Monday, December 14, 2009

Thirty degrees of separation

Yesterday was such a wonderful day! Surprisingly warm for a late-Fall day, Sunday was incredibly warm -- 50 degrees here in Kansas City -- although it was closer to single-digits in mid-Kansas (as I found out from my parents in the evening). Sadly, we weren't able to take advantage of the warm temperatures because of the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season -- and kids.

Sadly, because when we checked the weather late Sunday evening (as is the routine ever since failing to do so one night before an expected warm Winter ride) we discovered that although this morning was expected as a balmy 40 degree ride-to-work, the forecast also predicted that within minutes of my expected departure, the ride would get quickly cooldder...and so it did.

5:45 am A last check of the gauge before making off to the office (a mere 5.5 miles).

5:50 am Slowly working my way towards downtown Overland Park, and already the wind is whipping up. I didn't think it was supposed to do this until I was at *least* half-way to the office!

5:55 am At least downtown Overland Park provides a nice refuge from the winds. Traveling South along Santa Fe also provides some windward travel as the wind seemingly slows from its former strength.

6:00 am Mid-way along the path, the wind seems stronger and the traffic heavier; heavier than usual and very heavy for a Monday early-morning. Is everyone else trying also to beat the "flash-freeze" as the forecast so ominously stated?

6:05 am The full-wind hits. A north-by-northwest gust on a south-by-southwest trek, but still pushing strongly against forward movement. Thank goodness it's not nearly as cold, as quick, as they predicted.

6:10 am For the first time (or, at least, the first time this year), I realize the amount of energy expended by gasoline-engines while straining against the wind. The last-half of this ride is bound to be the most difficult. Hills still to mount; cars and traffic yet to address. Now, the wind is full face, even though from the side.

6:15 am Are we there yet? It feels now as if I were "trudging" along the way. The wind has now been full force (at 20+ mph for the last quarter mile) and the last hill has brought with it more traffic, more exertion than expected -- and still the most traffic lies ahead!

6:20 am Finally at the office, but the open field with bridges was more difficult than expected. Wheeww! And in that time, the wind increased from near nothing to gusts of over 20; the temperature reduced from 40 to near 35; but that's nothing compared with tonight, when the temperatures were already down to 10 and the wind from the North still insisted on pushing into my face.

But such a wonderful ride! And this is why Winter is so much more fun than summer: the challenge!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Daze

This has been a summer like no other for Kansas City. In fact, it's really been more like a Colorado vacation than anything else. But then, I rely on my memory for such things since I haven't been to Colorado in "near-August" since the late 90's.

The last few weeks of cycling have been incredibly great. Especially for cycling in Kansas City. It seems that nearly every day I walk out to start my morning commute and I'm "almost" cold! Even to the point of starting to watch for Autumnal-clothing and arm-warmers for those especially chilly mornings!

I've now passed my one-year mark for commuting and it now seems hard to imagine that I didn't do it before now! The distance certainly isn't that bad (although that driver-craziness-quotient is certainly higher the later in the morning I start my commute).

I've now worked into a standard path for the commute without the fear of careless drivers that I had early on (although there are just as many now as then). But then, I seem also to be one of the earlier bicycle commuters since I see only a couple at my regular time (5:30-6:15 am) while I see more when I have had to abandon the bike to go in later (read: flat or exhausted).

It seems strange now to imagine my cycling this past winter in near-zero degree temperatures (probably just as much as it seemed strange then to be cycling the previous-summer in over-one-hundred degree temperatures).

I've now also worked into a routine so that I can commute every day instead of the 2-4 days per-week that I had last year (which is probably because of my comfort with the routine, my comfort with the traffic, my figuring out that I could leave my car at work for those times I "really need" it, and realizing that if I get up and bike-to-work, it wakes me up and I get much better work-time in during the day than when I don't do it).

Now, if I can only make myself do what I've been planning ever since I first started re-biking after my multi-year hiatus: an "organized" century.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pouring Rain...

It's supposed to be summer. Certainly, the past few days have proven it. The first week of summer has come in full-blast-furnace with only hotter temperatures to come. Nineties the entire week with only this morning's mid-70s as a break. But, of course, that should have given some inking of what was to come: the rain; or, should I say, the monsoon.

The day was apparently pleasant throughout. The morning gave only a small hint of the wonderous temperatures to last throughout most of the day -- notwithstanding that one client said that it was up to 98 in Lawrence in the mid-afternoon. But come 6 pm, the skies became strangely dark. What? Dark in the mid-early-evening of near the longest day of the year? It should have given hint; or fright.

A pleasant stream of sprinkles started just before I left the office for my way home; only to turn more ominous and less "pleasant" the further I made my way across the parking lot. The lightening in the north-northeast should also have given pause. Barely across the bridge near the office and I could barely see out of my sunglasses. Half way down the street and the wind was picking up, the lightening coming closer, the rain coming stronger and harder.

Luckily, I made it half way home (87th and Antioch) before the skies let go, the winds came full force, and the lightening came from overhead. A stop to catch my breath and to let my rain-soaked cycling shoes lose some of their massive drenching was in order. A full 10-minutes worth. But then it was up for another attempt to get as far as possible before the next deluge. But the winds persisted and lightening, though less frequent as before came nonetheless.

Another half -- this time a half-of-a-half (a quarter) of the way further home I went before it seemed again prudent to stop and wait for the gathering lightening to pass, the horizontal rain to subside (if only a bit) and the wind to lessen. Another 10-minutes talking to others who were also stranded at the QuickShop (though from their car, rather than bike) caught out trying to buy dogfood for their hapless canine who insisted on chowing while the weather rattled. A pleasant conversation, broken frequently by strong flashes and loud clashes.

The last quarter was not nearly as harrowing, but no less wet or windy. The stoplights gave little comfort in their insistence on keeping their regular evening timing; waiting for all the cars to come through. . . that did not. Stopping me, the lone cyclist, from getting home to safe, non-lighteninged home.

Brush Creek was higher than I've seen it all year; and, if fact, for some time prior to that. No pictures unfortunately, but that may come in a bit if my camera doesn't become waterlogged. But, at least I'm home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Deer One

This is a day old now, but it's still a great story!

It was a great bike ride yesterday morning at the break of dawn (or a little before) on Tax Day! I wasn't surprised when I came upon two joggers running towards me: it happens everyday it's nice. The difference was that only about a block later, I thought I saw another jogger out of my left-peripheral vision (although in my early-morning state, I imagined it was some stealthy person trying to hide him/herself since the person was alongside the roadway. I quickly realized, however, that it wasn't a jogger. It was a Doe running along-side me off the road. It then darted out into-and-across Tomahawk only about 10 feet in front of me. Crossing the street, it then ran through the front-yards of a few houses leading up to Nall. It then darted out onto the street, crossing Nall less than 20 feet in front of oncoming traffic -- maybe two or three cars, which at that time of the morning is quite a few. It then continued onto the east-side of Nall, running through the backyards to who knows where.

My question was: from where and to where? How could a Deer get that far into the middle of the city? Brush Creek? Well, it would have been further into the city to have come from a larger part of Brush Creek -- and Brush Creek only begins a few blocks from my house -- and the Deer wasn't coming from that direction. Where was it going? I know there are parks close to my house; but none that would provide enough daytime cover for a Deer to hide. Now I'm going to have to investigate!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out like a Lion

For the past few years, it seems that the old saying about March no longer held true: instead of being a month of strong ups-and-downs, it seems that March has been a peaceful month, leading steadily into April with the strong weather waiting until April was full upon us. But not this year!

As I rode to work this morning, straining against a constant, strong, and gusting headwind, I put together in my mind that the last week of March has been anything but peaceable and pleasant, slowly leading into April. Usually, the ride to work isn't such a chore. It may be cold and it may be blustery, but it's never really that difficult and the wind (whether at my front or at my side) is usually never much of a concern. But the past couple of days (and especially today) have been different. Instead of merely heading into the wind, I've had to fight it -- with the resulting minutes added-0n to my trek to work because my ride is slowed to such an extent (a nearly 5 minute slow-down today!).

Add to the dumping of snow this past weekend, the strong winds the past few days, and this has definitely been March going out like a Lion!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Although it was snowy . . . well, slushy . . . Saturday was made for a bike ride. No right minded driver would be out in such horrible weather. After all, who wants to slide into a tree with a vehicle you can't control on an icy street, when you have no direct contact with the street and no "real" means of controlling where you go?

So, after we went to see "Monsters & Aliens" (which is a good kids' movie, but not such a great "adults-with-kids-movie," it was time to go out and see what the weather was really like! And, what it was "really like," was not bad! I wished I'd started out earlier so that I could have gone at least 10 miles -- instead of the puny two.

But then, it was good latte ... and I was about the only person on the streets at this time of the day in the Slush Storm of 2009 . . . except for another cyclist whose tracks I followed as I was heading towards the Coffee Shop, and which I saw tethered at Blue Moose.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

After the snow

After predictions of nearly 10 inches of snow, with actual snow fall closer to 5 but the day of rain and sleet making it more like 5 inches of sleet, today was a wonderful, incredible, Spring Day!

This morning, we started out with a chilly (37), snow-filled, cloudy, day and ended up with an incredibly sunny, warm (52), dry-streets, nearly-all-snow-on-the-lawns, afternoon. Yesterday was more filled with worry about what the day would bring, or how deep the snow might be; today was filled with wonder at how fast it disappeared.

There were a few casualties of the ice-and-then-snow storm; but few and far between. One tree we came upon looked like a wooden version of the Peparcokkar belief that if you tap a Swedish Ginger Cookie just right, it should break into the Trinity (and there would then be good luck)

Others merely looked like broken trees.

All in all, it was a beautiful day. Wonderful ride, and wonderful sun. Ah, Kansas. You never know what's going to happen with the weather, but it will always be sunny after the storm...