This was the best day we’ve had in a while, with respect to weather. At noon, the temperature was in the upper forties, with a further ten-degree rise anticipated. Growing up in Louisiana
, it seemed odd to pine for the forties. But, after only seeing just above freezing once or twice over the last two weeks, it was like a trip to the Tropics. After weeks of riding myself bored on a stationary trainer, I would get to take my road bike
out for the day.
I probably set too high an expectation, but it was looking to be my one good day for the foreseeable future. The next day was to be even warmer, but rain and work would interfere. The day after that would be a return to the Arctic. So, I decided I would hit the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a rails to trails project that extends 72 miles. I planned to ride up from one point for ten to fifteen miles, then head back to the car, for a total of twice that. On reflection, that might have been too ambitious—my excitement and cabin fever getting the better of me. However, I felt fit enough to do it, and couldn’t see any problem.
Except, perhaps that the trail is not shoveled, and a good bit of it was in the shade.
I put the bike in the Brick, and drove up to the trailhead. There was a bit of snow in the shady areas of my neighborhood, but the road was clear. Dressed in tights and a Postie jersey, I was set for fun afternoon. As I rolled away, I saw that the trail was moist, with bits of snow and slush going under my tires. A mist came off my tires—I was getting wet. I didn’t care: I wanted to be on my bike. And I’m tough. And it’s still better than a stationary trainer.
I was maintaining a pretty good clip. Not as fast as I was going last time I was on the trail, but, given the cold and the lack of riding, it was much better than I expected. Here and there I would have to slow down for snow, or a walker, however, my brisk-but-wet pace was going well. I was having fun.
It really wasn’t until I was four-and-a-half miles out that my first problem began.
The whole trail was covered by snow that I couldn’t pass on my bike. I didn’t want my ride to be just nine miles. I decided to walk it. The slush was not easy to walk on, and my bike became heavy on my shoulder, but, after half a mile, I was clear. I cleaned the snow out of my cleats, and took off again. I went over one of the streets that cross the trail, and, a mile and a half since the last part covered by ice and snow, hit another.
I tried to walk it. However, it clearly was getting worse as I headed north. Walking was possible, but I watch slush build up on the brakes of my bike as I pushed it along. It was cold. It ceased to suck in a character-building sort of way, and began to suck in a sucky sort of way. And, if I returned on the trail, I’d have to cover both this and the first patch I traversed.
So, after a quarter mile of walking on the snow patched, my bike and I turned around, and walked back to the cross street. This time, my cleat was totally encased in snow, with half-an-inch stuck up in my shoe. I took the shoe off and beat it against a tree to clean it out, then bounced my bike to clear off the slush. I was almost seven miles away from the car. I decided surface streets were my best bet.
I pulled out my cell and called my wife, to let her know my plan—this might take longer than I thought, plus I wanted to let her know where to look for my body. I also wanted to let her know I might call for directions—I wasn’t terribly familiar with the area off the trail, but had driven through it a few times.
So, the next hour I rode on instinct, going in the general direction of “south.” I was west of the trail, so once in a while I would try to head east, only to realize it wouldn’t get me there. At one point, an SUV had to wait for me at a four-way stop (I got there first). He made great show of gunning his engine as he passed me later on.
Finally, I started to see landmarks I recognized off the trail. First the river. Then a cell tower. Finally, a sign for the trail. I got back on, south of any of the icy patches. Three miles later, I was back at my car. The ride totaled twenty miles, and built character: I don’t have to know where I’m going to get somewhere.
The ten-day forecast doesn’t show any day above forty.