Thursday, April 09, 2015

How cold was it?

You know it's a cold morning when you put a lunch-size container of leftovers from the freezer into your bike bag well before departure -- so you don't forget them-- and they're still frozen when you get to work after an hour on the road.

That was yesterday, when I took a gamble and squeezed in a bike commute ahead of an approaching snow storm. Started the morning ride at 26 degrees. Hardly the bitterest cold, but pretty unwelcome this far into April. The sun was out for a few hours before hazy cirrostratus whited it out. The day never felt mild.

With uncertain weather and the morning chill, I wore liner socks and cut off a couple of bread bags to use as toe covers under my outer socks. Toe covers are great, but the fancy neoprene ones shred in no time, just from unavoidable bits of walking.

For shoes I went with uncleated touring shoes in case the evening snow forced me down en route. When the roadside may be a snow bank or a mud pit, I will sometimes walk the bike to a better site or all the way home if I get a flat. And with a chance of slippery conditions anyway, I wanted to have slightly better traction than cleated shoes provide.

The rest of my clothing was standard winter ensemble. Several fuzzy layers seem to work better for me than lighter insulation with a shell jacket. With the threat of cold rain and snow I brought the shell in my pack. If the evening leg turned into a survival hike I wanted the comfort.

The radar looked ominous from about 3 p.m. A churning blob of precipitation looked like it was already on top of us. The overcast grew thicker, the afternoon darker, but nothing fell from those clouds. Nothing that reached the ground, anyway.

With the cellist working out of state, I have no one to call if I get caught out on one of these foolish ventures. At quitting time I sprinted out into the gray afternoon, hoping I could at least get most of the way home before the weather got me.

Here I was, on about my fourth outdoor ride of the year, trying to crank up the average speed while the power of nature waved its giant hand idly over me, deciding whether to give me that dope slap. My best speed was pretty pathetic. But hey, if it's your best you can't do any better. Keep pushing.

The raw chill dug into me. The temperature was above freezing, though not by a lot. Fifty-four degrees in my basement felt like a big improvement over 34 degrees on the road.

Not a speck of moisture had hit me on the ride. The snow didn't start until at least two hours after I got home. A heavy three inches covered everything this morning. And it's hung around. We made it to about 37 degrees for most of the day, with heavy clouds to hold back the spring sun. The snow isn't deep, but the cover is complete. Snow drizzle -- or, "snizzle" -- fell throughout the day and into this evening. Weird stuff, it melts on contact, even contact with the snow that fell last night.

Change moves in tomorrow. It could even be The Big Change, that ushers in the real shift to the warm season. Or we could flip back and forth a few times. One never knows. I need it to warm up because I've just about run out of things I'm willing to burn to keep warm. I've got about a dozen pieces of hardwood. The standing dead stuff I scavenge to fill in is pretty wet. I bought this big honkin' saw
so I could cut bigger snags and cut stove lengths faster, but the bigger snags turn out to soak up a lot of water while they're standing there. The little 3- and 2-inch stuff ends up working better.  The big saw will still come in handy to clear away blowdowns. The chain saw works fast, but it's complicated. It's heavy, bulky and oily, not to mention noisy and wicked dangerous. Put on the chaps, the helmet, the boots. How old is the fuel? At the moment I know the fuel is ancient. I've managed to avoid chainsawing for several years. So that all needs to be changed, and disposed of properly.

The less internal combustion the better.

No comments: