Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! ... Resolutions ...

Happy New Year, Gentle Reader! The last day of 2008 has come and (almost) gone, and it is with that in mind that I sit here to pen my thoughts of this past year -- and the next.

This year has been one for the books. Definitely one to remember. Definitely one to put behind. Definitely one that can usher in only a better year. And definitely one that will help to form the basis for many more fun times.

This was a year that saw highs such as gaining a new national administration and (hopefully) a new outlook on what needs done to help those worse off than those in power. This was a year that saw lows such as the worst economy since the depths of the Great Depression -- with the possibility that what we've seen is only the beginning of what may be a long and painful recession (depression).

On the personal side, there were similar highs and lows. We decided to bite-the-bullet and buy new bicycles to replace my 20 year old Schwinn and her $25 Walmart special -- which happily led to my soon thereafter to my deciding to commute daily to work and then my decision to carry on that commute year-round, rather than stop just when the weather becomes more challenging (and, as it turns out, even more fun!). And the cold December we had this year made for a good test on whether my stubborn determination to ride through the Winter would survive or fail. I found that despite 3 degree rides with negative 20 degree wind-chills really isn't that bad and is actually invigorating and develops a sense of great accomplishment. In the short time that I've been commuting, I've made well over 1,000 miles and I'm establishing a very modest goal for myself of 2,500 for 2009. I'm guessing that having 12 months to work with on my goal, rather than the 5 for 2008 will be a good start; I suspect that keeping better track of my mileage will also make for a higher total! Already, we've met a good group of cyclists and we're hoping to meet many more throughout 2009.

On the low side, there were many. My oldest brother passed away after many years of battling various illnesses that never got him down and that only in the last year had affected his incredible strength and ability to best his little brother (that would be me). Never did he complain, and never would you know about all the various illnesses and ailments he had unless you knew him. He was an incredible person and I only that I'd lived closer to him or been able to see him more so that I could know him well as adult brothers, rather than having the long distance, once-a-year meeting that we've had for so many years.

On top of my oldest brother's death, my Father also died. It's sad that only when a parent dies can one look back and analyze life by the real effects that relationship created. Thankfully, I was long ago able to put behind my teen-aged-anger at my Father and accept him for whom he was, for what he'd done, for what he wished he'd done (even while never talking about it), and respecting him for all those things that I only later began to realize that he had a much stronger belief in individual liberties than I ever knew, a stronger hatred of war and conflict than I ever imagined, and that he was trapped by his own life-circumstances much more than anyone should ever be trapped. I now realize that it was his determination, insistence on doing things right, and, yes, his stubbornness, that have infused me in so many things that I do and am determined to finish (such as my earlier stated stubborn determination to commute through the Winter months, rather than wimping out when it got a little bit chilly -- ok, so minus 19 wind-chill isn't "a little" chilly...who's counting?).

It is with this view of the past that I move on to the future and into 2009. Perhaps, "feeling" that we need something to help us think of it fondly, we were treated by the last day of 2008 to an incredible sunset needs something to make it better, and goes out with a beautiful sunset. I was lucky enough to capture it.

Adieu 2008; Adieu.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Eighty to ninety mile per hour sustained winds, and yet little to show for it -- or, at least, not nearly as much damage as I expected (or would have expected) from such an incident.

On my way home from the office this morning, I snapped a few pictures; but the operative word is "few." Along the trip, there were only about 5 trees that I saw which suffered a "significant" loss (a large limb or a toppled tree altogether). But then, that was only on my five mile trip home; I haven't read or seen any news reports yet.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Happy! Merry Merry!

Merry Christmas! It's been too long since I've last posted, but it's been a busy week (and I had such a difficult time remembering to upload the pictures of the 3 degree morning I last rode to work).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Now that was fun!

Now that was fun! And...more than that, warm!

My first commute in the snow. My first outing with my new winter gloves. My first warm cold ride!

You'll recall that a few days ago, I complained bitterly (at least as bitterly as ever I complain) that I couldn't find any gloves warm enough, wind resistant enough, or otherwise good enough to keep me from freezing my fingers on my (relatively) short rides to or from work (or anywhere else between two points). That changed today -- or, at least there's a glimmer of hope on the warm gloves front.

