White Out

2 03 2011

With iced over windows obstructing my view of the outside world yesterday morning, I had to check a forecast to see what winter had in store for me next: Windchill -36, 2 inches of fresh snow plus drifts, and a headwind. Crap. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I threw some Boomtown Rats and Gnarls Barkley onto my ipod and began the process of layering all of my warmest clothes, while also wearing a favorite summer frock over my most form fitting merino sweater to try to remind me that I’ve almost made it through the winter.

I headed to the LRT station with Porta-Bike and found an overcrowded platform with the normally mute commuters all discussing how long they’d been waiting, how many trains had gone by the other way and speculating the cause of the delay. From the stories many of the commuters were telling, breakdowns have been pretty common this winter, and it turns out one of our city councilors also ended up in LRT limbo on this Monday. I decided to chance the wait, and after about 20 minutes a train arrived to a station full of cheering people.

Polar Porta Bike after the storm, in the white.

The other end of my commute was more daunting yet. Snow was falling and blowing horizontally, stinging my face, while the rapidly drifting snow obscured the plowed sidewalks and roads and the boundaries between them. It was all I could do just to keep my head up. Whenever I looked down I became disoriented by the featureless white expanse, and the whole time snow and ice were freezing onto my eyelashes, causing them to droop and stick to each other. This was becoming some sort of extreme cold weather exercise in sensory deprivation, and sensory deprivation and traffic don’t mix. As I became more and more removed from the blizzardy white reality, my brain started to fill the sensory void with speculative dreams of a distant icy past.

Humans have been living in climates such as these and worse long before the advent of cars and central heating and all the technologies we couldn’t imagine surviving here without. For a moment, the snow obliterates all the post industrial structure, and offers a glimpse of my ancestors who survived treks into the prairie winter with only heat generated by their muscles and shear determination not to stop. In comparison, I’ve got it easy, with my fleece and toe warmers and warm destination, and I am, after all riding the most efficient form of transportation humans have ever created. I wonder how many drivers thought me crazy as they passed, and wonder how many of them also had ancestors who survived brutal winters. As a whole, I think humanity is a lot tougher than we give ourselves credit for, and I wonder if the physical perseverance that allowed us to spread to nearly every corner of this planet over the millenia is still relevant in modern times.

A quick panda in the bitter post-storm sunshine, on a rare patch of cleared pavement.

By the time I rode home, the sun was peeking through, and I was rewarded for my morning toil with a strong tailwind all the way home.

Windchill + tailwind = WIN!

It’s going to be cold all week, with no end in sight (though warming up enough for me to safely say I’ve had my last train ride of the week)…spring so close, but yet so far…




One response

2 03 2011

Yes, we are tougher than we usually account for. I think it’s easier to forget this in an urban environment. I remember a few years ago overhearing one of my bosses commenting that he didn’t think he would be able make it through the winter if he didn’t have the heated seats in his SUV. Somewhere his ancestors are rolling their eyes.

Also, YAY!! Tailwinds!

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