Sunday, January 4, 2009

Biking Through a Winter Wonderland

Does somebody out there bike in snow? I can’t remember ever trying it, even as a kid growing up in St. Louis, MO. I recall seeing some people doing it in Germany, but I’m unlikely to attempt it now that I’m an old lady with a little ball of metal for a hip joint.

In Missouri we kids mainly biked in summer. In winter we dreamed of sledding through a White Christmas. Every few years our dreams came true, and we had snow for Christmas. Sometime since I came to the Pacific Northwest about 2/3 of a life ago, I gave up dreaming of a White Christmas. Seattle didn’t know much about snow. Maybe once or twice a year some sloppy white globs flew around in the air never reaching the ground. Sometimes it did cover things with that wet gray slush they sacrilegiously dubbed “snow.” Usually by the end of the day, the street gutters were little streams and rain was coming down as usual.

As for me I long since gave up dreaming of a White Christmas where your gloomy mundane winter world is transformed into something mystically white and “scintillating from a million diamond points.” Why wish for something that isn’t going to happen? That’s the surest route to unhappiness. In fact I made up a song:
I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas
Just like the ones I always get
May your days be merry and yet
May all your Christmases be wet.
After all one advantage of rain over snow is that you can put on a layer of Gortex and off you go to do your Christmas shopping by bike.

But this year, the closest to my 70th birthday, Mother Nature gave me a surprise Christmas present. It was a White Christmas exceeding all my childhood dreams. It started snowing in Seattle around the middle of December, and we had snow enchantingly filling the air and mantling the earth until the day after Christmas. A few days before Christmas we went to Lopez Island which is one of the most beautiful places the human species ever inhabited. We walked around peering across shimmering silver inlets through screens of falling snow as this already gorgeous place converted to a world of unimaginable splendor with white garnishing forested islands and blanketing rolling fields. Later we went to our family cabin on Hood Canal, ate Christmas dinner and exchanged gifts while watching snow filling our meadow.

I can hear some of you scoffing, “Bah humbug! Snow’s a nuisance!

I have to admit there were a few minor inconveniences in addition to not being able to ride my bike. Seattle garbage trucks were grounded and trash blew all over the city. The transit system was paralyzed. My husband had to shovel our sidewalks several times and lie down in the snow to put tire chains on and off the car. I was a bit skittish about walking in the snow for fear of falling and throwing out my fake hip, but I used hiking poles and stayed unsteadily erect. I guess the hardest part was that on Lopez the pipes froze for a couple of days, so we had to melt snow for water and use imaginary toilets outside in Winter Wonderland. But I have always found inconvenience to be a side effect of adventure

After Christmas the gift melted like ice cream in August. It was refreshing to get out and safely run some errands on my little black Dahon. But guess what! White feathery looking stuff is falling thickly again outside my window. It’s at least covering the lawn and some of the tree branches if not the street. In the morning we’ll see if it’s really snow or just water running in the gutters.

Anticipate, however, my next blog which, if all goes as planned, will be about our upcoming tandem bike trip later this month in Florida. So much for White Christmases and Winter Wonderlands.

P.S. I would love to hear what you think of snow and whether or not you bike in it.


Kronda said...

I did bike in the snow. I tried to carry my girlfriend to a nearby coffee shop on the first big night of snow. I wanted to try out my new studded tires. Made it about halfway before kicking her off and walking. The studs are better on ice than new snow powder. But I had a great time trying. Tried the tires on ice a few days later and that went much better. Hope your new hip is treating you well.

Kronda said...

Oh yeah, I was going to give a picture link.

Char said...

Hi - I bike in the snow - but only in snow up to 3". After that it gets too "squirrely" to try and ride in. I have a mountain bike that I ride in the snow - and put studded tires on it last winter. It does good - though it's still a little bit of a balancing act. But the studded tires are almost like Velcro in keeping you upright. :) The first snowfall is always the best - the flakes coming down and you riding quietly through. Riding on a layer of snow is like riding on a soft blanket. Pretty cool! Neat you all got a lot of snow there - and glad you got out to enjoy it!

Jon said...

I not only ride in the snow (I commute by bike every day), but I enjoy it. I tire of the ice, after a few days, though. Studded tires keep you upright, but are heavy and slow.

Of course, slow is is not a bad idea in the snow.

feral boy, ethpana said...

I used to bike in the snow when i lived in the mountains. just like some of the other commenters mentioned, studded tires really help on ice, not so much with snow. Wide knobby tires are best for snow, but at some point it becomes so deep that it really wears you out. the balance thing comes, you just have to get a fell for it and ride a couple gears higher. i had a firend who i would go snow biking with on campus whenever we had deep snow. We'd ride on the deserted university campus and do ridiculous things that you'd never try without the snow cushion. so it's hard work but pretty fun. teh biggest danger BY FAR in traffic is not that you are likely to take a spill, but that a car will be out of control enough to hit you. I always thought that on heavy snow days there should be only emergency vehicles, handicap-stickered vehicles, bikers, walkers and skiers allowed on the road. i'll ask barack...