Tuesday, December 13, 2016

In Which Big Clompy Boots Won’t Save Biking

Photo from a cold day last week, Friday, I think. These boots are made for biking, and that's just what they'll do--but last week, not this week.

So far, this week of December is a complete biking bust. Arctic air has arrived in Iowa, with subzero lows expected.

That’s a level of cold that’s iffy for me as a biker, but not beyond question. If the wind forecast is calm enough, I might bundle up and hit the road at a few degrees below zero (and European friends, we are talking Fahrenheit, not Centigrade. Zero Centigrade is almost sweatshirt weather). After all, I have the winter biker’s secret weapon: Big, clompy winter boots.

Thursday of last week, arriving home as afternoon fades early to night. We are in the dark weeks of winter in Iowa. Me on C Avenue bridge--I don't look it, but I'm fairly warm in a air temperature of about 10 degrees (not wimpy Centigrade degrees either.)  
I wore them last week while biking, which was also a cold week, although not quite this cold. We had a bit of snow the weekend before last, but after streets were plowed Sunday and sunshine ruled Monday. By Tuesday I was able to ride to work wearing my big, clompy boots.

Winter riding requires long, insulated underwear, multiple socks and shirts, a headband under a hood under my helmet and warm mittens. A coat, and often, a scarf, are also part of the kit. The clompy boots, made for stomping around in the snow, feel very awkward to wear while riding a bicycle—but they have the huge advantage of being insulated, which is important for winter rides.

So, for most of last week, including Saturday morning when I had a Santa gig on campus, I rode. The return ride home on Saturday was with snow falling, but luckily it was early in the storm and the pavement was not yet slick.

Not sure of date of photo--very early in December before first snow. Early morning light a biker sees at MMU.

Lindale Trail, again, before the first snow. Stark beauty of bare trees in brown time of year.

Winter sunrise after first snow at C Avenue pond. This has to be Tuesday or so of last week--later in the week, the pond had frozen over.

Last week--ice forming on Dry Creek.
But this week, although there has been some sun, the air is so cold that the quiet streets of Cedar Rapids, never well plowed (or plowed at all) are a slick mess. It’s not the cold that usually keeps me from riding in winter—it’s the slick. I need a few warm, sunny days to clear the pavement off those unplowed side streets.

It does not look like I will get them before the semester ends. Oh well. Here’ hoping that future snows will be followed by enough sun to melt or sublimate the icy stuff on the quiet streets. I’m itching to ride again, even in my big winter boots.

Photo from Monday of this week--air temperature in upper teens Fahrenheit. Note edge of snow--even weak winter sun will melt snow on pavement, if the pavement is mostly clear. That's why is such a problem that side streets don't get scraped--even if not all of the snow were plowed off, a partly plowed street will become clear even in sub freezing temperatures, but even half an inch of snow won't melt. Blow--lawn at MMU, where no snow melted this week.

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