Friday I went for a what probably would have been a 3 hour ride but it stretched out to over four hours.
It snowed about a week ago (remember how I wrote about freezing my (dumb)ass off? In the rain/snow (snain for short) and since then has been good temperature-wise for snowball making - at least during the days. As for biking on roads that aren't plowed this means that the snow got packed hard and icy by trucks driving on it. Cold ice (below zero) isn't really all that slippery (I barely even used the studded tires that I made with sheet metal screws in the winter in Fairbanks where it was rare that temps ever got above zero). I started out at 8:15 and things were still frozen pretty solid at the point. It warmed up to just about freezing out there – and things got slippery. I crashed several times. And they weren't those nice crashes (oxymoron) in which you are down – and unhurt – before you even know what is happening; they were those slow motion crashes where your front wheel starts to slip, you realize that you can't correct and then you have another second (this seems like forever when a crash is imminent) to say “Oh shit! Methinks this bodes ill!” Well, I didn't really get hurt when I fell. Ice crashes are usually gentle crashes (oxymoron) since it's just the initial impact and then a slide on the ice. What I don't like about them is that you never know when you're going to do it (or maybe to be more accurate should say that you don't know until its too late) or if the surface you fall on is going to be nice flat ice. You might fall on a rock or branch or even a ninja star. And if you fall you're stationary and are a perfect target for falling meteors.
So anyway, since fear of crashing and getting hit by meteorites is all consuming for me this reduced the fun quotient of a ride to near zero and I decided to head for home early. Problem was that it didn't get warm (if “32 degrees” = “warm”) until I had been riding a couple of hours away from home. This made the ride back interesting.
On the way back home I bumped into some guys that were getting ready for the gun deer hunting season (the opener was yesterday but I bumped into them friday so today is the day after tomorrow) and they (there were maybe 8 of them) gave me the collective you're-on-a-bike-in-the-snow-and-so-you-must-be-a-harmless-nutcase look. Drawn in by this sense of camaraderie I stopped to chat for a minute or so. I was called “irrational” in a joking kinda way – and I heartily agreed. Later the same guy who had called me irrational gave me an “A” for Effort. It was generally a positive interaction...though some highly strung, overly defensive individuals (like the limo driver in Me, Myself, and Irene) may have found it highly abrasive. I hear a lot of bad stuff about snowmobilers (not snowmobilers, these guys had a single ATV for the eight of them which told me that they weren't homophobes and wouldn't mind sitting close to each other), and much of it is founded: bar hopping, perpetually drunk snowmobilers are dumb. Snowmobilers that have nothing better to do than pull out the course markers on a race like Arrowhead so that poor guy on a bike who has been out there almost 40 hours and is lost in the dark at -25 below are dumb – and as I think about it now are probably under the influence of alcohol. But barring the course markers being taken (and I was under the influence of fatigue, sleep deprivation [not necessarily the same as “fatigue”], dehydration, low blood-sugar and – most importantly - an acute case of I'm-near-finish-and-I-want-to-get-this-over-with. So maybe it's worse in memory than it really was) I haven't had a really negative encounter with snowmobilers unless you count the time when I was training for the Susitna 100 and a guy came into the shop I was working for at the time and was bloring on about how he was doing the toughest race ever and that he felt sorry for the poor saps that did Iditabike (which was the old name for the Susitna 100) because he claims to have once passed one on his snowmobile that was weeping by the side of the trail. The race he was doing was called “Iron Dog” and went 1900-some miles. A tough thing to be sure but calling it the toughest race on earth strikes me a little hollow: almost anything that relies on an internal combustion engine for all forward progress does though. But then again maybe this is the Alaskan equivalent of NASCAR (with much better scenery and without all the drunk fans which they don't need because perhaps the racers themselves are drunk. Just kidding). Here's a video of Iron Dog and here's one on the Iditarod Trail Invitiational.
But now I'm taking cheap shots at snowmobilers and there are quite a few, the majority, who are good people. That's what I started to say in the last paragraph before I fell into the typical routine of making fun of the lazy beer drinkin', snowmobilers.
This kinda reminds me of a friend of mine, when asked what kind of music he liked, said, “I like almost all types of music. But you should remember that just because I like some rap songs doesn't mean that I don't think 90% of rap – or any type of music – is crap.”
Oh and by the way, sorry about the lack of pictures in this post. I took my camera but didn't get many pictures. While crashing sometimes seems to take forever, you don't actually have time to compose a picture on the way down.