On Saturday, I was sandbagged by the Weather Underground. Not the revolutionary group from the 60’s, but rather the web site, which attempts to predict weather down to 3 hour increments.
As I was sipping my coffee, the Underground informed me that our 70% likelihood of rain would be diminishing steadily throughout the day. Since the rain had already stopped, I dressed for cool dry conditions and got ready for a long ride out East Canyon.
My bike needs some love. I haven’t really tuned her all winter and she had been making some odd noises. A cursory check before Saturday’s ride revealed a broken saddle–cracked in two right down the middle. Hmmm, I thought, I wonder how long it’s been like this? I swapped my Fizik Aerion for a beefy Trans Am off of my TT bike and was good to go.
I’d been feeling particularly feeble this year, since my lack of form seemed somewhat shocking, even though I hadn’t been training much. I really needed some miles. My route would take me up Emigration canyon over Little and Big Mountains, then out towards Hennifer. It was cold, but dry, and since my route was mainly uphill for the first 10 or so miles I knew I’d warm up.
The snow flurries first appeared low in Emigration. I wasn’t worried. After all, the weather was “clearing”. I also felt good. Fairly strong, and certainly much better than I had all year. I was using one to two gears higher than I had been on this climb lately and exerting no more effort. It wasn’t all about gained fitness over the last week; my broken saddle had been robbing me of power on every stroke. I wondered how long it had been that way. Last fall’s races? I had no idea. Man, I thought, I don’t deserve to have a nice bike.
I’d only seen a few riders heading up Little–rare for any Saturday–and all were coming down. Near the summit, three riders were descending. One, in shorts, was laughing about how he couldn’t see. The snow fall had increased. Looking into the distance, there was no sign of Big Mountain, just darkness. But I was feeling good, so down I went, descending into East Canyon. I thought of the Bishop in Caddyshack saying to Carl (Bill Murray) his caddy, “God would never interrupt that greatest game of my life.”
Near the end of the descent, I saw a rider heading uphill. I smiled and nodded. He didn’t look very happy. He would be the last rider I’d see.
I was bummed that they’d opened the road up to Big Mountain. It’s usually closed until the end of May, providing a pristine riding environment. It wouldn’t matter today, however. The sightseeing opportunities had been minimized with the white out conditions. I’d only see a couple of cars the rest of the way.
The snow was now coming down hard. It was thick and heavy; not normal Utah powder. But since I was heading uphill, it wasn’t at all unpleasant. In fact, it was rather blissful, just riding along in the dead quiet. It felt like riding in a Christmas card. It was also supposed to be clearing, right? At least that thought kept me going.
Near the top of Big, the wind picked up. The snow was coming in at a different angle and seemed to be getting wetter. This could mean that we were breaking through the clouds cover. Or it could mean nothing of the sort. Whatever the reason, conditions were getting less pleasant. I thought of Carl telling the Bishop, “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s going to hit for quite a while now.”
At the summit of Big, conditions were ridiculous. The snow was coming in horizontally and the road was slush. I snapped a pic and looked in my intended direction. It was completely dark. I wasn’t cold, yet, but had been heading pretty much uphill the entire ride. My Team Marco Polo winter jacket was doing a great job but it wasn’t a rain jacket, and things were wet. I also only had on one pair of light gloves and no toe covers.
But things were “clearing”, so I headed down Big in my intended direction. A few minutes later it became clear that things were, indeed, not clearing anytime soon and the I’d been sandbagged by the Underground. Isn’t that what the revolutionary group did too? As I recall, they become famous/notorious more for things that had gone amiss rather than having their intended effects.
Anyway, it was now cold. I mean, really fucking cold. Well, maybe not so much cold as miserable. The “snow” was no longer idyllic. Instead, it pelted me in the face like BBs and I felt like I’d been stuck in a slushy machine. In an attempt to stay get warm, I hammered back up Big in the big ring and thought of the Bishop, sitting in the bar telling Judge Smails, “There is no God!” At the summit, I shook the slush off of myself and my bike and snapped another shot.
The descent off of Big wasn’t particularly fun. In one direction, the wind was in my face and the slush peppered me hard, no matter how slow I went. It was one of those “should I go slow so it doesn’t hurt or go fast and get it over with” descents. Should I stop was also on my mind but that wasn’t going to get me home. I had over 20 miles to shelter and most of it was down hill. I thought of what Bobke had said in The Day The Big Men Cried, something along the lines of “before this day I thought that I could descend 10 kilometers in any type of weather…” and that he’d almost hit someone on that fateful descent who had gotten off their bike and was running uphill to try and get warm. I thought about running uphill.
I finally stopped after the steepest big to wipe the slush off. Everything facing forward was covered in about 4″ of slush. I knocked it all off but my fingers and feet was fully soaked and numb.
I hammered at any opportunity, trying to warm up, but it wasn’t clear that the speed and, hence, wind wasn’t offsetting any heart rate rise. My fingers and toes felt wooden and hurt, which got me wondering how long it took to get frostbite. Uphill to the top of Little, I shook my hands alternatively, attempting to get some feeling back before the descent. When I’d left Little, conditions were pleasant. I was hoping they’d remained so.
No such luck. The descent off the top was wet, cold, windy. I could probably be home in 30 minutes. How long did it take to get frostbite again? By the time I was in the canyon proper, I couldn’t feel my tips. I decided that if the Sun and Moon cafe was open I would have some breakfast and, alas, maybe there was a God after all.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to the bathroom to “fix” my fingers. It took a while to bring them back to life. I couldn’t put hot water directly on them for a at first and it was reasonably painful regaining their use. I couldn’t do too much about my toes. They were soaked, but at least they could thaw before the rest of the descent.
After breakfast, the ride was wet–“clearing” my ass–but uneventful. My toes were frozen by the time I was home but nothing a 30 minute shower couldn’t fix. All in all, it was my first adventure of the year and, certainly, the most fun I’d had since my birthday challenge. I thought of this as I neared home. It’s easy to stay comfortable and not take on things to push your envelope a bit. But that kind of life doesn’t really appeal to me. Still, sometimes I forget and need a serendipitous adventure to remind me. Epic season is now open.