Saturday 22 December 2012. First Official Winter Ride

Saturday 12 January 2012. Still trying to catch up, and there are no photos in this posts, only a sketch. See this link for details.

At 7am this morning the sky was clear and the sun just beginning to show. The temperature was 10 degrees F. A thin crust of snow remained on the ground from the season’s first snowfall, almost right on cue for the first day of winter and, as it turned out, the relatively uneventful last day of the Mayan calendar.

Was excited, maybe a little nervous, to prepare for an actual winter ride, destination Meadowbrook Park. Made me laugh to remember a velo in October where the “cold” reminded me of stories of Ernest Shackleton and the Antarctic. Put on layers, chemical hand warmers (cheating?) in my felted wool mittens, a fleece balaclava, wool-blend socks and light boots and was off.

Still hadn’t fixed Discovery‘s flat; good thing Blue was in the garage. Blue also could have done with some attention: one pedal was cracked and the chain slipped on the gears quite frequently (maybe an effect of the cold). Just couldn’t psyche up for working on them in this weather. But Blue would serve for this trip.

Once on the road, was glad to see that Race Street was mostly dry. Must say, though, that the beginning of the ride was not comfortable–mostly it was too hot. Took the hand warmers out of the mittens and put them in a coat pocket. Strangely, the sleeve cuffs of my sweater layer held a large amount of heat; felt much better when I folded them back over the coat sleeves.

After a little while still felt too warm but now also cold on my face (would have been worse without the balaclava). Would I be able to pay attention to anything on this ride except feeling uncomfortable?

Made myself stop to photograph what a ride on a winter morning looked like at all.

Wondered how long would be enough, when to turn back. Would I make it to the Windsor/Vine bridge? Was a little disappointed in myself that this not very long ride felt like such effort.

Near Windsor there was some ice on the bike lane–was a bit nervous about it but very glad I was doing the winter ride with no traffic to speak of.

Didn’t think the paths through Meadowbrook Park would be very clear, so rode on Windsor Road toward the bridge, which I hadn’t yet decided would or wouldn’t be the farthest extent of this trip. Approaching the bridge noticed a small group of ducks in the stream below. Remembering how wary the ducks I’d seen lately have been, got the camera immediately ready, even setting the zoom before framing the shot. Was able to get a few shots as they retreated. Between the ducks moving quickly away and starting to feel cold, didn’t do a lot of observing. Was eager to do that when I’d sit down with the photos. [Oh,well!]

Quite suddenly, it seemed, my toes were now freezing! Hands were still ok so slipped the hand warmers into the boots. Thus equipped, headed for a clockwise big loop around the park.

The Santa hats someone had put on the “processing difficult emotions” (my nickname for them) figures looked a bit weathered.

The sun was coming up over the horizon and casting its strip of gold across the interior of the prairie, compass plant skeletons making a contrasting foreground. Then noticed a lovely clump of frosty Baptisia pods. Images of the winter prairie drew me in, which began to overcome the discomfort and make me want to stay longer with them.

Heard and saw both sexes of pheasants, apparently not deterred by the cold. Heard distinct rustling in the dry vegetation but saw no movement whatsoever, even when I stood for a time absolutely (or pretty close to it) still. Strange.

The snow sparkled in patterns around the blades of dry grass, but knew I’d freeze if I got going with the camera, so mostly kept moving along and shooting the occasional wider view.

Twice when I stopped for a photo of something else saw a male pheasant rise majestically in a diagonal line from the ground to the sky.

Flushing Pheasant 22 Dec 12

Each one was large and boldly patterned and trailed long, undulating tail feathers, slow compared to other birds but too sudden for me to get a photo.

A “murder” of crows ascended from the Walker Grove on the southwest side of the park, a couple of them each grasping something with their feet; couldn’t make out what it was. They lighted briefly in a nearby tree, but it’s harder than one expects to photo them; they don’t like to pose (true for most wild creatures, actually).

The trail was amazingly dry most of the way; then a runner warned me of ice ahead on the south edge of the big loop. Decided crossing ice might be safe if one is going at a steady rate and doesn’t try to change direction at all. This turned out to be true; at least I did ride over several icy places, including the small and the Rabbit bridge, without falling. Good data.

Saw another bundled cyclist on the path and thought “How adventurous (crazy?) of them!” Hmm.

Wanted to stop at the Rabbit bridge, under which water flowed actively, but was cold and went on.

Coming back in a slight northerly breeze, realized how calm the air had been and felt grateful there wasn’t also the wind to deal with. Was very glad to have made this adventure but wondered how many more I’d be up for this winter. We’ll see.


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