... an overrated, commercialized adaptation of a pagan festival. Aww ... c'mon, Fleck.
All right. I'm not that cynical -- honest. But I have been dealing with comments to the effect of "Christmas has no meaning" from members of the family who shall remain nameless. I think it all depends on what you're looking for. Me? I tend to gush rather romantically when I envision fresh snow, candlelight, communal meals with family, open fires, time off from work, no reason to leave the house and, yes, giving and receiving a well thought out gift or two. For reasons of my own I do not assign a religious context to the holiday. However, one of my greatest spiritual ideals is unity and I do love the idea of a world united -- you know, Snoopy and the Red Baron style. While we do have a family "Christmas" tree, stockings, wreath, presents and all that other jazz, we will most likely spend more time and energy celebrating solstice this year.
We've had a weather whirlwind here in the T.C. of late. Last Friday night I added my tent to an urban camping cotillion attended by some two-wheeled partners in crime. Temps started out in the upper teens and only seemed to climb from there. Saturday was downright balmy for December in Mini-Soda. I emerged from the tent after 4 toasty hours and hardly felt the need for more than a vest up top. Sunday it actually rained most of the day and temps climbed to 38!
Then by mid afternoon the scale was plunging rapidly the other way. All that liquid precip was turning into a microfilm of ice on porches, sidewalks, roads, etc. Rain became snow (thank goodness -- snow covering ice delivers some traction at least) and we ended the wild mercury ride at -5F with a couple of fresh fluffy inches. A loss of 43 degrees in 12 hours or less is quite amazing. I had some serious soul searching to do before I could dress and mount up for the morning commute on Monday. Funny how 20mph winds at subzero feel as if they can literally begin peeling flesh from your nose and face. Maybe it's just me. Probably not.
About halfway to work I stopped off at a convenience store. The interior temperature was nice. I lingered and in addition to the purpose of my stop I ended up buying two candy bars. I don't often buy or eat candy bars, but it was so easy to make an excuse to stand inside the heated building just acting like I was "shopping" the way one might do at the mall or something. Heat was good. As if the employees didn't already find it strange enough that I was riding my bike in the subzero snowy weather, the fact that I was lingering in their quickie mart almost certainly pushed them to a conclusion that I was bonkers.
A little more about recent commuting experiences: I left work last night at about 8:45. The temperature was 2F. Steady snow all day had slacked off to a dreamy mist of glassy flakes floating through the sky. None of the secondaries had been plowed. I rolled out of the parking lot into one of my least favorite riding conditions -- pie dough that has been mashed and rutted by hundreds of car tires. Slipping back and forth I had no time to notice or think about anything else. When I popped onto a sidewalk and began breaking smooth, fresh snow my thoughts re-centered. There was little to no wind. There were also very few cars out and about. In the peaceful darkness I was alone to ride. My layering was perfect and the fact it was near zero was of no consequence.
I love the squeeky sound of bike tires crunching through cold snow. I enjoyed a lot of that. I slid through many corners. A few caught me off guard. My quick saves made me erupt into giddy laughter beneath my icy balaclava. The secondaries were sketchy but the paths were untouched save for a few footprints. Riding those was dreamy in 2-3" of powder. I cranked out steep hills at a brutally low cadence, hardly making it without walking, but I cranked them out.
Then just over halfway home I spied a car disabled, its driver crouched in front of the wheel well attempting to mount a spare. I stopped and asked if he needed help. He said he was fine. I noticed two things: 1) he wasn't wearing a jacket, hat or gloves and 2) my helmet light illuminated his work pretty well. So, I laid my bike down and helped him out. Before long I had the spare in hand, lining up the lugs while he cranked his pathetic little jack a centimeter at a time. We got the tire on within 10 minutes. He thanked me and I was on my way. He probably would have got it on his own but you never know. When he spoke I could hear he was cold and when people get mildly hypothermic they'll readily say they're fine because they think they are. Not saying he was, but I have developed a personal code that is shared by most winter commuting friends I know -- you never leave someone by the side of the road in winter. I've never had the opportunity to apply that maxim to a driver, but it felt good to put myself out there. Who knows, maybe that guy will notice bikers more, give us a wider berth when passing, tell others of his positive encounter.
Perhaps Snoopy and the Red Baron really can get along after all.