05 February 2009

It's (n)ice out....

Last Sunday was a great day, one that really set me up for the coming week and had me looking forward to the longer days of spring and the arrival of summer migrant birds. Monday morning soon brought me back to my senses! The snow was back, and this time it wasn’t just a dusting. All the side roads around home were covered with snow and the cycle paths even more so - I still managed to ride the bike to work but it was certainly challenging shall we say!

The snow continued during the day and come 5:30PM I really wasn’t too sure about risking the ride home. In the end I decided to give it a go and chose the less frequently used paths so that the risk of having to ride on compressed snow and ice was reduced. This worked out to be a good choice and I managed the journey of just over 3 miles in 22 minutes. The only problem was that the bike looked like it had been in a freezer for the past 12 months by the time I arrived home! There was ice everywhere!

Monday had been a challenge; Tuesday was a nightmare. The snow had stopped overnight but the temperature had dropped even further - I now had to contend with hard packed snow that had deep icy ruts in it or even worse, paths that had been cleared of snow but had now become nothing more than skating rinks! Leaving the bike at home would have been the clever choice but I’ve never really claimed to be that clever so I rode to work anyway.

Within the first half a mile of leaving home it became clear that riding on anything other than the roads would be impossible - too many icy ruts trying to pitch me over the side of the handle bars! - and even worse I had an unexpected mechanical failure on my normally reliable bike. Of the 21 gears I have on the bike just one was working. That one gear would have been great for riding up the side of a house but was just about useless for road riding - my legs were spinning like a hamster on it’s wheel but I was going nowhere! It was the slowest, and most embarrassing, bike ride I’ve ever done! Having to ride along main roads and a bus route only added to the shame of it all!

Having eventually arrived at work it didn’t take me long to work out just why the gears on the bike had failed so completely - all the change cables were frozen solid, as was the rear change mechanism. The deep snow of the previous evening had obviously gotten into even more places than I had thought. I had tried to dry everything down on Tuesday night but it wasn’t enough to beat the freeze. My lunch break at work was spent quickly stripping, cleaning, oiling and rebuilding all the affected parts. The ride home in the evening saw everything back in working order and it was only the icy paths I had trouble with.

Yesterday’s two rides were a lot easier on the bike and myself as the snow and ice were starting to disappear again. In the morning I stayed on the main roads to work and rode at speeds close to my normal pace. In the evening I managed to do my full cycle path route for the first time this week, again at close to my normal commuting speed. At last things were looking up again.

Yet more snow falls...

Opening the curtains this morning almost had me heading straight back to bed. The snow was thicker than ever! Not only were all the paths covered but now it was also the side roads and the main roads too - this was too much snow for even me to face riding in. It also proved to be too much for Lynda to risk driving in as well. Lynda left the car in the garage and caught a bus for most of her journey to work. Me being me, I decided I’d walk! Well, it’s only around 2½ miles if I take the shortest route so why not? The snow was still falling quite heavily as I set off but good walking boots and waterproofs meant that I was warm and dry. Thirty-five minutes later and I arrived at work.

Work is 2 miles or so in the distance.

Also available in white...

Now, I’m going to have a little moan... I watched a TV interview at lunchtime that featured a woman complaining about the lack of work that had been carried out to keep the roads free of snow and ice overnight. Her grievance was that she had had to spend over an hour driving her children to school this morning because of the road conditions, a journey that would normally take her around 5 minutes or so. Well, here’s a thing to consider Mrs! "TRY WALKING YOUR KIDS TO SCHOOL! If the journey is so short on a normal day it can’t be that far. Leave the car at home, get some exercise for you and your kids and stop adding to the congestion on the roads when you don’t need to!" Ah, I feel better for that!

This evening the snow had stopped falling and was, in places, starting to thaw a little. This slight up-turn in the weather was enough for Lynda to decide that the she would give up the warmth of a bus ride home in favour of walking back with me. For a night time walk, through a built up area, it was rather enjoyable. We saw a fox, heard Robins singing and even passed one or two snowmen that the kids had built.

The evening walk home.

Quite what mode of transport we will choose, or have forced upon us, tomorrow remains to be seen - the forecast does not look too good!

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