Cowabunga!

The weatherman called for a nasty winter storm today. There woudl eb a wintry mix in the morning followed by cold rain and high winds in the afternoon.  Any sensible person would have worked from home or driven to work. As most of my readers know, I am not a sensible person.

It sounded like I’d be getting snowed on in the morning so I left the overboots at home and planned to deal with the afternoon rain by putting my wool-stockinged feet into plastic bags and then putting on my biking shoes.

Otherwise I wore what I normally wear for inclement weather: a base layer and shorts covered on top by the holey sweater and a Marmot Precip shell for top and bottom. I put the hood up on the jacket.

I selected Little Nellie for the adventure and headed out into a driving snow. Actually it was probably snowing straight down but my 11 mile per hour speed made it look like it was snowing sort of sideways.  The first couple of miles wasn’t half bad. I came to a crossing on the GW Parkway and didn’t have to brake.  The long boardwalk at Dyke Marsh was covered in a thin layer of snow, but Little Nellie handled it without a slip.  As I pedaled north the wind was picking up. It was coming from the river to the east. Once I cleared Belle Haven Park the wind seemed to intensify. Icy bits of sleet were now mixed in with the snow. My face was getting stung as if by hundreds of little cold bugs. My balaclava wuld have been a better choice than my neck gaither and a watch cap. 

The bike path had some snow covered tracks from runners and cyclists but people were few and far between. The Belle Haven bald eagle nest was unguarded. Six miles into the trek, the bricks on the Washington Street deck were covered with a glazing. I rode down underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge without slipping and made it through the bollards at the base of the hill without harm. I took a left onto South Royal Street. I don;t normally do this but the Cathloic SUVs at St. Mary’s School had taken the week off leaving the road empty of motor vehicles.

As I rode up Royal Street, I took extra care to let cars have their way. The slushy precipitation obstructed views out of side windows making me all but invisible dispite my lights for and aft.

At the north end of Old Town I took the river route around the power plant and the Slaters Lane apartments. This meant I had to ride on some treacherous stretches of wooden bridges. I slowed waaaaaay down and made it across all three of the bridges without sliding at all. The precipitation was now slowing but the glaze on the trail made it feel like I was skating rather than riding. Still Little Nellie stayed upright.

Gravelly Point is an exposed area and the wind off the river was buffetting me about. Here, about 11 miles into my commute, I could tell that the plastic bags on my feet were not working at all. The front third of my feet were freezing.    

I looked down to check my panniers and saw that the rear brake cable was covered in a chunk of ice. My left crank are was too. My front brake pads were covered in ice as well. I hoped that I didn’t have to stop. No worries. I was alone on the trail.

North of the Memorial Bridge I spotted a man running with two unleashed labrador retrievers. Fortunately, the dogs stayed with their master and never approached me. 

I was expecting some sliding at the boardwalk under the Roosevelt Bridge.There was only a quarter of an inch of snow but these wooden bridges are incredibly slippery under these conditions. I slowed and found good traction.

The absence of other people meant that I could cut the corners on curves in the trail for most of the ride. This meant not having to turn, which is a good thing under these conditions. I was hoping the switchback bridge from the trail up to Rosslyn was not going to be a problem. I made it to a 30-yard steep section on the Rosslyn side of the Parkway. Instinctively, I stood to climb and my rear wheel started to slide sideways. i sat and the wheel gripped. I stayed in the saddle for the rest of the ride up to the Rosslyn Circle of Doom.

The light changed and I had the right of way across the I66 ramp. Having nearly been hit three times I now wait to make sure all the cars coming up the ramp stopped at the red light. Sure enough, a silver sedan came right on through and took a right on red without stopping.  

When I got to the office, I checked out my bike. My rear brakes, the reare brake cable, both crank arms and my front brakes were all encapsulated in ice. My feet were frozen. My clothes were covered with slush.

My office is festooned with wet cycling clothes. My biking shoes are stuffed with a copy of the Epoch Times, a free newspaper I stash in my office for days like this.

The ride home is going to be a beast. I can’t wait.

 

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