Finally, my own Participation.
Post my last job Friday afternoon I rolled over to the South End Cool and Cool for an outdoor patio beer with Botzie, Yurgen and the other more original Worm. The snow flakes started around half way through my first beer and after the second I jumped on a slightly further west to east Stay Alive through the big buildings with eyes being sand blasted by the flakes. Now out of all the other every day normal commutes done all the time this one stands out because it had just gotten dark and there was snow flying down out of the sky in between the slow feet forward moving stop sea of tail light traffic jam headed home to the burbs as I was passing twice as fast. I realized that as soon as I got home and dry I needed to prep my mountain bike by switching the 23 to an 18, plus air up the tubeless then pack the pack for a possible early morning snow covered landscape exploration.
The ride was a basic ride that I have done before but when I woke and saw all of that beautiful radiant white I knew that this one would be different and worth the time effort required. Out of the house alone overland for 6.2 miles to Sherman B-Ranch, ride those 11 snow covered forested trail miles and then turn the 6.2 miles back to Dooleyville. My previous fair weather times have all come in well under the three hour singley mark. I took off early enough with a three and a half hour window but was sadly mistaken to believe that the mission would be accomplished in that time frame.
As soon as I turned left out of the drive I intuitively had a flash that this was going to be more difficult than I originally considered. Through the gray snow covered morning quiet neighborhood, nobs and ice pellet weighted down snow made resistance friction. A bit of roll on downward slopes however none on the flats and even less as the terrain rose. Out on Albermarle Road headed east the wind was coming from across my left to right and was sometimes at my back. Great, it will be in my face later. Normally there is but today there was no sidewalk covered in deeper than pedalling could overcome ice and snow plus the plow wake. Because of the absence of the auto viper I was able to just take a snow slush lane frozen in spots on HWY24/27 with my mountain bike, insane.
Side Walk gone, road barely there.
For a split second the air was filled with color as I realized this was gonna be way harder than I thought it was.
Further on down 24/27 near the 485 interchange.
Left onto lower Rocky River the road surface was even less discernible than it was on HWY 24/27, nothing but snow blown white and dark clear ice as far as I could see. I was now riding directly into the cold wind. Up the road Sherman. Just before entering the trail I made a gear adjustment by losing the gore over mitts and then I drank bit of icy water out of the cage. The trail was quiet and the first descending hill side looked entirely different as the sun started to cut through the trees for the fist time in the ride. Rattling tree limbs, tires crunching against the snow. Traction is a unique thing in the woods. It can be quick to slip or brake and at the same time cause major friction for the fat front tire. This was going to be a hard trail ride.
Rocky River towards Sherman.
First bike in the snow covered B-Ranch.
Evidence of ground animals digging their homes out of the snow and leaving the debris scattered about in contrast with the white forest floor.
Somewhere on the Roller Coaster in a lower left hand descending bermed turn I crashed for the first of many slamming into the snow splayed out head first. I had too much pressure front and rear so I released some from both and carried on. More resistance and some push walking on the slight steep rises out of the RC with no more thoughts of thinking that I was actually gonna do that twice. At this slow grainy snow friction pace I would be lucky to make the entire trail.
Heavy pellet snow and ice causes friction and slippage at the same time.
Back on the main trail the hard work and slow going was continual but rewarding and pleasing to my mind because I was alone and not talking. Listening to the density of no one else in this section of woods I saw some contrast of dark against light on the ground. How curious, something is digging out of their snow covered ground homes at the base of certain trail side trees. Weird. Back and forth across the double track, still only a downward roll. Another crash hard onto the frozen white earth.
Crossing paths with the tracks of a deer, both of us traveling without companions other than ourselves.
By the time I hit the entrance to the Lake Loop I could not figure out if it had been twenty minutes or two hours since I started the trail portion of my excursion. According to my time piece it had been just under an hour and a half, around about thirty minutes more time than it normally takes to get through the entire 11 mile loop. The Lake Loop offered at least three more crashes before getting to the little big creek crossing dip and out. There were two kids sledding the trail there. They were the only humans other than the mustached CC runner running towards me in the drift that I saw all day. Finally out of there and on my way back to Dooleyville with an apple in hand and mouth pedaling the frozen tundra of Lower Rocky River. The tires crunching different now for the remaining 6 happy lonely miles back to the homestead. I missed the 3.5 hour window by twenty five minutes, the delinquency no doubt caused by the wintry condition of the surface which I never get to see here in Charlotte.