I woke to the crunching sounds of feet on snow; my early-bird neighbors apparently made an unusual choice to leave their cars parked in favor of foot or bus. Welcome to Seattle where an inch of snow provokes panic. I must have been a bit nervous about the weather myself — crunching pedestrian parades wouldn’t normally drag a morning hater like myself out of a sound sleep a full 40 minutes early.
I’ll admit, I considered the bus option. I even checked the schedule, but just like last year Metro let me down. Instead of actually providing snow route schedules or updates, they ask riders for patience. Patience? How hard is to for drivers to report they are switching to their snow schedule then having someone flick toggle a check box in a CMS or better yet, to program the snow routes into their bus tracker app. This, of course, is merely an empty rant. Metro’s issues are not mine. No, I am a captive of last night’s dumb-ass vow:
“Tomorrow I ride”
I mean, what the hell was I thinking and why did I feel the need to record it here?
So, I take a closer look outside. Lots of chopped up ice and re-frozen snow. But, the sun is out, it’s looking like a bluebird day, and optimistically I (uncharacteristically) figure the melt out will commence about the time I eat, shower, gear up and roll.
I was wrong.
First clue? The garage door is frozen shut. Second clue? Rime ice has coated the gate latch. I wail on it a few times before it releases to set me on my slippery way. I hold my pace to about 6 mph as I descend to the Burke-Gilman. Surely, once I get off the road (that these automotive beasts must have somehow wrecked with their studded tires, SUVs and hot exhaust), the trail will be OK
I was wrong.
If anything it’s worse than the road. Frozen. Thawed. Rutted. Chunky. Icy. Approaching and passing the UW I have the trail to myself — maybe a smattering of walkers and one rider. As I make my way toward Gas Works the pedestrian traffic increases significantly. Trail hogging walkers take another dimension when a quick maneuver will dump you on your ass.
I see more cyclists, but oddly they are walking. Passing Dunn Lumber I realize why: This part of the trail — the most windblown and painful last night — had shed most of the crunchy, re-frozen snow and now sagged under scary black ice.
Still, wheels, at least long-wheelbase Xtracycle wheels, seem better than feet. My only real close call comes at 34th and Stone Way where I make the prudent choice to leave the trail and cross on foot at the light.
On 34th I continue North to the Fremont Bridge. Things are looking up. The going here is easy, and once I make up my mind to take the lane, I find it trivial to keep up with traffic. Southbound is a different story. Lines of autos, piloted by warm but nervous drivers, creep along.
I am not one of them .
Treacherous conditions forgotten, I take a moment to drink in the beautiful day. The city glistens. Tugs ply the flat water. Even a very long bridge opening doesn’t dampen my spirits; instead, I sneak a photo.
The ride home is a non-story. Cool, quick and packed full of post-work decompressive goodness.
Tomorrow, I ride.
Indeed, the evolution of this type of road condition does tend to present the hardy rider with a conundrum: the trails are never sanded or plowed, so they’re loads of fun to ride when the snow is fresh, but as more riders and walkers churn things up and the ruts and footprints thaw and refreeze, they become progressively more impassable. The same holds true for many sidewalks – sidewalks next to plowed streets can be even worse, as the chunky wake of the plow gets strewn over the sidewalk, and no effort is made to clear it for walkers (why would anyone walk?). By contrast, the streets get cleared to some extent by cars driving over and packing, if not melting the snow, and we do now have some actual plows (unheard of in past years). In this situation, the admonition by vehicular cyclists to take the lane is enforced by the conditions, and the cars just have to deal with us. Keep a sharp eye on them, though. Also, it seems that I can’t say this enough these days: You will never regret getting a pair of studs. It is, of course, a pain to switch tires, but once you’re out on the ice, you’ll be glad, no, overjoyed that you did. Safety and fun – what’s not to love? Make them or buy them, but whatever you do, ride them.
Geez, don’t get crazy temping fate. Perhaps studded tires and a cheap set of extra wheels would be a good investment. Falling down on a path is one thing, doing it in traffic where someone behind you may not be able to stop is another…
I forgot to add that your photos are pretty. Well, not so much the middle one, but the others are. I really should stop and shoot more.
Hey Val — when are you going to blog? I’d rather read your comments than my posts any day!
For both of you… yep, I’m thinking about making some studded tires. Anne can skip a day of riding if it is too icy, but I’ve got to get to work. I have a spare pair of wheels that came with knobby tires and near limitless supply of sheet metal screws (my neighbor is a sheet metal dude). Of course, once I do, La Nina will flee and they’ll be resigned to the basement!
Oh, and thanks about the photos — I’m really trying to shoot more. And, I’m with you on the middle one. I didn’t want to wait around to get all artistic.
Easy access is key to the photos (for me). I’ve got the camera case (an old timbuk2 accessory pouch) velcro’d to the wald up front; I can grab it easily mid ride or at a quick stop. If it’s in the coat or in the sideloaders it doesn’t get used (or it gets dropped when fumbling in the jacket — that’s happened twice now!).