Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for February, 2008

My hardest commute yet

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

This morning, conditions were even worse than they were yesterday. We got some freezing rain on top of the snow and everything else, and in fact it was raining when I left for work this morning despite the fact that it was in the lower 20s. I was pretty surprised when I walked outside to find we were getting more freezing rain. The maintenance guy was putting salt on the sidewalks and whatnot and he seemed stunned to see that I was about to ride a bicycle. There was a pretty good layer of ice on everything, to the point where in some places I could walk or ride without leaving a footprint or tire tread in the snow. Fortunately once I left the parking lot and got onto a real road, things were a little bit better — although not by that much.

The roads right by my apartment weren’t too bad, they were mostly slushy with a little snow and a little ice mixed in. But it was raining pretty hard and that of course made riding more difficult. The bike path was abysmal, the whole surface consisted of snow covered in a layer of ice in which my weight could barely even leave an imprint. And footprints from pedestrians had frozen, making for a very bumpy, slippery ride. I took my time and while I lost traction in my rear tire a couple of times, it was mostly pretty good. Only on the climb up back to the road did my tire spin a bit.

The freezing rain persisted and I started to notice ice accumulating on my handlebars, light, and shifters. Things were getting a little crazy. The roads in the residential area I rode through were pretty poor, although once I got closer to campus, things improved. However, after riding on a small path there and ending up on a road where most cars can’t go, things got really sketchy again. A lack of traffic meant that ice was forming on the surface of the road, and I didn’t even realize how slick it was until I approached a stop sign. I braked carefully, but still my rear brake started sliding out to the side. I feathered my brakes but it happened again. Ultimately I needed to stop so I continued feathering my brakes. My rear wheel slid out from under me and I had no choice but to lay the bike down. I was only going probably 7 mph or so at the time so I just laid down the bike and slid a few feet myself. Then I stood up (which I could barely do, due to the ice), got back on the bike, and kept moving.

The rest of the roads weren’t too bad but I was getting a thick layer of ice on my shifters and now even my jacket was accumulating ice. My movements resulted in crackling sounds from the ice breaking. My glasses had water and ice on them. Fortunately I didn’t have far to go and the road conditions improved. I never thought I’d be that happy to see snowy slush. That stuff can be nasty, but it’s nothing compared to the frozen surfaces I was dealing with.

Our parking lot at work was just ridiculous, more snow with a layer of ice on top of it. I could barely even walk on this surface. I’ve found I actually do better on surfaces like this one on the bike. I guess I need some knobby shoes. For times like this I wish I had studded tires, but there’s no way I could justify the expense, given how infrequently I’d need them.

It was crazy how much ice was all over my bicycle and my jacket by this point. I wish I could have gotten some pictures, but I needed to get to work. I’m hoping conditions will improve by the time I go home, because that was insane. But I’m sort of convinced it’s safer than driving in some ways at least, and once again, I had FUN riding to work in this stuff.

Birthday recap

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Wow. I think someone messed up my request for snow on my birthday. We got a little bit of that yesterday, but on my way home I was pelted with sleet. Thousands of tiny icicles assaulted me from above, each hitting my face at high velocity, like a constant stream of pins being stuck in my face. The roads were a mixed bag; some were clear, some had varying mixtures of snow, slush, and sleet covering them. Traction wasn’t bad but I would’ve been screwed without my knobby tires. I took a few photos on my way home when conditions allowed.

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College Avenue stoplight

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Art museum

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Theater

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Dear Tioga, GT, Kool Stop, and SKS: how about some sponsorship?

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7th Street

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Shimano: ditto on the sponsorship.

The bike path was treacherous as usual and the roads near my apartment were pretty bad, too. I got home and got the mail, finding the Pink Floyd jersey I won in Noah’s contest in my mailbox. Fortuitous timing, having that arrive on my birthday. Thanks, Noah!

