Warm Winter Sun

21 02 2010

Chillin' in the winter sun.

During the depths of winter, clear sunny days can be some of the coldest. This week, I could finally feel some warmth from the sun. Realistically, it’s still two months until clear spring riding, and it’ll get a lot colder before it gets any warmer, but I sure appreciate the brief reprieve.

Sundown on E-town, and the melting ceases.

Return to the Valley

19 02 2010

Hills and ice are a combination I try to avoid at all costs, and as a result, I very rarely ride through the river valley in the winter, even though in the summer I credit my regular river valley detours for maintaining my sanity. This week it was warm enough, light enough and not quite melted-and-refrozen enough to tempt me to head down the hill into the river valley wilds. The bike paths were mostly snow covered, and the only icy patches were in the few places that caught the full day’s sun and the brutally glazed wooden pedestrian bridges.

The snow packed trails that snaked down near the river were a perfect match for my studded tire, and felt more forgiving than their loose gravel covered summer counterparts. There’s a place I often go in the summer after a long day in the sweatshop that I call “Secret Beach.” I decided to check out but found it was fairly nondescript underneath 2 feet of snow.

I left Ol' Nelli up the hill above Secret Beach.

View across the river from Secret Beach. Note the set of tracks that go out onto the river but don't come back. I hope they made it to the other side.

This tree is huge by E-ville standards. And everything does look this blue around dusk in the winter at this latitude.

As the trail follows the river around the bend, it becomes steeper and more exposed (hence, icy). This part of the trail was closed last summer “due to erosion,” and I don’t think it was ever officially reopened (I suspect it was random citizens who removed the signs). I won’t lie here, even on the driest summer days parts of this path genuinely scare me. But the giant trees, lush micro-climate, exciting twists and turns, lack of people and the exhilarating ride along the side of a crumbling cliff are so worth it.  I remember bringing a group of friends riding here a couple of summers ago, and some of them still talk about the time they nearly fell off a cliff into the river…

To the left, a 30 foot drop onto the river bed.

This is where I face my fear. My brain knows that my studded tires have far more traction than my cheap boots, but my body would not budge. It didn’t help that I stopped to take pictures, therefore negating any forward momentum, and allowing more time for fear to build. My brain eventually won this battle, and I cycled up the cliff as I had dozens of times before in fairer weather and on fairer bikes.

I’ve been getting over a cold this week, and am still wheezing and coughing a lot, so I wasn’t really feeling like taking a big hill to get out of the valley. The solution: the Edmonton, Yukon & Pacific Railroad, now known as the trail down Mill Creek Ravine. I could chugga chugga outta the valley on a grade so gentle it doesn’t feel like riding uphill on a shady, and thus snowy not icy, trail, and *only* end up riding an extra 40 blocks out of my way. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The ravine darkened eerily, and by the time I rode under Whyte Ave, I could feel a fine precipitation in the air but couldn’t tell in the darkness if it was rain, sleet, snow or just fog.

The camera flash illuminates the precipitation but does not help with the liquid/solid question.

The combination of mystery precipitation and the last traces of daylight create a moody air. This photo was taken in the same spot as the photo above.

By the time I got out of the ravine, my bike and I were covered in a layer of fine white ice crystals. The fog was thick and inviting and made everything strangely beautiful, but I felt compelled to deal with more pressing matters, like food and rest for my still recovering body.

Streetlights highlight rare Edmonton fog.

Ding Dong Vision

12 02 2010

Sunshine, blue skies, a bike path and a concrete plant.

Finally the days are getting long enough that I can actually ride home in the sunshine! It looked like my reflection in the bell was doing a celebratory jig as I pedaled along.

By the way, you may notice the holes drilled through my bell. One perspective could call them speed holes for aerodynamic purposes. Another perspective could say that they were put there by the bell’s previous owner who thought it would be a good idea to mount his cycling computer to the bell, and then threw out the bell in disgust when it no longer rang properly. In that case they could be called “free” holes, cause it meant that I got this sweet, loud, musical bell for free. Unfortunately, the holes let in the weather and after 2 winters my bell is rusting prematurely from the inside.

Hit and Run and Snow Fun

3 02 2010

This blog is becoming “Coreen’s Crash Diaries.” I never intended that, but I don’t know what’s been going on lately, it’s been so crazy I hate to relate yet another tale of woe on the roads. Even my friends who’ve known me through the better part of  a decade of winter cycling are wondering what’s going on. As I started to recap the most recent events, an old friend of mine asked if I’d been having trouble with my balance and should I get my ears checked out? Truth is, if I had a balance issue, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

A burgundy pick-up truck struck me while I was riding down Jasper Ave on Monday. I was taking the lane, riding in the right hand tire rut, as the shoulders were slick with fresh snow. The truck in question first pulled up behind me at a red light, so there is no doubt that the driver saw me. After the light turned, I proceeded straight through the intersection, still taking the lane. The truck stayed behind me, revving its engine, for about half a block or so and then floored it, striking my shoulder hard with the rear view mirror and grazing my bike and the rest of my body. The pickup then sped away, recklessly weaving through all lanes of traffic. Conveniently, the truck’s license plate was completely obscured with road splatter and snow.

Thankfully, I somehow managed to stay upright and keep control of the bike, and keep my wits enough to steer to safety. As soon as I turned onto the bike path a couple blocks away, I stopped and had a little cry. I’ve had falls and accidents and have even had assholes in pickup trucks (why is it always the pickup trucks?) try to run me off the road, but this is the first time that someone has maliciously struck me with their vehicle. And for what? What message was that driver trying to send me that was worth an attempt on my life? What delay was I causing him that justified vehicular homicide? How twisted a psychopath must one be for that action to make sense?

But I survived, with a jarred sense of decency and an appetite for U-lock justice, still kicking, still riding, still determined to hold my own amongst the dinosaur burners with my sense of humour intact. So what better hit and run therapy than ridiculous snow biking?

Powder up to my hubs!

This lovely print, and copious giggling, result from falling sideways into powder up to my hubs.

A ride across the unplowed expanse of Borden park is nearly impossible right now. However, it’s also next to impossible to get hurt trying.