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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Single Digit Commute

I rode to Corinna's on Monday night, and I guess I was, as they say, having a Monday.

One of those days where you oversleep without getting enough rest and it all goes downhill from there.

So when I got off work, I thought some cyclotherapy would be just the thing. But it took me almost as long to get my bike ready to roll as it takes to ride to Corinna's house. Then I found I was under-dressed for the weather, a single wool layer. It was 20ºF and falling, and I didn't want to stop and jack with a second layer, which might have been too much anyway.

It wasn't bad when we were climbing, but going downhill by the Scout, I wondered if my nipples were actually getting frostbite.

Then Corinna exclaimed something and when I asked what, she told me I'd ridden maybe three inches from a grate like the one I ate back in October. I saw this fucker the next day on the way back to work, and it's not as wide, but it's another with no crossbars, essentially a bike rack laid over hole in the road.

What Randy Rasa aptly termed a 'wheel eater.' The fact that Kansas City thinks it's acceptable to have such hazards built into roads is shameful and stupid. I guess there used to be a lot more of these, but being I'm still rehabbing two broken fingers and can still, four months later feel the traces of that lump in my right cheek and some stiffness in my jaw, so I don't have a sense of humor about it.

To top it off, I was riding on what I thought of as snow pack, and what I believed I knew how to stay up on, when I fell over. What I was on, really, was melted and refrozen snow pack, what is more commonly known as ice.

I didn't fall hard, nothing was busted on me or my bike, I didn't even have to reattach any payload. But I absolutely lost it.

I let loose a stream of obscenities that could peel paint. Corinna later told me she thought I'd pick up my bike and throw it.

And that if I'd tried to pick up my bike and throw it, I'd likely have lost my footing on the ice and taken a hard fall on my tailbone followed by the Foolkiller Express loaded with TMS* and my CPAP† — at which point what would I do? Whip off my belt and tell Mother Nature this was going to hurt her more than me?

We stopped for dinner at El Bonito Michoacan, my idea. It was exactly what the doctor ordered: hot, delicious food at a reasonable price, a Spanish lesson that didn't entirely take with me and some caffeine‡ for the morning commute, all less than a mile from the Poet Laureate's house.

On the way back to work on Tuesday morning, I passed a bank sign that read 2ºF. The forecast, last time I'd checked, did not call for it to get that cold or I'd have talked myself out of leaving the millstone at the office Monday night.

I should explain the 'millstone' thing. Last time I did First Friday with Corinna, she insisted on riding back to her house, and I took my bike to my car and drove there. She beat me by fifteen minutes between knowing a smarter route and not having to load the bike on the rack and whatnot. In true Bike Advocate form she told me that the car was nothing but a millstone around my neck that I'd be better off without.

And when I'm stacked up in traffic, parked on the Interstate, it does feel an apt description.

But when the line from my Camelbak froze up despite being under a sweater and a coat, I had wistful thoughts about how instead of having achingly cold toes, in the car I could actually make them uncomfortably hot.

These weren't my only thoughts. When I came to a patch of ice, I got off the bike and walked it to the other side, thinking, Now I know better than to try and ride over that shit. I also thought about how close I'd come to leaving my coat at the office. Even when it's really cold, you don't usually want to ride in one, but I feared getting a flat tire or something and not having it with me.

But the original plan to wear it only the first few miles became a plan to keep it on the whole way to work. My arms got sweaty, but with the zipper open the rest of me was about right. My friend Kitty posted to my Facebook wall that she saw me coming up Brookside Blvd. looking "hard core but very cold."

It's funny, my toes were cold, I had windburn on my cheeks and nose, and I had snotcicles in my mustache, but I didn't think of myself as hardcore. That's a description I've used for other people.

People like Curtis, who I believe told me his cutoff was freezing, he'd ride down to 32ºF but not much colder than that. Then Heather, who is so shot-out-of-a-canon crazy she commutes to Downtown Chicago, but only down to 25ºF or so. I can remember thinking, no way I could ever be that hardcore.

Then I met Corinna, who describes in a poem arriving at work sweaty on a three degree morning, and I thought, What kind of maniac would try and ride a bike in weather like that?

*Too Much Shit, a disease I got from my girlfriend.

†Essentially an iron lung, if I sleep without it I get so REM deprived I have hallucinations, true story.

‡Diet Coke in this case. I'm a hopeless addict to Diet Dew, Diet Coke and Wal-Mart's generic equivalents of them. Not really a coffee guy, except sometimes, mainly when it's free and insultingly small bottles of soda cost more than a buck.

1 comment:

Liz @ Creative Liberty said...

I can relate to the cold-weather exercise, if only in retrospect. Back in the winter of 1982-83, when I was in eighth grade, the temps dropped below zero for days during winter break. There was a snow pack, too, but mostly it was just freaking cold for days on end.

I managed to figure out a set of gear that kept me warm without overheating me -- pretty impressive given I was 14! A full ski mask and a ski jacket over several other thermal layers were part of the ensemble. I went out in the middle of the day, in case my parents needed to send out a search party, and didn't run more than 2-3 miles, but that seemed quite a victory to me at the time.

My sisters came over one day for something (they had already moved out on their own) and the look the gave me as I headed out indicated that they thought I was completely insane. They were probably right!

Glad you're finding a way to do what you love year-round.