I had too many errands and last minute things to do to ride a century on Christmas Eve. It was a quandary as the upcoming week’s weather looked bad and I had a full work schedule and all that holiday stuff was coming as well. It was sunny and cold, but when I got everything done, I at least had time for a ride.
I was a few miles into the ride around Athens (Ohio), when I decided that I could do the century today anyway. I would just have to finish after nightfall. I called my wife, and she was resigned to it but told me I had to be home for dinner and opening of gifts. I had just enough time to cover the bike path to Nelsonville and back and take the side trip to Guysville to get back to Athens before dark. The bike is not equipped with lights, but the one in the garage has them.
I came around a curve into the shade and found snow and ice on part of the trail and realized I had forgotten one factor – last week’s snow wasn’t gone everywhere. Soon the trip was down to a crawl as I worked my way through the ice/snow/rut mix. I was congratulating myself as I neared what I thought was the end of it when I found myself on the ground sliding off the path. No damage found, and I cleaned the guck off the shifters, brushed of the snow, walked the bike to dry pavement and took off west again.
It was easy going for 2 miles and I ran into another stretch of snow/ice/ruts. I unclipped one foot and took it carefully. Skinny tires are not so great on this stuff and I came close to going down a couple more times before I was back to dry pavement. A mile later in an area where a road parallels, it became ridiculous, and I switched to the road for as long as I could. Another stretch of snow came up and I worked my way through it to dry path and made it to town where I thawed my feet and hands and got a hot cup of coffee.
I followed the path back the way I came, then took a detour up to US 33 and rode the paved shoulder for 3 miles, then some other connecting roads and paralleled the path. When I came to dry path, I got off, wheeled down a hill and across a ditch and remounted on the path for a couple miles, before taking another detour, finally regaining the path where I knew it would be dry to the end. I stopped in at Kroger to thaw and rode off onto US 50 with its well-paved and clean-of-snow shoulder to Guysville – my halfway point. It was getting dark as all of the detours and snow had delayed me a bunch. It was past dusk when I got to Athens and the bike path and definitely dark-ish when I climbed the hill to home.
At home, the house smelled GREAT! I could no longer feel my hands or feet. I stripped and put all the clothes in the dryer to get rid of any excess moisture and warm them up. I put the shower on hot and plugged the drain to fill the bottom of the shower until I could feel my feet and the resulting sting that indicated thawing. I was reasonably warm when I got done.
Dinner was prime rib, homemade 4-cheese macaroni casserole, salad, dessert – oh, yeah! I skipped the wine, drinking Gatorade and milk instead. It was time to open the presents and my wife had me check the stocking first. She had given me toe warmers! Absolutely perfect. When we were done, I was pretty mellow. The hardest thing I did all week was get dressed to go back out for the remaining 40 miles.
I put new batteries in one of the headlights and taillight, but I did not have the specialty battery for the best light. I put on my reflective vest and ankle reflectors. I pulled the old 12-speed Panasonic tourer out of the garage and headed off into the night for the bike path. I needed a certain number of miles, so I went back to the bike path.
The conditions were the same, and I slid off the path on ice twice, but managed to keep from falling, although it was close a few times. I passed a couple panicked rabbits and a duo of cats that almost scooted the wrong way. I met my first two deer when a friend called to see what I was doing. He kept tabs on me the rest of the way as he went over his handlebars a few weeks ago, broke his arm, and dislocated his shoulder. He tells me to be careful.
I got through all the tough parts without killing myself and got to Nelsonville only to find everything closed for Christmas downtown where the path ends. I rode out to where I figured Speedway would be open. Their pumps were full and store was packed. I dumped a lot of creamer in a cup, added coffee and grabbed a candy bar and went out with my warm toes to drink it. I got lots of looks. We’re used to it, aren’t we?
I headed back to my route of detours, passing two more deer that didn’t get too close. Traffic was nil except on US 33 where it was just light. On my last leg before regaining the bike path I passed 4 more deer that just watched me go by. Most of the bike path near Ohio University is lit for the students, but I had the path to myself. No one was out and nothing was open when I reached the commercial area.
I resigned myself to no receipt and started to climb the hill. I suddenly realized I had seen 8 deer this evening. That number rings a bell at Christmas. Couldn’t be. Naw, no fat guy in a red suit and no sleigh. It was quiet though. A silent night. So I sang Silent Night quietly, almost to myself, as I climbed the last bit to the house. When I walked in my daughter greeted me with “Merry Christmas!” as it was a few moments after midnight.
Both bikes are a mess. I am tired from riding in winter gear and a bit chilled except for the toes, but it is Christmas with most of my family here. Life is good in Appalachia!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all at UMCA and all the Year Rounders, racers and riders.