congratulating myself on 6.4 miles starting at 25ºF and finishing more like 17ºF. I was bragging about it on Facebook, Em was finishing her Huck Finn thing, and I was about to make a quick Christmas-shopping errand (by car) before Corinna arrived for dinner (also by car).

Or so I thought. Em looked out the window and said, 'Dad, there's flashing lights and a pink helmet poof coming in our driveway.

Corinna saw my miles and raised me forty, having come all the way from downtown KCK on her bicycle in zero-degree wind chills. She said she was in the mood for an epic ride, and she was not disappointed.

I tried to get a picture of the ice in her balaclava but I settled for inviting her in and getting dinner going. She had a few cups of hot tea, some grub and then invited me to go on another bike ride in the cold.

To get ice cream.

I wasn't keen to go, my fingers had been so painfully cold on the Wal-Mart trip and it was even colder out. 15ºF or so, I think, and snowing again.

That's when she surprised me with an early Christmas of wool socks, wind-blocking lobster claw mittens (yeah, lobster claws, she's a keeper!), long johns, and my very own balaclava (I'd been riding in one I borrowed from her). While I had been thinking about how I needed to get to Mickey's for some mittens, she was there making her list and checking it twice.

She convinced me to try my boots instead of my usual running shoes, and my fears that they'd be too heavy were overcome when I discovered how much warmer my feet were without the wind on them. With the mesh in my Brooks Adrenalines, I might as well wear sandals for all they block the wind.

The lobster claws were very effective, too, more than their weight would lead me to believe. They're big enough to wear over my full finger cycling gloves, thin enough to allow me to brake and shift, and they block the wind.

Only the tip of my nose was really uncomfortable because if I pull the balaclava over it my glasses fog.

The winds were every bit of 30 miles per hour as we rode into the snowy darkness. It's so beautiful being on the road with the sounds of the snow and the wind. I was so much more comfortable than I'd ever been on a cold ride (this was only my third time heading out when it was below freezing, and the second time that day) and not being miserable goes a long way when it comes to appreciating natural beauty.

Coming back, the wind on my nose and around the glasses into my eyes was a bit much, but when I contemplated stopping at a gas station on Main, I realized we were long past it, almost to our turn. In fact, after we made that turn we had a stiff tailwind for the last half mile home.

With no fenders on my bike, cold, wet weather would still be a problem, but other than that I think I'm geared up for pretty much all conditions. Sure, a cycling jacket that breathes in back would be a plus, and if I can find some way to shield my nose without fogging my glasses, that'll be good, but it turns out the girl is right: there is no 'to cold' there is only inadequate gear.

And there is no ice cream better than the ice cream you brought home in your snow-covered panniers.

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