Friday, 21 December 2012

The White Stuff: there's no business like snow business.

This is what my morning commute looked like,  though this is not my  photo.

Over and over again the last two days, it's the same question: "You didn't ride in THIS?"

It's the same thing every year. Yes, I ride in the winter, and that's no snow job. It wasn't a ton of the white stuff this time around, so I chose to stick with the Royale, even though there was a case to be made for those knobbies on the old Rocky Mountain Soul. But I like my creature comforts, the basket and panniers, the fenders and mudflaps, and Bea Bike (I accidentally named it one day) is comfortable to ride, too, so for a commute, I ride it whenever I can.

People say "You're hardcore."  I dunno about that.  My legs are pretty hard, I guess.

It's not about being hard, or tough, or brave, or any of that, though.  It's just how I like to live. And yes, you're probably right in assuming that there's an element of fool-hearty in it. Even so, it's still miles and miles better than the alternatives.  It's kindov fun, too, certainly a lot more fun than mucking about on foot or in a car in the exquisitely icy slurry we call Vancouver during a winter snowstorm.

It was  a bit of a mess.
Our CFO was stuck for hours behind buses which were unable to make it up an incline.  I drive just often enough to remind myself just  how very  little I like it.

If you're from the prairies, or the interior, or anyplace that gets cold and freezes for the season, you're probably thinking "So what?  It's just a bit of snow," and fair enough. In the prairies, in the mountains, in the high north, in lots of places, your average temperature tends to fall below zero, so the snow becomes hard packed.  The ground turns into a frozen substrate for new snowflakes to fall and settle upon.  If you allow the snow to accumulate, air is trapped between flakes, and over time it compresses until it sounds like Styrofoam when you ride on it. That's a whole 'nother kind of winter.

Rider on the Storm.  Rider on the Storm.  Into this slush we're thrown...
The thing is, it's different here.  People from other places laugh at how a little bit of snow in Vancouver can cripple everything the way it does. I know, cause I was laughing, too, from a distance. Same thing happens in London, and for the same reasons. It has something to do with how it doesn't typically freeze here. (London will freeze as cold as Moscow if the Gulf Stream is diluted by melting ice caps, but that's another conversation.)   For now, anyhow, winter storms are ice storms, generally speaking.

Every year there is a first winter storm, but this year's was a bit special.  This year saw the newly unveiled Port Mann bridge open to commuters.  And it's now charging tolls, too.  It's brand spanking new - hasn't even been open for a month yet. It's a remarkable bridge. I mean, really.  Look at it. It's a marvel of engineering, the world's widest bridge, a monument to something or other. And apparently it's closed when it snows.

Closed During Ice Storms.
Isn't that funny? 

Some people don't think so. Imagine that.

A well-respected bridge engineer from the EU, one Christos T Georgakis of the Technical University of Denmark, talked to the guys on CBC's Early Edition radio show this morning.  He (loosely) said 'It's a known problem with cable bridges. Get over it. It's too expensive to fix, and none of the fixes really work anyway.  The good thing is that it goes in cycles, so it will happen for a while, and then it will stop for a while.  It's not clear why this happens."

Isn't that comforting?

Surely everyone who finds an icy little bundle of love sitting in their lap as they cruise across a massive bridge in eight lanes of traffic just thinks to themselves "Oh right,"and carries merrily along.  None of them jump out of their skins.  Ever.

It's not going to pose any kind of problems at all, this bridge that drops ice bombs when it snows. What could possibly go wrong??!

I'm just thankful for my bike. For all bikes, really. And also I am thankful for the fact that I don't need to dodge falling ice bombs on the Port Mann Bridge.  Yes, I am mighty thankful for that. Apparently a hundred cars were hit before it was closed for the afternoon.

I'm predicting a full scale insurgence of bicycle commuters here in the lower mainland, but then it doesn't take much psychic ability to see that one coming, does it? 

It's better this way, anyway.
If I were the kind of person who actually liked to drive cars, I would be really very kind to the kind of person who prefers to ride a bike, because that person means there are fewer cars between you and the next available bridge.  

Oh here we go. I can feel an attack of elevated smugness coming on. Bike Snob warns these moments are  "punctuated by moments of abject terror as motorists do their best to kill you."

