I Hope This is the Last Winter Post

3 04 2011

First day of spring in the great white north, the sky’s gray, the wind’s bitter, and great bodies of ice are thawed and smashed and rammed and frozen back together.

Water frozen, broken up, then refrozen.

Except this is actually the bike path.

Just when I thought it couldn't get worse...

There was water underneath the ice in places, and at one point my tire broke through, bringing me to an immediate halt as my tire, rim and spokes sank under the icy crust. I (oh so carefully) hopped off my bike to try to free it only to find that the water engulfing my wheel was quickly refreezing, trapping the bike in the ice. It took considerable pulling and yanking to free it.

As I was taking pictures, another fellow on a bike rolled up in the opposite direction. “This is ridiculous,” he said, “if I hadn’t seen you stopped here, I might’ve rode right into this and wiped out.”

A fellow winter cyclist on a challenging trail.

As the first cycles of freezing and thawing began, it was clear that winter wasn’t leaving quietly. But after such a long winter, I have just gotten into the mindset of pushing on, no matter what. I have commuted by bike every day this winter (though there were a few days I went partway with my bike on the train). Every day, 10km each way, every day, not even sick once, every day, through one of the worst winters in memory, my body and bike reliable transportation, every day.

With full on snow melt in the forecast, I decided it was time to make my final peace with this long winter, and packed up a few provisions for a late night river valley excursion.

Sassy hops in my bike bin, looking for a cure to cabin fever.

Which, of course, required utilization of the tube-oggan.

Another look at the tube-oggan, a sled made of a discarded coroplast sign and old bike tubes.

I rolled the full length of Mill Creek bike ninja style, the darkness obscuring how icy the path really was. But there was no one around, and as long as I didn’t need to brake I knew I could ride out of trouble, so I rode confidently. The toboggan hill was also abandoned, so I had it all to myself and didn’t have to worry about anyone wondering why a thirty something woman was tobogganing alone in the middle of the night. It’s a scary thing to do. What if I was injured and couldn’t move? Would it be the next day before anyone found me? As it turned out, the worst injury of the night came when a bungee cord flew into my face as I was trying to secure the sled to my bike. I never crashed once, either on the hill or the bike path.

A bike rack in mill creek, peeking out through 3 feet of packed snow.

Since then, my friends, the snow has finally started to melt (and pool up in my basement, in case you were wondering why I haven’t posted anything lately). Finally, spring is in the air. I even rode a bike without tire studs yesterday, for the first time since November. It’s going to be a while, yet, before the snow is gone, but I’m ready for the puddles and passion of a new season, so bring it on!

Non Sequitur Post Script: Where else but in Edmonton would the municipal government release a video promoting winter cycling in March?

Not bad. I’ll save the analysis for another day, but suffice to say it’s not exactly the video I’d make. I guess I’ve just set myself a project for next winter…



5 responses

3 04 2011

You are one of my favorite cycling ninja 🙂 Mad props to you for commuting so consistently. You should indeed make a winter cycling video!

4 04 2011

Your bravery this winter has been inspiring!

4 04 2011

I previously had the sewer pipe from my house to the city’s collapse and it was a expensive gross nightmare so I’m pretty paranoid about flooding. The amount of snow this year scared me into installing a backflow preventer in the floor drain of my basement. It was only $30 and the installation was essentially installing a really big bar end plug, it’s a nice little bit of peace of mind.

6 04 2011

Luckily, the water coming is ground runoff, not sewage backup. I live in a hundred year old house with a brick foundation that acts like a sieve for all the melting snow. I have a backflow preventer and a sump pump but the house has settled in a way that the sump pump doesn’t drain the whole basement, thus I must bail out my indoor wading pool every day. I have long learned not to keep anything valuable down there.

6 04 2011

How much of the bikeways are covered by ice? Is that the worst or best bikeway? Here in Very Northern Florida most of the bikeways are ice-free. The ice melted away in the last few days. The maintenance crews drove around in the ‘ice scraper’ machine, mechanically removing most of the ice in early March. The sun had less ice ( a few inches) to melt, and rain was the last straw.

The daily temperatures have been a few degrees above freezing, maybe a little below during the night. Not very different from Edmonton?

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