‘Tundra’ might be pushing it when describing the state of the dirt here in northern Illinois, but it’s as close to a description as I can muster at this moment. The top layer of dirt is pleasantly frozen today… and I LIKE that. What that means to this mountain biker is that what has been mud has turned to solid frozen dirt. Solid frozen dirt rides very, very well into the sun comes out and thaws that frozen top layer. When it thaws, it’s a mucky mess that is not really worth riding. So, when the dirt turns to Illinois tundra, the joys of the winter riding season around here are abundant. This year has not provided an abundancy of off road riding, the rain too plentiful. I and others frowned at the skies far more than we rode the past few months.
Nothing proves that more than looking around as I rode this morning. With the summer vegetation and leaves gone, the woods are wonderfully wide open, creating a new view throughout the woods. The trail system I ride the most is next to a large river, the trails built amongst berms left when that river was dredged and the debris from a close by mine was dumped next to the river. There is always water in between the berms, with little swamps and lakes. During a normal summer, all but the deepest water dries up. There is usually only one water crossing on the trails, but today there were at least three, the water in between the berms so high that it encroached on the trails. It was interesting to observe all the water, hidden behind the greenery all summer, and how it has taken over the park. The water is a nearly luminescent green, beautiful, although I really don’t want to come in contact with it!
I stopped for a moment during this morning’s ride to snap a picture of my bike, share it with my friends (Jim and John). It was 27 degrees when I started my ride and I really wanted to taunt them for being cold weather wimps, choosing indoor warmth and Zwift over the outdoors. My friend, Dave, rolled up as I was taking the picture, asked me if I was going to sell my new Salsa. Ain’t no way, unless financial strain makes that necessary (it could, but I will keep this positive). Our friend, Chuck, pulled up as well. We chatted about our Subara Crosstreks and Salsa bicycles as we watched two guys descend a jump the plateau.. there in the picture but a whole lot more intimidating than the picture shows. Dave, Chuck, and I have a common bond with our bicycles and vehicles, as well as being in the over 50 club. It was nice to catch up with them.
It wasn’t really all that cold this morning, even though the temperature was under 30 degrees. There was little to no wind. On top of that, I have learned over the years to dress in layers, have collected the necessary components to make me comfortable in the cold. To me, it was downright balmy! My first layer is a synthetic mock long sleeved tee, with ‘capri’ style padded bib shorts (‘Capri’ is probably not what they are called, but, hey….). The shorts have straps that go over my shoulders. My feet have thermal socks with wool socks over them. Second layer is fleece lined tights and a fleece lined long sleeve zip up vented jersey. Over the jersey goes and wind proof vest, then an old fleece.
However, I experienced one of the not so nice aspects of the necessity of dressing in layers. I was talking with my dad as I pulled up to my parking spot, had to excuse myself because,..er..ummmm…, nature was calling rather strongly. I am not talking about the woods, although I COULD be. It sucks getting old. Nature isn’t so patient with me any more. Combine that urgency with trying to quickly remove several layers of clothing, and you have a near disaster waiting to happen.
I survived cleanly. Barely.
And there you have. Tundra and turds and time well spent.