Some drivers are surprisingly aggressive, given the conditions.  And some people actually point out that I have no right to be on the road. At all. Can you believe it?!? Some people, indeed one city councilor in particular, thinks my safety and well being shouldn't be a priority when it comes to road clearance.  

Bless his two sizes too small heart. He's probably related to Robba the Fords.

It's all good.  I can navigate lots of messy situations, if I have to, but my son commutes, too.  He is a vulnerable member of the commuting public, and it's in your best interests to serve and protect his best interests, mister car-driving public. He rides those bike lanes daily, and there are more and more of us who do all of the time. 

Build them and they will come, remember?  

Reflective vests are the new Mayoral Robes.
Please notice what a good thing this is - for everyone.  I heard the mayor rode through the storm, too, in a suit.  Plus he's hot.  C'mon.  You have to admit he's kinda hot.  He's a great role model for kids like mine, and for his friends, too, who might not have quite so much stamina, cause they are not used to hauling their own asses.

If you're reading this, then chances are pretty good that you read Snobbers, too. So you know this whole thing, the entire universe is just a simulation, right?  Everything, even matter as rock hard and solid as a glittering diamond is really just a shimmering mirage of energy, a kind of "program," if you will. 

It makes perfect sense to me. I might be a few cards short of a full deck, but the science is clear.  The Theory of Relativity works. Quantum physics also works, and Schrodinger's cat is a bit spooky  because the paradox is real. In the end, science has proven that we as observers actually create the universe we are observing by the very act of observing it.  This means that we get to create the simulation we want here in this simulation.

 To ride or not to ride, that is the question.

Whether it is nobler in the main to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous traffic, or to take arms against a sea of poor urban design, and by opposing, end them...


  1. Geez, I'm such a wimp. I live in Humboldt co. Ca., a short 12hr drive north of LA, (I think I'm closer to Vancouver), on the coast. It rains a lot here but very rarely even a bit of snow. It's raining now but me, my dog, and my nice bike are inside huddled around the gas fake fireplace and my Mr Coffee espresso maker. Then I read your post. It was xlnt. I have fenders for my old mtb,...but what for my feet?,..bread bags!!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. In the winter months, what you wear depends on how cold it is...

      I like fashion, cause really, life is more fun when you make it beautiful. Out here in the temperate rainforest, waterproof is everything, so I have two sets of wellies, (one is lined) and a pair of waterproof, mountain-proof winter boots, too. It;s nice to have a waterproof gauntlet mitten to go over different sets of gloves, for those deep winter freezes.

      For my boys I prefer Sorrel winter wear. Wellies for the little one. There are excellent waterproof, lightweight technical hiking boots out there, too, which will keep you warm and dry in the winter.

      For those rare winter rides on my go-fast bike I use a waterproof toe cover on my Sidi's, and two light technical socks. I also layer up on leg-warmers, but I see how that might be tricky if you're a guy.

      Winter or summer, though it's about layering, and no matter what: organic silk is always a lovely indulgence in underwear.

      My vegan brother begs to differ...

  2. ...i'd suggest you are as dedicated to the bike as anyone i've ever met (or been - at my most hardcore)...'s one thing to view as committed, those who traipse about the countryside with loaded panniers & no real responsibility other than finding decent food & shelter but there's a particular courage & dedication to regularly living ones day to day, especially with a youngster & incorporating a bicycle as the norm...major props, miz babble on...

    ...seems like i've been kissing your ass the last few posts but my words echo a genuine admiration for that part of your lifestyle...

    ...& schrodingers cat reference ???...fuck - who knew ???...

    ...i recently made use of mister schrodingers pussy in a series of e-mails to a particular sports writer & i believe the obscurity of the reference had him both undoubtedly 'googling' schrodinger & made him realize the zeal with which i was approaching the subject matter...

    ...he never directly acknowledged my pitch but his final column addressing the subject was almost a 180* turn-about from his previous stance & definite tribute where i felt tribute needed be laid...

  3. Great Vancouver perspective. You are a wonderful find, a sexy female counterpart to bikesnobnyc. Keep it real girl!

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