Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The forecast has been all over the board starting yesterday morning when they began to prophecy the coming storm. Everywhere I went people were huddled into small groups talking about how bad it was going to get:
“It’s supposed to be the worst since 1912.”
“I was just at WalMart and ALL the milk and bread is gone!”
“I heard we’re supposed to get 20 inches and have 5 foot drifts!”
“It’s going to be completely amazing!” (Okay, this one was actually me but I felt like the quotes needed some balance.)
In my Bike to Work Everyday for a Year Challenge, we didn’t have a blizzard. The last time the weather was really bad in the winter, I was recovering from the nose surgery after getting hit by that car and I didn’t get to ride in the peak winter storm. I was not about to miss this chance. I watched the forecasts and prepared the bike and hoped we got a blizzard to rival the conditions on the planet Hoth!
I was not disappointed and the snow fell hard! To make things a little easier on me, I chose to ride the Urban Snow Commuter Assault Vehicle.
When I'm on my road bikes, I like to be practically laying down for aerodynamics. I am way more upright on snow bike which gives me better visibility and awareness. It has wide handlebars for better stability. It has the fattest low pressure tires I can fit on the frame to make it sail over the snow and ice easier and, of course, the DIY studded tire up front. Extra lights are mounted to make me even more visible to the lazy wimps who can’t be bothered with the time to scrape their windows properly. They would rather risk killing someone than getting their tiny delicate fingers cold. /end soapbox rant.
I won’t say it’s easy. It’s a lot like trying to ride through really deep soft mud, if you have ever done that. I would liken the pedaling in deep snow to being in the hardest gear your bike has and never being able to get it spinning easily. It took constant quad burning pressure in my lowest gear to keep the bike rolling through the snow. When traveling through ruts and snow plow deposits, the front wheel would hop around and suddenly turn in different directions and it took some focus to keep myself upright. The most difficult portion was riding a long steady uphill grade into the north wind which is blowing 15-20 and gusting 40. After I was able to turn crosswind, I had a much easier time. It probably wouldn’t have been quite as hard had I not done a 15 mile run on Sunday followed on Monday by 16 miles on the bike and then another 5 mile run. But I wasn’t going to let tired legs make me miss my chance for riding a bike in a blizzard though.
This also isn't my first blizzard in life. There were numerous ones in Minnesota growing up. I once walked to my work at a gas station in a real doozy. I had to bust through snow drifts that were shoulder height. The point being, I have a lot of life experience in very cold weather and plan accordingly. I have played in the snow in sub zero temperatures as a child and I know and can recognize the signs of frost bite and hypothermia. I would not recommend you take up bike commuting in blizzard like conditions without a little life experience and training. Having the proper gear is always very helpful as well.
I had been wishing the whole way in that I had some pictures of the morning when about half a mile from the office, I see a car parked on the side of the road. I then notice a guy in the middle of my lane with a huge camera pointed at me taking pictures. As I approached him, he said he was with the Springfield Newsleader. I have been asked questions by reporters a few times and it always makes me stumble and say something goofy. My sister in-law, Amy Davis, once did a tandem skydive with me. There happened to be a Newsleader reporter on the ground that day. As soon as her feet hit the ground, the reporter was there with a recorder in her face asking how it had been. We still laugh about what she said. They placed a picture of Amy and me in freefall on the cover of the Weekend section in the paper with her first quote boldly across the top, “Insanely Awesome!” In a very similar manner, with cheeks cold and stiff from a completely frozen beard, I answered the reporter this morning with, “It was totally AWESOME!” Fortunately, he didn’t publish my exact quote but he did put up a few pictures and offered a summary of our conversation. He took like 20, I’m not sure why he chose the one with both eyes closed and me looking half drunk.
“Sleet and snow slowed but did not stop morning commuters. Jim Phillips rides to work at Hammons Tower. He said the lack of traffic was great and if the snow gets too deep he will run home.”
Link to Newsleader Slide Show. I'm in pictures 15, 17 and 21.
You only get one shot at life. Your one shot is filled with opportunities to make the best of your time here but it is up to you to recognize those opportunities and make the most of them. I consider it like collecting experiences. The more you collect, the richer your life can be. Some experiences do not come along very often. You can wake up tomorrow and say, I wonder what it would be like to ride a bike in a blizzard? But the problem is blizzards don’t just come when you want them to. Sometimes extreme weather patterns happen once a century. What if there wasn’t another one like this in your lifetime? I never want to be that guy laying on his death bed wishing I had done and seen more with my life.
It rarely gets as bad as they say it will but if by chance they were all right, and we happen to get 20 inches of snow with negative wind chills tomorrow, its going to be insanely awesome!
Posted by Jim Phillips