Monday, March 31, 2008

MPLS Weather: Snow With a Chance of Heavier Snow

As I was preparing to leave this morning I thought, "I really ought to take the camera." But I didn't. I pedaled to work and there were a few flurries blowing around. If you're not from here you have to know: the ground was bare to the green warmth of grass; the pavement was bare, too, and dry; the sidewalks were clear. It has been that way for a week or so. We've had many days in the mid 40s, even 50s, with sunshine. The photo above is the paved parking area behind our building when I arrived home tonight.

About 3 miles from the compound it really started coming down. I was still able to ride through the park though. "The park" is Hyland Park and it borders our work campus. Three seasons out of the year we bike commuters are able to enjoy the last couple miles of our rides along a smooth path that meanders through restored prairie and winds around a couple lakes. It is wonderful. During winter, however, it's off limits since cross country skiers drive their cars there and pay good money to slide along trails groomed to be extra smooth for their sensitive needs.

I normally regard spring as having really sprung when I can ride through the park again. I had been enjoying that immensely the past few rides to work. Looks like I might have to detour for a day or two while things melt again (and the skiers get a last hoorah before unleashing the most annoying of hindrances -- the roller ski).

I rode the Big Dummy today. It is one of my favorite bikes without a doubt. It is a cruiser without the slow factor. I've already raved about the Dummy's speed in prior posts, but its comfort is unmatched. And I really love how whatever the day throws at me (in terms of spontaneous load-hauling needs), the Dummy is ready to respond unflinchingly. Tonight was the first time I've ridden it in much snow. It did well despite the fact I was carrying nearly no weight on the back. I had a little slip while climbing a few hills, but the long wheelbase makes you feel pretty darn stable in the snow and slop. One thing was for sure -- by riding the Big Dummy to work I was effectively erasing the possibility of a ride home from a friend. The Dummy doesn't load well on racks or in cars. That's okay -- it's meant to be ridden. It is an all-weather automobile replacement device.

A word or two about the snow: I worked a 9 hour day today, all the while watching the snow dump hard and fast outside. I'm a little skittish, having endured my fair share of icy dabs over the past month. I was ready for the worst. It happened that my co-worker Jim and I were leaving at the same time. He'd contemplated catching the bus, but missed the pick-up time. We rolled out the door into the heavy streaks of flakes. It was warmish -- near 30 degrees. The parking lot looked to not have been plowed, but it didn't matter. It was warm enough that the snow humps were soft and squishy. Bike tires sank right down and pushed the sludge out of the way. Corners were firm, too. There was all the traction in the world. The only possible downer was a very stiff NNE wind pounding the heavy flakes into our eyes most of the way home. Glasses were good, but needed frequent wiping. And even though gloved hands did little more than smear the snow and water around, it was still better than snowflake missiles impacting bare eyeballs.

Jim and I chatted all the way to Minnehaha Pkwy. The snow kept our pace slow enough to be enjoyable. Walkers and residents regarded us in amazement. I'm sure many drivers did too, even if they thought we were stupid and/or crazy to be riding our bikes. We saw enough stupid, out-of-control driving that I was thoroughly convinced folks were insane to be out automobiling.

I really like how snow and ice collect on a bike while you're riding and how riding through puddles in near-freezing temps can create dramatic ice formations on the frame. It doesn't look like we got the 7-8" originally forecast, but that's a healthy several inches to bury the front wheel. That was at 8. As I write, it's a bit after 11pm. The snow's tapered off, but it hasn't stopped yet.

Viva the Minnesota spring! What's that bit about MN being second only to Siberia in March weather fluctuations? Isn't March supposed to be "in like a lion, out like a lamb?" That's one rabid, punk-rockin' lamb! And I think that lamb is damn cool.

1 comment:

aihfl said...

Dear Mr. O'Houli,

It's taken me many, many years to locate you, but it looks as I've finally succeeded. I would love to be back in contact with you, but if hearing from me out of the blue after almost 20 years strikes you as weird and stalkerazzi-ish, just ignore this post and you shan't hear from me again. My email address is hilbun at ohio dot edu.