Rambling Different Trails: Riding In Winter Gunk.

There seems to be some similarity of riding conditions between Zhoukou and Lincoln recently. Though we haven’t had temperatures below the teens here in Zhoukou this winter, it has been unusually snowy. Spring is considered to begin after Spring Festival, A.K.A. Lunar New Year, February 15 this year. Palmettos, peanuts, and cotton are common sights, with some farming continuing in greenhouses surrounding the city all winter long, so you know the winters are milder here. Last winter was not so snowy or cold, so I didn’t think I’d need studded tires or serious winter gear. It’s been keeping me indoors more than I would like, largely due to the fact that snow removal is limited. Salt is not used and sand, rarely. I did see dirt finally put on some packed ice, which helped.

Snow + dirt = snirt. My other nemesis, along with ice ruts.

It’s melted off or been cleared enough now to be rideable. I saw a snow blade on the front of a water spray truck. They have plenty of those trucks. Over most of the year, the city sprays down major streets and the campus to keep the dust down, I guess. The campus truck plays “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” all year long while it sprays.

Yesterday I thought I’d try a ride through the countryside. There was a big difference between country and city. I think the ice pack was at at least 50% on the county roads. The highways had been mostly cleared, except for the shoulders. I’d taken the mountain bike, which helped with traction, but I did not figure on how much the snow and mud spray was going to coat my drive train. This didn’t happen with the earlier snowfall. The slush froze onto the gears and finally wouldn’t let me shift about halfway into my ride. At about three-fourths of the way, I had difficulty keeping it in gear at all, as the chain wouldn’t stay engaged. That made getting across some major roads more interesting than it should have been.

It wasn’t much fun to ride in, but it was beautiful.

I eventually did get home, carried the bike up four floors, and into the heated apartment. Normally, it’s a better idea to leave a cold bike in the cold, but it was such a mess I knew it was going to take more than a light brushing off. I didn’t get to it right away, and before I knew it, chunks of dirty, frozen slush were dropping off and spreading across the floor. I wheeled it into the shower and gave it a quick spray before our evening student arrived.

That’s all I managed before the unexpected water outage. Electricity and water are generally reliable here (more so than the Internet) but still, it happens. The bike had to wait until morning.

Just before the latest snowfall, we got a large influx of Hello bike shares. They have spread away from campus and are now being stocked around major intersections.

Steve wanted no part of this adventure, as he had a bad experience on some black ice a few days ago. When the temps dipped at sunset, the film of water in an intersection turned to ice and he slid out. Luckily, he got away with only bruises. Winter break began this past weekend, so if it melts off quickly, I predict we’ll both be finally getting some miles in before the big tour.