Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Winter in Denver, a lament...

I figure, of the 15 or 20 regular readers of this blog, a dozen or more of you are friends of Tamar's and mine. So here's a personal update: How Maynard and Tamar are doing in Denver. In winter.

Tamar is faring far better than I am. She has a great job at the Denver Public Library. She works with caring, civilized people and can choose among several paths to (relative) wealth and fame in library work. She's painting and drawing and knitting and cooking up a variety of storms.

Tamar's five years in Tucson did not erode her back-east-winter coping skills. So she has adapted well to Rocky Mountain winters. It isn't easy - you can't pedal or ride your scooter in the winter here, not if you're susceptible to fear - but she's riding the bus and dealing with it.

Tamar is tough.

I'm not so tough. I'm suffering in ways you'll understand and ways you may not. I have not experienced a genuine winter since 1968, when I lasted one sorry, sun-deprived year in Washington State.

We were told - and we believed - that Denver winters are only intermittently cold and snowy. It would snow, people said, and then suddenly the sun would come out. In a matter of hours the snow would be gone - vanished! You can ride at least four days every week, we heard.

But last year and this year the snow came and stayed. I toughed it out last year, certain that the weather was fluky, that this year would be different. Alas, winter '07-'08 is more of the same.

I've never been good at winter. I never tried winter sports. I did buy an indoor trainer decades ago when I was more concerned about off-season fitness. I remember the boredom vividly. I rode one again in '05 after a crash. I have no warm feelings associated with indoor trainers.

This winter has not been so severe as last year's. That doesn't mean it's tropical here. I have not ridden a motorcycle since Thanksgiving. I have done one sorta decent bicycle ride since Thanksgiving. It snows, it doesn't get warm, the snow turns to ice, the ice stays on the streets.

The Cherry Creek bike trail runs along the creek. It's shaded for much of its distance and stays snowy and often icy, even without motor traffic to pack the snow into ice.

I don't believe it has dropped below zero this winter. The cold is manageable. Often the sun shines and the streets, especially those that are exposed to warm afternoon sunlight, look inviting. But the ice...

The ice, inches deep, stays on the edges of the city streets, effectively narrowing them so that you cannot get out of the way on your bicycle. You are forced to ride in the lane with the cars. I see people riding on icy, slushy, snowy streets and I am inspired with awe. It's scary to walk and they're out there mixing it up with the text-messagers in their cars. I'll pass, thank you.

If indeed the polar ice caps are melting, how come the ice at Seventh and Washington never recedes? Al, due respect, come to Denver, take a look.

Because we live in a highrise, a situation I enjoy, we have no access to a water hose, a situation I hate. I can't keep my bicycle clean. The streets are sprinkled with that ice-melting stuff. The snow quickly turns wet and dirty, so one's bicycle is spattered awful each time it's ridden.

I've never been able to tolerate a dirty bike. Now I am forced by circumstances to do so. I ride my Bike Friday. A dirty Bike Friday offends me less than a dirty Rivendell or Lighthouse.

I can wash my bike by hand if I take bike and buckets down ten floors and outside the building. In freezing weather, splashing water on the sidewalk is an antisocial act. This dirty bike issue may seem trivial. I know and care deeply about the people behind each of my bikes, is the thing. Leaving a bike filthy seems to me to show disrespect. Or maybe I just hate a dirty bicycle.

Because I write about bicycling and motorcycling and must generate articles year 'round, the enforced layoffs in wintertime are worrying. If I have no riding experiences and little contact with riders, I am afraid I won't have story ideas. I do get story ideas but I worry anyway.

Tamar and I talked about this at some length and we decided that I need to get outta Dodge for a few weeks - once or twice during the winter. As I type that sentence, I feel like a wuss - lots of Americans thrive on winter. Not me.

We love Denver and don't want to move away. We feel good here much of the time. We've made good friends and found a great place in a super neighborhood. When spring comes, the riding will be terrific, both pedal and motorized. Most of the elements are in place.

I don't need to go to Monte Carlo or Rio. I need to escape to somewhere simple and affordable, where the big attraction is traction.

1 comment:

Will Handsfield said...

I think you need a cyclocross bike. I have a trek 520 with cross tires on it, and it handles the snow and ice really well. It takes a different set of maneuvering skills sometimes, but I think it's worth it to get out there on the frozen, sunny days.