Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Snow … sort of

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Saturday’s forecast called for snow … up to an inch of accumulation. And snow did fall, but with temperatures hovering at or slightly above freezing, it melted on contact, for the most part. I set out for a ride in the snow, even if it wasn’t exactly the winter wonderland I had hoped for. The good thing about the warmer temperatures was that the roads, while wet, were for the most part clear of snow and ice. The snow was pleasant except that since it melted on contact, it was almost like riding in the rain. It was a dark, brooding, overcast day, and the snow added a hazy atmosphere.

I had something of a route planned, in familiar areas, but parts were questionable and had me exploring some new roads. Sometimes it surprises me when I look at a map of an area where I ride all the time and notice how many roads I have yet to explore. I hoped to find some new roads, without straying too far from my usual riding areas. Here’s a map.


View 2009-12-19 Lake Lemon exploration in a larger map

I started by taking State Road 45 to Mount Gilead Road, where I ride quite frequently. The road follows a rolling ridgetop before dropping sharply into a valley, crossing a creek, and climbing up the other side. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but wet snow was falling for most of the ride.

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Next, I took Tunnel Road, another road I ride on fairly often. Some of the fields had more snow along here. I did something different this time, I rode all the way down the big hill, to where it ends by Lake Lemon, at Riddle Point Park. I had only ridden down this way once or twice before, because the road dead ends there. Sort of.

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The lake was icier/snowier than I expected, and looked absolutely breathtaking.

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No one was to be found anywhere, and I enjoyed a few quiet moments by the lake. The snow was still coming down, and I was getting a bit wet from it. But I didn’t feel cold; my wool layers worked wonders. A few notes on gear in the photo below: a visor under my helmet helps keep the falling snow out of my glasses and eyes (the helmet visor is basically useless for this). The orange vest over my jacket probably wasn’t strictly necessary for warmth, but I felt it helped, from a visibility perspective. I also ran front and rear blinking lights.

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I turned onto my first new road of the day, and it turned out to be gravel. Not only that, the gravel was covered with snow. Very wet snow, which severely limited my traction. It was a beautiful and quiet back road that took me past some homes, skirted the edge of Lake Lemon, climbed higher for some views, and went through some wooded areas. I love discoveries like this. I got snow on my camera lens and didn’t realize it, but in some cases the effect is appealing.

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Soon, though, the road ended. I knew this might happen, but I didn’t expect it to happen quite where it did. My GPS gave me some idea where I wanted to be, so I tried to find a path there. I found a power line cut, and rode up it a little bit. But the ground was soft and muddy, and the hill was steep, so I walked up the rest of the way. I was worried I would hit a dead end, but instead, within about 1/4 mile, I reached gravel road.

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The gravel road was covered in snow. Now, I love riding in snow, so I was very happy to have found not one but *two* snowy gravel roads, on a day when I thought it was going to be too warm. The road didn’t last long — maybe a mile — but this remote, snow-covered gravel road made me smile.

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I was a little disappointed when I reached pavement. But, the riding was still great, and the scenery got a little more varied. And I still had the roads to myself.

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The road was flat for a little bit, but then climbed a very large, steep hill. One of the harder hills around (Miller Road). It was particularly hard on this day, given that the road was wet and slippery and my movements were generally slower.

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I turned onto something of a busier road (that means I saw a couple of cars, rather than none). I rode past the Butler Vineyards, up a small hill, through a neighborhood, and down a fairly large hill.

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I was now in a valley, and an unfamiliar one at that. I rolled past several farms and admired the hills looming over me. It was going to be a lot of fun to climb back out of the valley …

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After a couple of flat miles in the valley bottom, I reached the bottom of a huge hill. At this point, the road turned to gravel, went through (not over, through) a creek, and turned steeply upwards. Once again, the gravel surface was covered in icy wet snow. I rode through the creek, and as far up the hill as I could, but there just wasn’t much traction. I dismounted and pushed my bicycle about 1/4 mile up the slick, steep road. (For the locals, it turns out I was on Earl Young Road.)

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It would have been easy to get frustrated at this point, but I was really enjoying myself — even the pushing. It was just a great day to be out on a bicycle, even though it seemed like a terrible day to be out on a bicycle.

When I reached the top of the hill, it was flat for a bit. I crossed some railroad tracks and found myself back at State Road 45. Now I just had a few relatively easy miles of riding to get home.

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This was the only part of my ride with any noteworthy traffic. It wasn’t too bad, but some drivers were less than patient. I’m not sure if the weather put them on edge, or what. Somewhere along here, the snow picked up and I was getting pelted in the face for a while.

I arrived back at home, having ridden a mere 26 miles, but it felt like a lot more. Between the weather, the gravel, the snow, and the hills, I had to work for those miles. The ride took about 2 1/2 hours.

Perhaps surprisingly, I never felt cold during the ride. It wasn’t until I got home and started peeling layers that I got cold. But, once I was dry and had a hot cup of tea, I felt a lot better.

I’d say this ride was a resounding success. Riding in less-than-ideal conditions is always interesting, and I love discovering new roads that are just slightly off the beaten path.

7 Responses to “Snow … sort of”

  1. Chris Says:

    Excellent report. I always enjoy all the photos, but the one with the bike by the lake was especially delightful with the foreground color against the grey background.

    I guess you’ll be looking into studded tires pretty soon.

  2. Apertome Says:

    Thanks! I’m on the fence about studded tires — I’d love to have some, but I’m not sure I can justify the cost. Especially since I’ve ridden through one winter commuting on a daily basis without them, and quite a few snowy/icy recreational rides without them as well.

  3. Chandra Says:

    great post! especially loved the photos of the bike by the gates!! stay warm.
    peace 🙂

  4. Bill Lambert/Big Oak Bikes Says:

    It’s awesome how a crappy day can be a great day when you’re outside, whether on foot or on a bike (as long as you are reasonably dressed). I especially liked the black and white photo of the railroad tracks.

  5. David Crowell Says:

    Looks like it was a great ride. I need to get out on two wheels more often. I have some lovely terrain near home also.

  6. Tim Says:

    seems like a completely successful day. it sure must be great to ride that close to home and to find new gravel awaiting you.

  7. Dave Says:

    Wow. I’m so jealous. Great route! Can’t believe you found your way to Miller Road from Lake Lemon, quite frankly. Also, many of my morning pictures of the lake are almost identical to yours (but of lesser quality, obviously). The lake is beautiful in fog, especially “Cemetary Island”. One other note: one of my most harrowing moments on my motorcycle this summer came during a detour on 45, where they made everyone go up John Young road (like you did – through the creek, up the hill). It was eroded, had been a downpour, and the tracks were eroded about 10 inches. Made for a cool “motocross moment” spinning gravel up the hill.

    We’ll ride soon…
    d.

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