I decided that what I needed most at this point wasn’t to sit in my nice warm apartment — it was beer. And I’d get it on my bicycle, of course. I rode to the nearest liquor store, which is about a mile away. Conditions were getting worse and I started feeling some of my mountain biking skills coming into play as I rode through snow/slush drifts*, shifted my weight back to let my front wheel roll over anything in my way, and felt fairly comfortable with the fact that my tires were drifting beneath me. I probably stayed under 10 mph most of the way — but who knew 10 mph could be so exhilarating?
* Yes, apparently slush can drift. I didn’t think so either, but I saw it with my own eyes.

I got a six-pack of Bad Elmer’s Porter from my favorite local brewery, Upland. I wasn’t sure if this was the best way to go, because I intended to go have dinner at the brewery and if I did I’d get plenty of Upland beer then. But the conditions being what they were, I figured I ought to have some on hand anyway.

The cashier commented, “You’re a braver man than I” for riding in those conditions. I pointed out that I got home before my coworkers finished scraping the ice off their cars. I forgot to mention that I had fun doing it, too. He said he rides to work sometimes when the weather is better. Excellent.

My ride home featured more tire slippage but otherwise was pretty good. I am really impressed with how well my old mountain bike fares in conditions like these, even without studded tires.

I got home and opened the package from Noah. I was pleasantly surprised, the Pink Floyd jersey looked nice on his blog, but the photos don’t really do it justice. It’s a nice-looking jersey. And since I only had two short-sleeved jerseys before now, I am especially appreciative. This one is cool because it looks more like a normal shirt — it’s got a relatively loose fit for a jersey and the design doesn’t scream “I’m a cyclist!”

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Birthday goodies: Pink Floyd jersey and some nice dark beer. Score!

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The jersey fits pretty well. Side note: I have a lot of reflective items in my dining room.

Sarah had a late class that’s not scheduled to get out until 8:30. They got out at 8, so I picked her up and we went to Upland for dinner. The roads were not in great shape, but drivable. I was cursing at a cop car who stopped right in front of me at the bottom of a hill for no apparent reason, then decided to turn. I wanted to use momentum to get up the hill, and I still made it, but not without spinning my tires a bit.

We had a great dinner with poor service at Upland (as always), and drank a couple of beers. I had a nut brown ale with dinner, which is decent, but the highlight was their chocolate stout, which makes for an excellent dessert.

After we got home, Sarah gave me my birthday gifts. They are uber cool. She got me a titanium backpacking cook set and a tiny alcohol stove, along with some freeze-dried food to go with them, and a bottle of stuff to waterproof maps — continuing the recent theme of touring items as gifts. This theme rocks, since I really want to do some S24O trips and touring, and you need a fair amount of gear to do those things. Oh, and she also got me a gift certificate for Rivendell — cleverly, the amount is listed in “Rivendollars.” Sarah apologized for giving me practical items as she said they’re “not very exciting.” But I don’t think she quite realizes just how exciting a stove smaller than a hockey puck is, or how great that titanium cookware will be. Before long I’ll be able to carry everything I need on a bicycle, and that is exciting.

More snow? And, photos from yesterday

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

My ride home last night was fun, the snow didn’t melt and the roads were clear, but I had fun riding in the snow on the bike path. In fact, I tacked on a little extra distance, following the bike path to where it ends and then coming back to go where I needed to go. There was a little ice, but mostly it was just nice crunchy snow.

The same was true this morning. I woke up to find it was 12 degrees outside. I showered and got ready, bundling up. By the time I got to work, I was quite warm. When I reached my desk, I saw that the temperature had reached a whopping 17 degrees. No wonder I was warm! They’re predicting more snow today and a “wintry mix” tonight, so maybe things will get interesting. By the way, I turn 28 years old today. I’m hoping for snow for my birthday.

As promised, here are some photos from my commute yesterday.

Handlebars
Handlebars, taken while stopped at the drive-up mailbox to return some Netflix movies.

Weird door
Weird door. I had never noticed this before.

7th Street
7th St.

Riding on 7th Street
The only real hill on my commute, long, but gradual.

My bicycle, in the storage room
My bicycle in the storage room

Sunset over the bike path
Sunset over the bike path

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