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Snowy ride

Yesterday morning I biked into campus without having checked the weather. Around 10 am, I looked out the window and noted that it was snowing. Whoops. Hmm, I thought to myself, this is going to make life more interesting. My plan for the evening was to attend our rowing club board meeting, seeing as I got elected to the board and all.

Our meeting location was on the other side of the Hudson River just to the south of Troy in an office building park, but teh Goog estimated that it wouldn't be a particularly long trip. So based on the forecast of "Maybe 0.5 inch slushy accumulation" and a personal weather advisory that consisted of looking out the window to assess conditions, I shrugged my shoulders, saddled up, and decided to go for it. A little bit of slushy snow can be manageable on a bike, especially on roadways that have been cleared by people driving on them.

But oh, teh Goog. I knew there'd be a downhill to get down to the river. But then I hadn't had enough time/bandwidth to assess the route closely enough and realize that the next stage would involve a stretch along the Mohawk-Hudson bike trail.

Now, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the bike paths are often cleared of snow even before the roadways get cleared. Part of the reason why is that they're within the realm of the Park and Recs Department, which is a separate division from the crew that handles plowing the roads.

Out here, as best as I can tell so far, there's a "not-it" problem: the wonderful Mohawk-Hudson bike trail, a lovely, low-stress connector route, travels across multiple jurisdiction boundaries, so it's no one's responsibility. As a result, it's been hard to figure out how to get someone to go through and grind down some spots with hazardous tree roots. Figuring out how to get it plowed or weather-treated is a whole 'nother ball of wax. (And I'm not even touching on one section that was dangerously icy even when cleared of snow).

Given the circumstances, I whispered "F it" under my breath and gave the snowy bike path a try anyway. I mean, I was already there, the worst that could happen would be slowly walking and pushing my bike for the 0.5-mile stretch, and I think that one super-muddy trip on a minimum-maintenance road in Nebraska was WAY worse than dealing with a bit of snow.

Riding along, taking it easy, I had zero problems, and the trail was beautiful and quiet. I did annoy one deer. And I only fishtailed slightly a couple of times just after getting myself across the High Street bridge.

The next section got more interesting. Teh Goog said, in her pleasantly cheerful bossy lady voice, "Now go ride up that steep hill on that really busy two-lane street full of rush-hour traffic, why don't you."

Just to get to the bottom of the hill I was supposed to climb, I had to go-go-gadget Pedestrian across a crazy 5-way intersection, and that left me with a snow-covered bike on a corner that offered zero protection for hopping on and getting underway up a steep hill. A recipe for NOPE.

So I sucked it up and started trudging up the hill on the snow-covered sidewalk. I think this was the point when I realized I wasn't just going to be slightly late to the meeting, I was going to be late, darn it all. Eventually, about halfway up the hill, I encountered a side road that was clear enough to provide time and space to get rolling. Eventually there was a sufficiently long break in traffic, so hup-ho and away I went, chugging along up the rest of the hill, glad to be making forward progress.

When I reached the top, I was skeptical of the next move, a right turn onto a busy-looking road labeled as Highway 4. So I pulled into a parking lot on the corner to assess the situation. The parking lot was slippery enough to make me a little skittish, but roads with lots of traffic were all just fine, and upon inspection Highway 4 looked sufficient for the job at hand.

And this is the conundrum of the winter cyclist out here, in a nutshell. Roads that are well-cleared for motor vehicles are fine. But nobody clears the shoulders, or the bike paths, or the sidewalks.

It turned out that Highway 4 was basically fine. Yes, traffic, but two lanes in either direction, and people were paying attention, being patient, and not trying to drive TOO fast. In better weather the shoulder would probably be serviceable.

Then the Goog pulled her next trick: duck off the main road, onto a series of side roads with prominent "Dead End" signs. WTF Goog. By the time I'd committed, it was too late to turn back. The "Dead End" turned out to be a road section crossing a small ravine that was under construction. So more pushing the bike, slipping around on uneven surfaces and swearing under my breath. But on the other hand, once I got through the piles of dirt, the road popped out in a fantastic spot where the rest of the ride was easy money.

And I was only 20 minutes late to the meeting.

Given the general tendency for things to cool off at night and go from slush to slick ice, plus the fact that Froinlavin desperately needs new brake pads and is tricky to manage on steep downhills, plus the fact that the Goog was sure to send me along yet another unplowed section of the Mohawk-Hudson bike path, I decided to not test the fates for the ride home after the meeting, and got a car ride from another board member instead.

We have another meeting scheduled for Sunday, but it's at a location within walking distance of my house.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1268507.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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