Contrasts are often what make life more interesting. I live in northern Illinois, just west of Chicago, a place where weather often provides that very contrast, with one day cold, the next a surprise of warmth. If you aren’t familiar with the Chicago area, you know that contrasts are not just characteristic of the winter months, it’s a year long experience. Last weekend was a good example, contrasts in weather an excellent thing. As a cyclist, it was a marvelous thing.
Saturday morning arrived early for me — early as in 5:30 AM. Don’t get me wrong, I am capable of sleeping in, mining the bedcovers until 8 AM or so, but the morning promised to be sunny and pleasant. Visions of rideable trails had graced my dreams all night, prompting me to wake up ready to go. When I went to bed Friday night, I realized that it was a real possibility that I could ride dirt in the morning, if and only if I woke up early enough to ride the trails before they thawed. Instead of cocooning under the blankets, I popped out of bed, looked at my phone to check the temperature outside (20 something degrees). The forecast for the day was sun and warming temperatures, so I donned my winter riding clothes, rushed out the door to put the bike rack on my Crosstrek, mount the bike on the back, and roll out to the trails. To say I was a tad bit excited to get out for a real dirt ride is an understatement. I was a kid in a candy store.
There is something magical about the first ride of the year, as well as a cold morning in the woods, the quiet as wonderful as the blue skies surrounding the trees around me. I arrived to new views. Over the winter, the park district spent a lot of time clearing the scrub out of the woods, so much that the space had opened up. Not only that, but a new trail head (or trail AHEAD) sign had been erected at the trail head. I was the only rider in the parking lot, unbelievably the only one who had anticipated the freeze/thaw effect on the trail. I knew that in another hour or two, the trails would begin to thaw and become unrideable, so muddy that riding the trails would be dangerous and damaging to the trails. But when I arrived, they were frozen, pristine, ready for me.
I felt great. Don’t get ‘great’ mistaken with ‘fast’. This was not a fast ride, this was a joyful ride, a celebration and welcoming of the new year. The fast rides are to come. With the changes to some of the trails, open from the cutting done by the park district, it was like riding a whole new set of trails. There was exploring to do, discovery, one trail so different that it was difficult to find.
I finished my ride 90 minutes later, happy and satisfied. I paused to take a picture of my tires and posted the picture on the rider group FB page, a warning that even frozen trails had left my tread caked with wet dirt. Even at 9 AM, the trails were beginning to thaw. I warned that the trails would not be rideable the rest of the day. The temperature was nearing 40 degrees, the sun beginning to warm the earth.
My whole day was stretched out in front of me, my ride accomplished. There was so much I could do. I arrived home, picked up trash along the berm in front of my condo, cleaned the house, put together a shopping list, set out my agenda for the day. By one o’clock, I was done, ready to take a nap, prepare for my evening.
It was glorious.
Sunday was even better. Talk about contrasts? The temperature was above 60, sunny and windy. I went to church, had breakfast with a friend, napped for an hour when I got home, then went out to the garage in my bike shorts. Yep… another ride was in order. This time, I knew that I would see soggy trails, so I rode the fat bike and set out for the crushed limestone trails close to my house. IN SHORTS!!! I relaxed again, music playing through my phone in the pocket of said shorts. This was going to be a long ride, at least four hours. I planned to explore, find new trails, rediscover old trails. At one point, I decided I didn’t want the music any more, so I stopped, pulled the phone out of my pocket to turn the music off.
That pocket also had my debit card and license in it. Do I need to say more? I stopped about two hours into the ride, just as my cell phone was ringing. It was the police. Someone had turned in my driver’s license. Yep. Note to self — never put my license in the same shorts pocket with my phone. What could have been an anxious tragedy turned out to be a minor inconvenience. I had to reroute to get to the police station in order to retrieve my license. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a beautiful ride through marshes and woods, a strong jaunt that proved my legs still have a lot left from last season.
I feel good, so much so that the time change had no affect on me at all today. I arrived at work an hour early, even survived a violent thunderstorm on my way to work. It was a busy day, one of those Mondays where lunch came so fast that I couldn’t believe it. Tonight’s weather wasn’t so pleasant, once again a contrast, yet not a surprise. I live here. I expect the weather to change quickly.
I hope all who read this enjoyed the same type of weekend. It was a good one!