How is one to survive this winter, one of the coldest, greyest and snowiest in history?
As you can see, I chose to lighten my hair, buy a new red overcoat and bicycle on – except honestly I have not been bicycling a lot, certainly not everyday, as with previous winters. All I ask for is a morning with temps at least 10 F and no falling snow, but such mornings are rare. (As I type this, it’s 9 F and snowing.) When I manage to ride my bike, I feel so much better, physically and mentally.
My plan for combatting winter also includes appreciating the (indoor) culture that Chicago offers: going to ballets, plays, symphonies and art exhibits. If it were not for the Joffrey Ballet, the Goodman and Steppenwolf and Shakespeare Theatres, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Art Institute (and, of course, my wonderful friends!), I would question daily why I choose to live in this crowded, frozen tundra.
Hello! I am just back from a quick trip to Denver this weekend to visit Melissa. Yesterday she and I grabbed bikes out of the garage (I rode her husband Chanh’s Huffy and she rode her Raleigh “Black Beauty”) for a relaxing ride around the neighborhood.
So, yeah, in Denver a ride around “the neighborhood” can be pretty darn amazing.
This beautiful scenery is in the city. After leaving Melissa’s house and crossing a calm and well-marked street or two…
…Melissa led me down a lovely trail through a huge park.
As you can see, winter bicycling in Denver is not like winter bicycling in Chicago. The bright sun and extremely clear sky were super bright, especially coming as I was from the dark and grey world of Chicago. Good thing I had my big sunglasses.
A couple of details: the cool bell on my bike and Melissa’s cute biking shoes.
The park area where we were biking actually used to be an air force base, which this huge plane commemorates.
Some areas built up in place of the old base look a bit too suburban pre-fab for my taste, but overall it is a beautiful environment.
We took a break from our ride to enjoy a refreshment at a beer garden. I love the beer culture in Denver!
Finally, we got a quick picture together before heading home.
The day before our bike adventure, we explored the town of Golden, Colorado on foot.
Where I guess they appreciate bicyclists!
This town is where Coors is brewed, but we chose to visit a couple of smaller breweries instead. First, Golden City. Their sign cracks me up.
Then an ice cream intermission for this little guy (his first!).
(He’s like – “Why are you poking me in the head, Auntie Dottie?” Because I can, baby!)
And then a walk in the fresh air to the second brewery, Mountain Toad.
Good times! We make a good bike-riding, beer-drinking, baby-playing team. :)
As I write this, I am back in Chicago: snowy, freezing, and Melissa-less. So sad! I’m sure I’ll be back in beautiful Denver again in the next year.
Five! That’s how many Chicago winters I have biked through. I counted over and over because five seems too high, but my math is correct.
Biking through my first winter, 2008-09, seemed so dramatic – I was amazed at my achievement. That was a particularly snowy winter, and I biked through all kinds of extreme weather to prove to myself that I could.
The morning temperatures this week have varied from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, plus some snow has been falling. For a good idea of how bitterly cold Chicago is, check out this photo below of a warehouse fire in the city.
Photo by Jose M. Osorio
Yeah, that’s cold!
I spent part of the week riding public transportation and part of the week bicycling. Although I have biked in sub-zero weather before, the convenience of the L train lures me to the easy option when I’m feeling lazy. Which is often. A couple friends have been bicycling on days I took the L, so I give my hardcore title up to them. :-)
These photos are in an alley. The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.
When I ride my bike on super cold days, there are some key pieces I rely on, as I’ve mentioned before.
Wool leggings over my tights to allow me to wear skirts and dresses.
Welcome, 2013! As I followed my ritual this morning of pouring a cup of coffee and popping open my macbook to check the weather, I was greeted by this sight:
12 degrees fahrenheit – yeesh. (That’s -11 celsius.) Normal for Chicago winter, but by far the coldest day of this season so far. At least most of last week’s snow has disappeared.
With very little traffic lately due to people being off work for the holidays, I’ve been enjoying my bike commutes along otherwise highly trafficked streets. I certainly did not want to miss out on cycling today. Here I am preparing to set off:
I wore a wool dress with tights. To this I added the following for non-bulky but highly effective layering: wool leggings and wool leg warmers, wool socks and winter boots with warmers, a light windbreaker and trench coat, cashmere scarf, glove liners and ski mittens with warmers, earmuffs and winter helmet, and sunglasses (safety glasses after dark to protect my eyes from cold wind). This is very similar to what I wore in my how-to video for winter cycling.
This worked perfectly. I was like a little moving furnace. My only problem was forgetting to fill my pockets with tissue to blow my nose, which runs like crazy in the extreme cold.
When I left work in the evening, the weather had warmed up to a relatively toasty 22 degrees and I was sweating under my layers by the time I got home.
I love warm woolen mittens. They are cozy and perfect for crisp fall weather.
(and whiskers on kittens! because why not.)
But woolen mittens are not cutting it any longer, as December approaches. My fingers and toes are extremely sensitive. While other cyclists seem to get by fine with a regular pair of gloves, my fingers and toes start to freeze/burn after ten minutes in 30 degree temps, even wearing wool glove liners with down-filled ski mittens (fingers) and wool socks with leather snow boots (toes).
The only solution for me – I’ve tried everything over the years – is warmers. I buy Grabber brand (made in the USA and non-toxic) by the caseload from Amazon, making them 50 cents a pair. A fair price to avoid daily misery and still much less expensive than the L train.
A pair lasts long enough to use for the morning and evening commutes, if stored in a ziplock bag during the day. Grabber also makes toe warmers, but they are pricier and not as warm, so I save them for my regular shoes and stuff hand warmers in my roomy snow boots.
Now if only I could get Amazon to deliver them in brown paper packages tied up with string…
How do you keep your fingers and toes warm during winter?
I cannot count how many times I’ve heard those words over the past week—most recently, this morning, when I strolled into Fiddlecakes through falling snow with ice crunching underfoot in search of a cheddar and bacon scone (totally worth it).
Yesterday I rode to work. It was right around the freezing mark, so not too cold, and the night before the roads had seemed pretty clear. Thinking I wouldn’t be walking, I traded the snow boots I’d been trapped in all weekend for my heeled leather boots. Mistake! Icy, slushy patches had me on foot for about half my commute. Fearing I wouldn’t be able to spot these in the dark, and feeling discretion was the better part of valor, I accepted a ride home with a co-worker. The Bat is currently installed in my office, hoping for clearer streets (and perhaps an earlier departure time) tonight.
More pictures, from a snowy walk to watch my alma mater Auburn win the National Championship at the Melrose on Monday night.
I know other people have had to put their riding on hold because of the weather—let’s hope we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, i.e. less snow, ASAP.