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January 1, 2014 New Year's Day Ride

I did a New Year's Day ride, but didn't get started 'til 3:30 or somewhat later!  After successfully climbing up the gravel end of Vitae Springs, I started thinking about Bunker Hill . . . .

It was intensely foggy, and I knew I probably would be returning in the dark, so I swapped out my "Hey!  Look at me!" blinky for a Urban 200.  Thought about using my Vis 360 set up on my helmet, but knew from experience that the light just bounces back into your eyes when mounted that high.  The additional tail light was an entertaining thought however!

The fog continued until descending Liberty Road onto Ankeny Wild Life Refuge, where despite it's proximity to the river, it disappeared!  I took the right turn onto Riverside, where the constant buzz of my studded tires was the only noise — with the exception of the thousands of geese settling in for the evening.

Just after reaching the vineyard, I stopped and removed both my ear warmer and my outer lobster mitts.  I opened the armpit zips on my jacket and unzipped both my wool jersey and my jacket front in preparation for the climb up Bunker Hill.  It was now dark enough that I had my headlight on as well as the automatic tail light.

Initially, it looked like Bunker would be easier than Vitae Springs — no mud, just lots of gravel!  Unfortunately, loose gravel, and as the incline increased, I was forced to get out of the saddle, which began causing the rear tire to give little skips, loosing traction.  

I was tempted to just release and put one foot down, but knew that if I did, I'd never regain enough momentum to continue.  So, every little skip caused my heart to increase a thump, and so when the rear tire skipped enough that I miraculously got a foot to the ground before finding myself prostrate on the road, I couldn't even give a sigh of relief!

I waited for my ragged breath to slow down, along with my beating heart, and contemplated walking to a "stair step" on the roadway, before attempting to ride again.  There was a truck parked along the edge or the road facing me — the wrong side of the road — and I wondered if there were occupants who'd been watching me.  The pitch of the road continued way beyond the truck, which was still a good hundred car lengths away.  I tentatively took a couple of steps, but realized that the cycling shoes I wore would afford me little purchase in pushing my bike upwards, more of a two steps forward, one slide backwards math quiz!

It was still tempting, as it was a straight to home approach, and the thought of turning around and finding myself riding up Skyline in the dark wasn't very appealing.  But I turned the bike around and found myself riding down with one cleat engaged and the other trying to stay on the pedal.  Had to stand up going thru the washboards and dance with them to avoid being jerked around!

And down by the pond with waterwheel, someone commenced firing their gun, which really echoed, and I halfway expected to see bits of bark flying off the trees nearby!  Just after leaving the hairpin on Skyline, I stopped to roll up my jacket and pull off my arm warmers, as I was plenty warm, and there was still the "bumps" to climb.  My tail light was flashing, and wishing to conserve my headlight, I had it on flash.  It bobbed all over the road as I pulled on the handlebars, so I was relieved to know I was visible as the fog was increasing once more I neared the top of Skyline.  My only problem was that I was moving so slow that fog was condensing on the inside of my glasses, and every time a car came down the hill, I couldn't see anything.  And worse, the chatter of my studs gave me little warning of cars approaching from behind!

The studs did allow me to ride in the smooth asphalt patches that normally would cause the tire to skip when they're damp.  Not that I could see how slippery they might have been!

I stopped at the top and rolled my sleeves down, put on my jacket, and wiped the fog off the inside of my glasses.  With frustration, I had to use my brakes on all the descents back to town, as the fog just swallowed my light.  I knew the roadway, but even so, those minor curves seemed very pronounced with the little vision that I had!

It was only when I hit Kuebler that I realized that my tail light was no longer functioning!  I was depending on the headlights of cars to catch the reflective material of my clothing and the tail light!  Lesson learned!  On a night ride like this, always have a back up light, both front and rear! 

Dark Clouds

Looming dark clouds


Getting up the hill



Bad Weather

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