Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy "Cranks"giving - 2010

13 Miles
10-20 degrees
So, many of you know that we got stranded in Billings for Thanksgiving because of the poor road conditions (Montanans are so cheap they won't pay to have the roads plowed.  They'd rather pay the higher insurance premiums!  Well, the ones that aren't driving on suspended licenses anyway.)  I decided to make the best of my Thanksgiving at home and although it was freezing outside and the roads were still slick, I set out on an ice biking adventure.  Last year I went on a nice mountain bike ride in 50 degree weather (Cranksgiving 2009) and the year before I pedaled from my parents house to my aunt's house about 30 miles away in cold weather.  I think I've got a Thanksgiving Day tradition started.

I started at about 10 am and the forecast called for 8 degree weather.  It took me quite awhile to get dressed for the weather but I worked out a good combination but I looked really ridiculous until I was fully dressed with layers of base layer, bike shorts, wool socks, a thermal top, and finally a athletic pants, a fleece pullover, scarf and balclava (fancy word for a ski mask that I can pull down so my face isn't completely covered.  It was probably a couple degrees warmer (less cold) by the time I finally got on the bike.
I set out on the road feeling pretty confident on the ice and hard pack with my studded tires, maybe too confident.  I made it to the "secret" entrance to Riverfront Park where I usually catch a dirt trail that leads me into the interior of the park.  I knew the riding would be tough with the 6-8 inches of fresh snow but I was hoping the trees would have kept some of the snow off the trail and the cross-country skiers would have packed down the rest.  Wrong on both counts.  I geared down and trudged on into the park.  I pedaled until my heart felt like it was going to explode.  In defeat, I jumped off the bike to catch my breath and evaluate the situation.  
To my surprise, the bike stood up on its own in the snow!  Yeah, that was too much snow but I was to determined to give up.  I noticed that my bike hadn't actually shifted down to the lowest gear so I forced it into gear and tried again.  Pedaling was easier but I still couldn't go very far before my front tire got caught on something or before my heart leapt out of my chest.  I should have turned back then but I was too stubborn.  Soon a skier passed me and laughed commenting that I needed skis on my bike.  I really should have turned back then but now I had something to prove.  Man, I really get in my own way sometimes.  I pushed my bike through the snow for the next mile, pedaling when I could, hoping that once I got to the gravel trail, pedaling would get easier.

I hit the gravel trail and had no such luck.  I trudged on thinking that I'd make it too the pavement and the snow would be shallower.  Wrong again!  The pavement was in an open area that had drifted so the snow was even deeper.  However there were fewer ski tracks.  I found I did a lot better on the pavement if I could blaze my own trail.  I was exhausted an discouraged by now and I'd gone so far it didn't seem worth turning around now.  My new hope was to make it to the road where I could ride in the ruts and hard pack.
 Finally up ahead I saw a vehicle pull into a parking area.  Score! I finally had some hard pack to ride on!  When I finally got to the road, it was beautiful.  The whole road was hard pack and I could finally move.  I road the entire length of the road, turned around and road it again.  It was great.

I had one last idea up my sleeve.  On the other side of the park is a trail going around Norm's Island that is very heavily used.  I thought I'd check it out and see if it was ride-able.  The trail was rough but passable.  My wrists were sore by the time I finished from all the bouncing on the trail and I got a kick out of the reactions of the dog walkers as I passed them on bike, much different from the pathetic sympathy that I got from the skiers.  I was having fun but it was time for me to get back to my Thanksgiving feast.  I cruised back home on the ice and hardpacked roads hitting 18 mph, the fastest I've been able to go in over a week.  I love these new studded tires.  I passed a sign reading 22 degrees on the way back.  Awesome!

I got back home and we hurried out the door to our friends' house for a great Thanksgiving dinner.  Not the same as being home with family but we still had a great time.

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