Monday, January 9, 2012

A Papa Hobo Commute

Depending on which weather forecaster you listened to, today's weather called for seasonable temperatures with the slight possibility of light rain in the afternoon. In the morning the weatherman was spot on. I bundled up with a base layer under my holey sweater and Marmot Precip outerwear, slapped on my balaclava, and I was good to go. 

At lunch time, I was slurping my hot and salty vegetable beef soup when I overheard another diner say, "It's snowing."  As Paul Simon said in his song Papa Hobo, "The weatherman lied."

About an hour after returning to my office I received an e-mail from Mrs. Rootchopper who was using-not-losing her annual leave back at the Rootchopper Homestead.  "It's snowing like mad here!" Oh, joy.  I called her for more details, she said, "Be careful of the bridges."  She knows from past experience that the bridges, especially the wooden ones, on the Mount Vernon Trail can be incredibly slippery when wet.  One past experience totalled my bike and left me in a full leg brace for two weeks.  (Thank you, Hurricane Hugo.)

A few hours later I left the cosy confines of my office high atop scenic Rosslyn, Virginia. It was snowing moderately but the roads were too warm for any accumulation.  Pretty, pretty.

Two blocks later I turned onto the Mount Vernon Trail.  Apparently, car tires have something to do with this accumulation thing because there was a thin layer of snow across the trail.  There was just one thing to do. Ride on, cowboy.

And so I did.

It really was quite pleasant.  The snow started falling more heavily.  Pretty, pretty.  It was hard to see.  Too many headlights bouncing off the Parkway.

I made it passed the icy patch south of the Memorial Bridge.  Except it wasn't icy, it was slushy. 

I rode through curves cutting the corners and reminding myself, sometimes audibly, to relax my arms. Stay loose.

Bridge after bridge passed.  No worries. 

As I approached the notoriously twisty and slick wooden bridge north of Slaters Lane, another commuter sped passed me. I called out, "You first!"  He made it across unscathed as did I.  A quarter mile further, on the wooden bridge that winds around the Slaters Lane apartment building, I saw a big smear in the snow on the trail. Somebody hit the deck here.  After the turn, another one.  Not pretty. Stay loose.

On I rode without the slightest slip.  I made sure to cross the railroad tracks near Old Town at a 90 degree angle. No problem. Stay loose.

By Old Town the snow had stopped. Only a bit of drizzle remained. I hoped it didn't freeze. My cycle computer has a thermometer in it. Above freezing.  Good to go.

I made it into Belle Haven Park where I saw two cyclists standing next to their bikes just off the trail. "Are you okay?" The girl turned an smiled, "Yeah! Just taking pictures."  She was right. Pretty, pretty.  The snow was clinging to branches.  Enjoy this, said I to myself..

One more big boardwalk to go. This one at Dyke Marsh.  There, in the middle of the trail was another smear.  Another unlucky rider. Not pretty. Stay loose.

I slogged on in a deliberately high gear.  All the way home. I pushed my bike over the lawn into my backyard where it would roll no more.  As we used to say when I was a kid, it was good packin'.  The snow was clinging to my tires and filled the entire space between my tires and my fenders.  I picked my bike up and walked the final 30 yards to the door of my shed.

My Sequoia doesn't need a weatherman to know which way the shed is.

Stay loose.


  1. Glad you made it safely. Sounds like y'all got a lot more snow than up here. We got barely more than a dusting when all was said and done.

  2. Ha - I liked your description of a "smear" in the snow on the trail where someone "hit the deck". :) Yea, those bridges are tricky when wet, for sure. Glad I don't have to deal with them anymore. :) The roads were fine for me all the way home, thankfully. :)

  3. Those wooden bridges are killer when wet, but the scenery is always nice (I've seen hibiscus flowers in the summer). That must have been a fun ride--glad it was a safe one, too.