Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In Which I Visit Slick & Icy Places

Sun setting at Noelridge Park.

Ten degrees this morning—it was a bit warmer than Monday, when last I bicycled. Tuesday, there was a slight dusting of new snow on the ground, plus a wind chill of 20 degrees below. So I drove then, but rode today.

It was grey and cool in the morning, but not bad. I was ready to head home at about 4. The cloudy morning had turned into a warmer afternoon, still below freezing, but warm compared to recent days.

So, I decided to take the longer bike trail route home. The city has done a decent job clearing the trail of snow—unlike in past snowfalls, even the places where the trail crosses streets are clear. I had a fairly pleasant, scenic ride. There were a few joggers on the Cedar River Trail, but for the most part I was alone in the fading, pink light of day. On McLeon Run, a group of ducks (what is a group of ducks called?) was swimming in the still open water.

Dry Creek behind my house is mostly frozen over, but McLeon Run is still running, With ducks.

To get home from the trail, I took the route that leads to the St. Pius X neighborhood, in which I cross Noelridge Park via its northern sidewalk. While the sidewalk has been fairly well cleared, the park is where I ran into trouble.

I took some pictures of the park’s creek, where the city is installing some native vegetation—but just east of the creek, there had been some thawing and refreezing after the sidewalk had been cleared. A sort of shallow pond had formed, and but froze over the sidewalk, and I rode across it.

Francis on the bridge at the park--shot this before the near death experiences.

That was a mistake. There is an icy spot on the sidewalk of C Avenue that I walk each morning, and I should have done that here. As I rode on this icy sidewalk, my bike gave a sudden lurch—it lost traction and slipped.

Well, blog fans, I’ve hurt myself that way before, and I have vowed never to again ride a bicycle on ice. I guess the pond was so small, and I just wanted to get home.

The potential tale of broken tailbones has a happy ending, however. The slip did not lead to fall. I crossed the ice intact, if a bit shaken, and paused to make an image of the tracks made by my snowy transit.

See my tracks? They are  the set on the left leading directly cross that ice. Silly me.

Then, behind the middle school whose grounds I cross on this route, there is a sidewalk that has not been cleared at all in recent snows. I wasn’t foolish enough to even try biking there, I simply walked my bike. I walked it very slowly. Actually, I sort of slid my feet and kept a grip on Francis, who kept trying to slide away to the right and tumble. I honestly think I came closer to a banged up knee walking across that slick layer of snow topped by ice than I did when riding on the ice of Noelridge Park, and I was glad I was wearing rubber snow boots rather than my usual biking shoes—I had donned them for warmth, but I appreciated the extra traction. Again, despite potentially offending the Angry Demons of Winter Falling, I successfully negotiated the icy walk with only hypothetical, imaginary falls.

The imaginary falls terrified me, to be honest.

Creeks seem to be the theme of this post. This one is just east of the middle school. I'm pausing on a bridge, screwing my courage up for the slide across the rest of the tundra, because, below, you can see what my route looked like. I slid my booted feet across that landscape, hanging on to an unstable bike that just want to lie down. We both made it, but holey moley it was exciting.

Ninety-five percent of the ride was quite pleasant, on bare pavement through quiet, pretty winter scenery. The other 5 percent convinced me, however, that—until the spring thaw—I won’t be taking the middle school-Noelridge Park route to the Cedar River Trail.

There are other ways to get there that won’t involve crossing school grounds or parks on frozen ponds. It might be a few days before I try one of those routes—I probably won’t have time for a trail ride Thursday, although it’s pretty likely I will be riding my bike. Friday the weather gets dicey—and if I did have one lesson reinforced by today’s exciting frozen water adventures, it’s don’t mess with ice.

Message heard, Mother Nature, message heard.

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