Monday, January 19, 2009

Warning signs

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

It was so nice today that I had to turn what started out as a putzy 3-hour ride into something more appropriate for a glorious winter day. So, fueled up with coffee and a chocolate pinwheel cookie (bakery-sized, not the supermarket kind), off I went to the backroads of Snohomish County. It had been a long time since I'd been on this particular road, and it was just as hard as ever.

As soon as you turn off the bike trail, you start climbing and go over a bridge across the Pilchuck River. Well, most bridges today were a bit frosty, which made me realize this rural, woodsy road was going to be iffy in terms of black ice and frost, especially with brilliant sun and dark shadows sometimes making it hard to see the road surface very far ahead. By the top of the first climb, I had devised a little warning system for my paranoid self: if there was frost on the grass (or whatever) beside the road, then there might be frost or ice on the road, but if there was no sign of frozen matter, then the road was probably clear. This scheme worked well for a bunch of miles, through warm and cold patches and one descent that would've been fast on any other day. Somewhere around Lake Roesiger, though, in my peripheral vision I noticed copious amounts of white stuff on the shoulder. My attention immediately focused on the road, but that seemed clear. Then I looked at the white stuff: snow. Lots of snow. Snow up to within a foot of the fog line and receding back into the woods under the trees. This went on for 4-5 miles. It was cold, but the road was safe for riding.

In addition to frosty patches and snow banks, I saw lots of devastation from December's weather events. One picturesque pasture in a tiny valley completely destroyed by a stream that must have altered course and spread rocks and tree parts helter-skelter across the patch of green. A stretch of mossy trees lying sideways where Woods Creek had heaped mud and debris onto the road. Out on the Tualco Loop Road south of Monroe, the barbed wire fences are festooned with strands of grass, and the anchor wires on utility poles have huge "nests" of grass and other debris 10 feet off the ground, left behind by the receding flood waters.

It was a glorious day to ride a bike. It was warm in the sun, chilly between the snow patches, and so beautiful all the day long.

And now to work on today's volunteer task to mark the day that it is and to get ready for the momentous day that tomorrow will be.

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