Friday, January 23, 2009

Kansas Weather Never Means Quite So Much Until

you're commuting by bike.

This morning, wonderful weather. This morning (at 6am) it was fairly pleasant (as Januarys go); partly-cloudy, slight winds (5mph) with a nice 37 degrees (and 27 degrees wind-chill). A great morning for biking; a great morning for enjoying the trip (especially since it's Friday); and a great morning of no crazy drivers.

This evening, however, was quite another thing.

As I prepared to head out for home (very late as has been usual for this first full freedom week), I checked the weather (as usual) just to make sure that I wasn't under-or-over dressed. Chilly, with very light snow flurries starting, but nothing too bad. Well, other than that the note also mentioned that winds were out of the North at approximately 15 with gusts to 25! Nonetheless, a nice way to start the ride home.

About half-way home, however, (as it usually seems to happen), the winds picked up even more (to the point of blowing me periodically a foot to my side), and the snow started pelting harder-and-heavier-and-stronger. By the time I was a mile from home, I could see that the snows were starting to blow in their little-rivulets across the street when an oncoming vehicle approached.

A nice surprise was encountering another biking commuter as I passed through downtown Overland Park, who was going the other way. Always a welcome sight in the cold, snowy, evenings. I suspect that he is who I've passed before, only when I'm on my way into work at the morning (although I haven't seen him whom I think it is for a few months now -- primarily due to my going into work an hour earlier than I did in the summer and early-Autumn.

I'll not be surprised if we wake tomorrow with an inch of snow on the ground. And, no doubt, it will be a sunny, warm day on Monday!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Snow...and ice

What a great ride! At least, it was this morning.

This morning was such a pleasant ride. I think I've finally found the right combination of clothing and gloves that works in Kansas cold and Kansas weather.

I ended up with an aborted trip to work yesterday. Not more than a mile away from home and I had to turn around because my goggles fogged and froze over. That was not adequate. I turned around and headed back for home. Not my plan. Not my hope. Not my desire. But, it ended up being the best thing in "life terms." Things happen for a reason...and this one did too.

Today, I headed out at my regular 6 am to the frosty tunes of snow. A great morning. Not much traffic, not any ice, not many problems, and not the incredibly bitter cold of yesterday morning (even though it was only 1 degree when I started out my journey this morning, it was -16 with windchill yesterday).

The gloves were right for the first time in cold (two layers, cheapo-PC-version mittens on the outside and Planet Bike Borealis on the inside. perfect.

My raincoat (Illiminite) on the outside (even those its been way too hot on most mornings, it wasn't these past couple)...and much better than the slightly lighter Vagabond II.

Tonight, a nice pleasant ride home with little traffic. A great nice. A great morning.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On to this morning...

The Monster Truck interrupted me. I was about to say how *incredibly cold* it was this morning. Oh. And about the wardrobe failure.

Wardrobe failure. It's gained a whole cult-meaning. But this time, it was just a pain.

Knowing that sooner-or-later I was going to encounter unbearably cold temperatures in my quest to ride through the year, I bought a pair of ski goggles. Not a great pair, mind you; but an adequate pair. A pair that was advertised as "no-fog," and certainly a pair that looked adequate for the job: seals around the eyes so that my hot breath wouldn't rise up through my Balaclava into my glasses and fog them over only to be frozen (as happened in mid-December).

But no. In fact, these goggles didn't even last as far as my regular glasses did in colder weather! A mere 2 miles into my ride and I had to stop because my goggles were not only fogged over, but the fog had frozen. Frozen to the point of not being able to see!

So I pulled over (in the middle of downtown Overland Park) to clean off the frost, the fog, and the ice. And I was fine...for almost another mile. But then, I was fogged-and-frozen-over yet again! In fact, I had to stop two more times between downtown Overland Park and my office to clean off my glasses (by taking of my gloves and spending some time making sure that not only the ice, but the moisture, was gone from my glasses). In fact, for the first time, I stopped on the 87th Street Quik Trip to take advantage of their heating and light. Not a good thing!

Note to self: buy better goggles. Note to self: well enough is not well enough.

Near miss...

Every cycling commuter has suffered at least one "near miss" if commuting has lasted more than a few months. I've had my "close near misses" in the past. Usually, it's an inattentive driver, someone who pulls out into the street ready to race off when the light changes, a "California stop," or some other such thing.

And, I suppose, you could classify many or most of the "close near misses" as that -- thoughtlessness, carelessness, hecticness.

At the risk of stereotyping or, worse yet, "profiling," many of those thoughtless, careless and hectic drivers are in trucks -- whether they are SUVs, Pickups, or Vans. By far the worst, however, seem to be what I'd classify as "The Monster Truck" -- the truck that seems to have the purpose of enhancing the manhood of the driver and (perhaps) intimidate all those around. They are the "half truck-half semi" manner of pickup. They are the vehicles that are often larger-than-life, with jacked-up suspension with the (usually) male driver behind the wheel who seems more often than not, prepared for a bit of road-rage no matter what the time of day or circumstances surrounding the scene.

