Whenever someone tells me that something basically trivial is "to die for," I am briefly tempted to make them do it. But the vapid assertion provides a take-off point for more substantive ones.
Here it is, the end of February in northern New England. Around my house and in the woods, the snow is anywhere from six to 24 inches deep, except in places where it is deeper because of windblown drifts or created piles. But these are the remains of the much deeper snow we received in two storms very close together just before the middle of the month. That was before the temperature went above 60 degrees for a couple of days, in the middle of a longer period when the nighttime lows hardly got below freezing. The jet stream giveth and the jet stream taketh away. That's not to mention the other factors making New England's typical gyrations even more bizarre.
The thaw has shriveled the snow away from the road edges, clearing the bikeable area. At the same time, it destroyed the groomed trails on which one might have laid down a winter rhythm of alternative training.
While I have not seen riders, some of them have reported to me that they have been out and have seen others out. Calls to the shop for bike tuneups began while the snowbanks still slumped into the lanes. Road salt made those puddles as briny as the ocean. But people fixate on the temperature alone. Warmth is the deciding factor, even when they'd be better served by cold.
We did need the thaw to shrink the snowbanks back. But once the whole travel surface is clear, a freeze keeps things dry. I know a couple of things from years of experience: first, someone who gets their annual tuneup now will need more work by May or June to deal with the effects of salt and wet grit; second, when the weather turns cold again -- and it will -- bikes brought in for early service will be forgotten until June. Most of them will be forgotten in our shop, where we will have to work around them until their owners feel the urge for them again.
Riding in the grit and brine is probably only a little more abusive than pounding on a trainer, with a rain of sweat flowing down over the machinery.
I surveyed the route on my way home from work yesterday. If the roads stay this clear, I have no excuse not to launch the commute as soon as Daylight Relocating Time kicks in. With that in mind, I headed out for some base miles on the fixed-gear today.
I used to dream of glorious endeavors when I trained, especially during the first heroic rides coming out of the winter. Now I dream of surviving and thriving in my commute. The commute was always there, but I took it for granted. It's not good to take anything for granted.
The weather may change again. March can be snowy. Once we pass the equinox, however, the sun really gains the advantage. Even now, it is much stronger than it was a month ago. It quickly attacks late-season snows. And if the pattern remains dry, or the wetness comes on warm air, the road will remain clear.
Freedom isn't free. To be free from the car, I have to be strong enough to claim it. It's to train for.