That few days ago I was so incredibly frustrated. Frustated that gloves advertised as wind-proof or water-proof or winter-proof or cold-weather simply weren't what their advertisers believed them to be: warm. I started to believe it was my hands fault that they froze almost immediately on a relatively short ride in a relatively cold temperature.

At first, I thought the problem was that the gloves I had simply weren't thick enough. My nice fleecey gloves were nice and warm on a good cool weather morning; but they didn't hold up when faced with 30 degree temperatures and a moderately stiff breeze. So, I picked up some thick gloves. Aha! . . . nope. That wasn't it.

Within the first few days of trying them out, the temperature on my daily ride dipped into the teens (with windchill) and then into the teens without (and below with). My fingers barely made it. They hurt! They hurt a lot! And they didn't warm nearly as quickly as I'd hoped.

The culprit, I thought, must be the wind. So, I dutifully sought out windproof gloves. Nope. That wasn't it; or, it wasn't those particular gloves that helped. They were too thin, not padded enough, not comfortable enough, not warm enough. They may have been wind-proof and/or water-proof, but they weren't cold proof! Nice enough for what they were; but not adequate for my freezing fingers.

But this weekend, I searched yet again for Quivira. And I found it -- or at least I think so -- or, at least the glove version of Quivira as it happens on Quivira! I was hooked up with a nice pair of Pearl Izumi AmFib Gloves.

And so far, these gloves have been far better than anything coming before. For the first time, my face started to freeze sooner than my fingers. For the first time, I made it all the way home without the strong hint that my fingers were getting too cold. For the first time, I was happy with my gloves!

Monday, December 8, 2008

This must be Kansas! Yesterday, a nice cold day in the morning; a nice cool day in the afternoon. Today, a nice cool morning and an amazingly warm day (for December) overall. Tomorrow? Well, not so much.

It looks as though I'm going to have to break out the cold weather gear while also balancing nice, temperate (relatively) weather. But, I do get to try out my new winter gloves (after trying out yet another pair this weekend that utterly failed). We'll see. I'm skeptical.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oh what a difference ten degrees makes! Wait. I said that already. Didn't I? No. I didn't. I just thought it -- yesterday (when I couldn't sign in to post this comment -- although it was a very different ten degrees).

Yesterday, I was going to write about how amazing it was that a mere ten degrees (from 21 to about 11 F) could make the difference in how long it was comfortable on my commute. I was going to say that with that seemingly slight difference that everything seemed to break down; the ability to breath through a balaclava; the ability to keep the cold from toes; the ability of gloves to protect hands from frost-bite; the ability of pain to overcome thoughts contrary...but then, the unexpected happened. I was unable to get on to post. But that's off point.

The point is that today was amazing! Incredible! Ok. It was much more reasonable. It was as if it were again a reasonable temperature -- such as 32 F. At 32 F (with 23 F wind-chill) that's pretty good! So; I broke out the favorites; fleece lingers, with Trek Gel half-gloves. A perfect combination. Or, at least, it is during warm times...or cool times. And it was again today! And today is all that matters. Ever. :)

But seriously, Folks...

Seriously. There has to be a "better glove!" We've "been to the moon!"

For the past couple days, while trying dutifully to make my way to and from work ten to twenty degrees below zero Celcius, I have frozen! Not quite literally, mind you -- not quite. All my nice, wonderful layers have kept me quite warm and toasty. Ok; perhaps sometimes too toasty. But toasty!

My legs? My arms? My face? My core? Yes! Yes! Yes! and Yes! My fingers, however? No. Not only "No," but NO! Not close! I have but a short commute. Not far. Not long. But yet, barely a third of the way towards destination, and I feel the unmistakeable feeling that the cold is breaking through the barrier; that it is rapidly piercing the layers meant to protect so that very soon the ache will start that lets me know that I'd better be at work soon -- very soon.

It's not as if I haven't tried. I feel I've sought advice from every corner and space. But every time I think I've found that Answer, I find that others have trod the same path only to find something lacking, wind resistance, water resistance -- cold resistance, so critical to merely adequate gloves when pushing forward into a headwind making more of a headwind.

I've now tried light gloves, heavy gloves, windproof gloves, liners in heavy gloves, and leather gloves inside heavy gloves. All I've found out so far is that my hands can sweat while my fingers freeze (which is not something I didn't already know).

So this weekend it's off to another round of stores searching the Holy Grail of Warm Toasty Fingeredness.