Thus bringeth me to my conclusion. This evening on my travail home, I encountered such a being; such a monster, such a thing. A Monster Truck driven by one who really seemed to care not what was in his way, because he wanted to get where he was going, no matter the cost, the price, the result, or the way in which it happened. Luckily, my brakes were strong enough, my reactions fast enough, and my suspicion high enough that I was able to avoid the inevitable without problem -- only to then hear the Monster rev his engine and speed along on his happy way.

At least I was able to do the same -- only on a smaller and slower vehicle equally entitled to the road.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another Wierd Kansas Day

This year has already been one of the strangest in terms of weather that I remember.

Today was beautiful...or so it seemed.

I was about to take off from the office on my trek home, when I decided to quickly check the weather. I popped up to make sure I was dressed properly. Ah...a nice 47, with moderate winds and gusts to 15. Being as how it was about 15 minutes since I'd last checked, I decided to refresh. . . . A drop of 4 degrees!

But then, suddenly, I look out the window and there is something falling from the sky. Not quite rain, but not No. Couldn't be. White pedals falling? Never!

Wait. . . . I raise from my chair to get a closer look to find out what is falling in front of my window.

Unmistakeable. Snow! Snow? But it's 43!

So hurriedly, I again check the weather. Arghh! It's dropped another 5 degrees in little more than 10 seconds!

But again, I try...and it's back to 43...then again, and it's at 38...Again! It's 43...all the while, snowing.

This is definitely weird. Even for Kansas!

Now. I know there has to be a rational explanation. But I don't know what it is. Perhaps changing weather stations (from moment to moment?); perhaps refresh from my own computer's memory (nah). But whatever it is, it still fits into weird.

So, I start on my way home (unable to get any good pictures of the snow falling), but I did get one of traffic.

So goes another day of Kansas cycling.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Singing birds

The only problem with having an alarm-clock that has a pleasant "ring" (actually, wonderful birds singing or wind chimes tingling) is that it doesn't "clang" me awake. I had that experience this morning. I woke up at 4:45 realizing that I could actually get a few more minutes of shut-eye before my regular rousing-time of 5:30. I laid back to get my well-deserved rest and woke and a half hours later! Ooops. Egad! How could I do such a thing? How could I have missed my wake-up call when all I had was 45 minutes to lazily rest before getting ready for the nice chill of this morning's ride?

It has to be the birds! So pleasant, so wonderful, so "not annoying" (unlike every other alarm I've ever had) that I think I actually woke up at one point and fell right back to sleep (not that I completely remember, but a vague blur in my mind tells me that's what happened!).

Knowing that I'd seriously missed my target and that the morning rush-hour drivers were getting ready to go out on the roads bearing upon their hapless victims, I knew my time was short. So, I quickly got ready without checking the weather and streaked out the door (well, ok; not "streaked"). I quickly dressed in my C-9 and short-sleeve with Vagabond jacket and Illuminite tights for a wonderful ride to work. For some reason, not checking the weather this morning (and-or trying to catch-up on time missed sleeping) made my ride this morning faster than usual. Even though it seemed I was stopped (or nearly stopped) by every light between home and work, I ended up making relatively good time at 23 minutes. Not bad -- but a long way from my target 20 minutes.

In my haste, I found out later in the morning that I'd put on the wrong Vagabond jacket, throwing on my wife's jacket instead of my own (having put mine away in the closet for once, instead of leaving it ready-and-waiting, which is where I found her's)! Ah well. It worked; if it was a bit tighter than usual -- once I realized I had the wrong jacket-and-size!

This evening was as always a bit more trying with the rush hour evening traffic. Too many stop lights lasting too long changing red at just the wrong time! I wasn't close to the time I wanted and...come to think of it...I even forgot to check the time -- or turn-off the timer!

Friday, January 2, 2009

What a wonderful day!

Another day in the 50s and a Great Day for cycling!

The second day of the year; but it seems nearly Spring. I'm sure any thoughts of the temperatures lingering will soon be dashed. For today, however, it was great.

I woke a bit later than usual, and the temperatures were a little cooler than yesterday -- 27 degrees with little wind at the beginning and about the same when I arrived at work. It's amazing how cycling through the days makes every subsequent day a little easier. This morning was easier than yesterday's ride; and yesterday's ride was easier than the day before. But then, the holidays probably have something to do with the slacking off and hard gearing up for the next ride. Oh. And the cold temperatures. The cold temperatures are definitely one of those things that seems to make every trip a bit more difficult -- although very fun.

The ride home this afternoon was a bit of Spring in the middle of Winter -- and, as always, a temperature that would be nice to harness for those very cold days that will inevitably happen later this month. Of course, I forgot my lighter gloves this morning, so I ended up having to wear my "crab-claws" home in 50 degree weather. Such a bummer.

I realize also that I need to get a new tire for my Roubaix. I found a slice in the rear tire and a slight balloon in the tube.