Snow makes for an unpleasant yet fun ride

Since today is Monday of National Bike to Work Week, and also because I’m participating in the National Bike Challenge, I decided it would be a good idea to ride my bike instead of driving to Scotts Bluff National Monument for my regular hike up the bluff.

Yeah, we’d gotten somewhere around 7-10 inches of heavy, wet snow over the weekend. So what? It was already melting, and the roads were clear.

The bike paths and sidewalks, it turned out – not so much.

There were the dreaded “plow mountains” blocking access between sidewalk and crosswalk.

This particular specimen, at the northwest corner of Beltline and Broadway, was difficult enough to walk over, let alone try to try with a bike.

This particular specimen, at the northwest corner of Beltline and Broadway, was difficult enough to walk over, let alone try to traverse with a bike.

Sidewalks weren’t really an option for riding in many places.

The Broadway / 10th Street bridge was the worst - slushy and chunky and icy. I was a little afraid even walking over it. NOTE: this is a big problem for non-motorized transport in the area, as there are only two in-town river crossings, and the Broadway / 10th Street bridge is the only one with a sidewalk.

The Broadway / 10th Street bridge was the worst – slushy and chunky and icy. I was a little afraid even walking over it. NOTE: this is a big problem for non-motorized transport in the area, as there are only two in-town river crossings, and the Broadway / 10th Street bridge is the only one with a sidewalk. Both sides of the street were nasty. I checked.

I dismounted to walk across the bridge.

I had to dismount again when I hit a stretch of snow-covered pathway in Terrytown behind the Carpenter Center.

I really have never ridden in snow before, so I was not prepared for the way my bike bogged down as I hit a long patch of thicker thaw-freeze snow. I didn't have my bike in a low enough gear and I slowed too much and lost balance.

I really have never ridden in snow before, so I was not prepared for the way my bike bogged down as I hit a long patch of thicker thaw-freeze snow. I didn’t have my bike in a low enough gear and I slowed too much and lost balance.

The bike path west on Country Club Road was, unsurprisingly, blocked by snow. Some plows had worked the street, but the snow was not pushed off the road – it was pushed onto the bike path. (Nothing new there – I’ve had this same problem in past years.) West of Five Rocks Road on Country Club there is very little traffic, so riding out in the road was not a problem. However, I will point out that 50 percent of the (two) cars that passed me failed to give the minimum 3-foot passing distance. *facepalm*

So, that was all the unpleasant stuff.

Now we get to the fun part:  the snow-covered north-south leg of the Monument Valley Pathway adjacent to SBNM property.

I downshifted and tackled the snow-encrusted pathway head-on. Trouble is, the wind rushing around the contours of the land and the boundary fenceposts had sculpted the snow into irregular drifts.

When I hit a drift that was deep enough for my pedals to scuff its surface as I passed, my forward progress ceased.

Nice place to get stranded, eh?

Nice place to get stranded, eh?

I was starting to have fun learning to buck the drifts, so, rather than turning around, I walked the bike until there was a shallow enough patch of snow that I could get some traction and get going again.

I slid and skidded, delighting in the sound of the snow crushing under my tires.

It was a good thing I was going slow enough that I wouldn’t need to brake to stop: my brakes packed with snow and ceased to function.

snowy wheels

A rare dry point on the pathway.

I learned that by jerking up on my handlebars just as I encountered a deep section of snow, I could improve my chances of being able to ford the drift by staying more on top of the snow instead of plowing straight into it.

It was a real workout getting through that snow, and a challenge to stay on the wide path as I wobbled between drifts. I decided that if the narrow, winding, hilly path across SBNM property to the Visitors Center was not plowed, I would turn around and go home. I’d already worked up a sweat, and I didn’t want to go careering off the path and land on a yucca or prickly pear hidden under a snowbank.

Rats. Time to turn around.

Rats. Time to turn around.

I thought that on the way back, with the day warming and the snow starting to melt, I would have an easier time getting through the drifts. That turned out not to be the case.

With a little bit of thawed snow under my tires, more often than not, my wheels dug down and spun, causing me to tip off the bike. (I was really starting to get a hankering for a fat bike.)

I was glad when I could finally get back out into dry pavement again. I bounced the bike a couple of times to knock off the snow and cleaned out and tested my brakes before I headed downhill on Country Club Road.

One more picture from today’s ride, taken slightly out of focus with my cell phone camera just before the phone crashed:

Baby Canada geese in spring snow next to Terry's Lake.

Baby Canada geese and their parents in spring snow next to Terry’s Lake.

Here’s hoping the snow melts fast!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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