Last night I had a dream that I took plastic shopping bags and taped them to the front of my shoe covers. Sometimes I don’t trust my psychic self as much as I should.
Got everything packed into the car an hour early and decided not to wait to start heading back. The weather called for a nice tailwind that would be bringing clouds, followed by snow, followed by rain. Seemed like a good thing to beat back to the city. Being 5 degrees colder than the trip out I added another base layer, taller and thicker smartwool socks and my goretex windproof outer gloves to the mix.
Encountered my first problem before leaving the driveway: My trusty Garmin kept freezing at 80% calculated for my route home. Odd, I thought. Will have to give it a kick on the road if it can’t finish before I get lost. I roll out and down the 20% grade that is miller road. This is one of those roads that is broken up by three little flat sections of about 20 meters in length to give you, your car or your brakes a break so you don’t have to do the whole thing in a go. The pavement is dry so I let go of the brakes and let gravity give me a good, long tug and use the flat sections for that carnival-ride-like change in gravity.
About two miles in the Garmin isn’t working it out so I have it try again. Same result. I restart the device. Same result. Judging from the % it must be getting hung up trying to get me over the Hudson river, for which there really is only one option: The George Washington Bridge. Not sure why this thing has forgotten the bridge is there, or maybe it knows something that I don’t. Fine. Plan B: Take me to Fort Lee, NJ. I should be able to find my way to the bridge from there. Calculation is up in a flash and it immediately attempts to send me on a death march down Rte 17, which is a highway. Which I’ve got the Garmin set to *never* send me down.
Since I had route re-calculation on I began the dance of my picking a reasonable parallel-ish road to Rte 17 and have the Garmin re-route until we’re past the point where it wants me there. I do pretty well for a few towns until I get stuck in culdesac hell. I’d been following the compass and figured I was far enough south so I backtrack far enough to make a break across the highway via an overpass and continue southeast.
With my 6 top layers on temperature regulation is about perfect for the weather. The snow begins to fall. Hmm, this is a familiar sight…
Suburbs give way to the poorer working class towns and wet roads. A glance at my clean bottom bracket and front derailleur suggest that my RoadRacer 2 fenders are “working” even though they are missing a part due to my having to cut them to fit under my low-clearance brake calipers. I placed “working” in quotes as the space between my fenders and my tires is probably too tight to consider them fully functional. I don’t have an exact measurement but I would estimate that I’m working with slightly less than a grain of sand. Since there is a lot of sand on the roads the fenders make a lot of noise!
When riding on wet roads flats are always in the back of your mind. I am carrying two spare tubes and the hope is that I will need 0 of them.
After all of these years using a Garmin I’ve finally figured out how to check the map without having it pause my view, causing me to lose my little blue arrow. A quick flick of the finger and I see that Fort Lee is a town away! I begin the climb out of the valley which is slow and wet. The snowflakes are now the size of nickels. I eat a few.
I stop at a red light at the top of the hill and do a quick visual inventory. Something is missing: my front fender! I wonder where that went. I pull over in a sheltered bus stop, remove the support bars so they don’t get caught in my spokes and toss them in the trash. I curse my luck after having worked to prepare for exactly this weather and give the pedals a couple of good turns.
Fort Lee is a cute little town with an old-timey main street lined with little shops and lamp posts. It is possible that the snow gave it a little more quaintness than was deserved. Guess we’ll find out later. I can still see the pavement at this point and everything is still feeling good. I haven’t even had to eat my clif bar yet.
The George Washington bridge finally exposes me to the wind that had been my ally up to this point. It is ripping through the bridge from the north and there is a coating of snow on the bike path. I get into the drops to reduce the sail-effect and to get my center of gravity closer to the ground should a gust set me down and try to blow me off the edge. My tires manage to hold tight but it definitely felt like they were on the edge the entire time.
The temperature is noticeably a few degrees warmer in the city and the roads are a thick, soft slush or thick, wet water. I start spinning trying to balance these three things:
- Keep core temperature right
- Make good time
- Don’t cause too much splashing
Without my fender the water is ricocheting off of my bike’s big down tube and turning to slush as it spritzes onto my shoe covers. A visible layer is forming. Since these are not waterproof I know my time is limited before my feet turn into literal ice cubes. Luckily I am in the home stretch and only 20 minutes from home.
It is easy to “know” your fortune: of having hot water for a bath, of living in a place where food is plentiful and prepared with passion and creativity. You can meditate on this and gain a greater perspective but your body has to be taken far out of its comfort zone to really FEEL it. After I got myself back inside and peeled the three layers off my feet I realized that they must have been chilled so gradually that I didn’t notice how far gone they were. My toes are dark pink and while moving, they are doing so only very slowly. I bring them into the bath tub for a nice warm soak, gradually raising the temperature until there is no pain at my normally preferred temperature.
Since the rest of my family got stranded in NJ by the storm I have the night off. I put on the only sweater in the house that wasn’t packed for the trip and stroll down to my favorite Italian restaurant for some pasta and a glass of chianti. The food is delectable and the combination of the workout, the warm-up bath and the single-minded attention that I can give everything without having to keep tabs on a frenetic 3 year old has put me in a really zen place.