Sunday, December 4, 2011

Miles and Miles to Go. . .

For the last five years (roughly coinciding with my renewed commitment to seriously riding my bike), the weather around the turn from November to December has just been uncanny - within a day either side of the First of December,  we've gotten the first significant snowfall of the year, which stays on the ground, and marks the change in temperatures from generally above freezing to generally below.  Meaning that, once the snow comes to stay, it really stays, and my riding season is effectively ended.  Five years in a row.  You'd think that, one of those years, the Sender of Snow would slack off just long enough for me to sneak in a quick 15 or 20 miles on the 3rd, or the 5th maybe, but no dice.

So when we had a run of warm weekends this November, I was hopeful that maybe this year, winter would hold off a few days, and I'd be able to get a few December miles in.  And all the moreso, since, as of Thanksgiving weekend, I was at 1388 miles for the year, and it would only take a dozen miles for me to pass 1400.

But, when I checked the weather forecast Tuesday afternoon, Our Town was predicted to get 6-10 inches of snow.  Which is a lot of snow, especially for the first real snow of the season.  I took my laptop home from work, and made arrangements to work from home on Wednesday if the forecast proved accurate.  Which it did.  The snow started falling Tuesday evening, as I was maybe 20 miles from home at the end of my commute, and it snowed hard all night and into Wednesday morning.  When we went out to shovel the sidewalk and driveway, by golly, there was anywhere from six to ten inches of wet, heavy snow on the ground.

So I called my boss, and told him I'd be staying home.  He seemed surprised, since where he lived, they'd only gotten a bit more than an inch.  So I checked the weather map online, and it turned out that the 'snow belt' ran right up the middle of Michigan's mitten, virtually centered on Our Town.  Fifty miles to the east, or fifty miles to the west of us, barely an inch of snow fell, but from the Ohio/Indiana border, running right up the middle of Michigan, it was 6-10.

So I just laughed, and noted ruefully that Wednesday was the Last Day of November.  Right on schedule.  But Wednesday itself was a pretty warm day, with high temperatures going into the 40s (Fahrenheit), so even by the time we went to bed on Wednesday, there was quite a bit less snow on the ground than there had been that morning.  Our street, which is only two blocks long, and a dead end, never did get plowed, but by the end of Wednesday, we had no problem getting in and out with our cars.  So, for a 6-10-inch snowfall, it was pretty benign, as such things go.

But of course, there's a big difference between what you can reasonably drive a car through, and what you can reasonably ride a bike in.  Patches of ice aren't that big a deal in a car, but on a bike they can be treacherous.  And, riding as we do along the edge of the pavement, if the snow significantly impinges on the available pavement, it quickly becomes a pretty dicey situation, sharing even less pavement than usual with the motorized vehicles, which are ten times heavier, and at least three times faster, than I am.  So I was not particularly hopeful that I would be able to get a real, outdoors-on-the-pavement ride in.

Thursday and Friday were warm-ish (for December), with high temperatures in the upper 30s (F), which is above freezing, but won't turn snow into water at a very rapid rate.  Plus, we got maybe another half-inch or so over Thurday night.

Yesterday morning, it was overcast, but again in the low 40s.  I wasn't optimistic, but I really wanted to ride.  So, after my usual round of morning errands, I decided to reconnoiter the route I would take if I did ride.  And I found that the pavement, for the most part, was clear and dry, especially on the country back roads that I'd mainly be riding on.  The busier country roads all have paved shoulders, and even those were clear.  The biggest problems were all in the city, and they were manageable, if I just exercised some common-sensical caution.

So I scurried home, got into my 40-degree riding gear (regular riding gear, with an extra pair of wool socks, sweat pants, and a blaze-orange hoodie, and real gloves with fingers and everything) and got out on the road.  I had a great ride (especially once I got out of town) - 17 miles, brisk fresh air, and no significant issues with the motor-vehicles.  My heart, lungs, and legs hummed happily along, and I even got home in time to get to 7M's basketball game (and before the rain started).

So it's 1405 and counting.  I've got one more vacation day left for this year, and I'm thinking of burning it on a 40+-degree day, should one pop up in the middle of the week, and get one more ride in, before I pack it in for the winter, and take my bike for its annual winter tune-up.

Man, this is just more fun than a human being ought to be allowed to have. . .


And alas, my Spartans went down to defeat in the Inaugural Big Ten Championship game last night.  Great game, if you didn't care who won; we've had a few of those with the Badgers, in recent years.


Honestly, though, in August, I'd never have expected us to be this good again.  I figured we'd be good, but our graduation losses from last year's co-championship team, along with a really gruelling schedule, seemed to portend a small regression, at least in the wins and losses.  But here we were, playing for another conference championship.  Whaddya know. . . maybe, just maybe, we're becoming pretty good.

Wouldn't that be fun?


  1. I feel your pain of living in the snow belt. After 20 some years, you'd think I'd be used to it, but I'm not!

    The crazy thing is, you can literally see the change in weather when traveling on the interstate. It will be clear skies about 15 miles south of home, and then suddenly out of nowhere, you are in a snowstorm. I can actually pinpoint the spot on 77 where it changes, having traveled that way everyday for work before kids.

  2. That's some interesting predictability there I must say. Our weather is not quite so .....

    We have had years when the first significant snow was on Halloween and snow was on the ground nearly through March and still other years where the first major came around Christmas.

    So anyhow, glad you got the chance to reach your goal, here's hoping you get the chance for more. Way over here I'm still working on firewood so am hoping for continued good weather myself.

  3. Bijoux - The funny thing is, where we live isn't generally counted as Michigan's 'Snow Belt' - that's mostly along the lakeshores, particularly the Lake Michigan shore, 'cuz the westerly winds blow straight across the lake for 75 miles. . . And of course, the farther north you go, the more snow you see. But last week's storm came right up the middle. . .

    Xavier - Well, you know, when I look at past years, it's not so consistent, but for the last five years in a row, it's like flipping the calendar to December flips the Snow Switch into the 'On' position. . .

    And of course, my 'goals' are pretty fluid. Whenever I get within a single ride of the next 'hundred', I'll try to pass it, if I can. . .

    And last week's snow was kinda a warning shot for me. We got our back roof replaced this summer; that roof has a fair ice-damming problem, and I hadn't re-installed the heat tape since we got the new roof. So I've got a couple dry days this week to get that done. . .