I hate being cold.
You might surmise it reminds me too much of my childhood winters in Wisconsin.
Back then my parents would snatch us from school and drive to Florida to visit Grandma and Grandpa for the two coldest weeks of the year at the end of January — only to bring us back into the ice age all sunburnt like some sort of CIA-branded torture.
You’d be wrong about it going back to childhood. Me and Elsa, the cold never bothered anyway— at least back then, aside from that agonizing first week back from the Sunshine State each February.
Only as I got older did the chill have an emotionally scarring impact. Oh, I’m not talking older as in these days of graying hair, straining eyesight and the instinctive urge to say “WHAT?” or “HUH??” anytime anyone says anything.
No, the cold got to me at the ripe old age of 27 when the Midwest experienced one of those atmospheric ice whatchamacallits, and I was trapped in the deep freeze known as Dubuque, Iowa.
That winter the temperature tumbled so far below zero that it would take a few blocks for the tires on my car to get round again after a night outside and 10-20 minutes before warm air began to blow from the heater. Breathe through your nose without a scarf wrapped over it and your nostrils pinch together like a child about to leap into a pool.
The result of this trauma? I refuse to follow the sage cycling advice to start a ride cold because you’ll warm up quickly. No matter what the season.
I prefer to start off warm and de-layer, sometimes quickly, sometimes not.
Because, if I’m honest, the only reason I venture into the cold in what could and should be referred to as my off-season is to combat a few pounds that have latched onto my sides like kindergarteners on the playground — reminders of Halloween candy, Thanksgiving leftovers, Christmas pastries and New Year’s cheers indulgences.
So keeping that extra layer on and sweating like a swine only hastens my dispatch of the unwanted poundage. And it reminds me of my glory days of summer when I thrive in searing heat. If nothing else, I’m good at sweating.
The past few years I’ve secretly embraced this concept of Global Warming by enjoying bike rides throughout the year. Rain had been only intermittent — aka the drought — and temperatures moderate to the point of only having one extra layer to disband even in the winter.
The result of that was killer fitness 365. I mean when Covid hit at the end of March 2020 I rode like a bazillion days in a row under warm, sunny skies only worried if we would all die from the pandemic, not from the planet’s fever.
That all changed last year, when rain came early in the September and seemed to stick around longer than normal — and even upping the ante with a few snowstorms. Normal for me, having only lived here for only 17 years. Native Oregonians tell me that’s what it used to be like. It used to rain ’til the Fourth of July, they say.
So last year I really had an off-season for the first time in, well, a long, long time. I mean I just stayed off my bike and hiked a bit instead. Cross-training, right? I didn’t even climb onto the trainer once!
Imagine my surprise when riding weather finally returned — much later that anticipated, like nearly May — that I found I still had decent fitness. I rolled out expecting to suffer, but I didn’t. Ah, those endless climbs of summer paying off!
This year? It feels even worse, or what natives call back to normal. It seems the rain never ends. I’ve always defended Oregon weather saying it isn’t like Seattle. We get a sun break nearly every day, sometime, to keep our sanity.
Not this year. Lots of rain. Nary a ray of sunshine. The temperature never climbs much above 40, which is a significant layer threshold for me.
Once the temperature drops below 40, my legs turn to, well, first peanut butter, then jelly. I’m talking old school peanut butter that has sat in its jar for months and has separated with oil on top and thick sludge below.
Yep, that’s what my legs feel like. They never really warm up. Instead they just morph from that lumbering peanut butter into quivering jelly.
Recently the sun has popped out on occasion, and I quickly step outside to check it out, only to find temps in the mid to low 30s. Nope, not happening.
For better or worse that has prompted me to get on the trainer, layered up to induce some good July-ish outpouring of sweat. Gotta be ready for when (if?) it thaws and dries out.
Of course way back when finally Dubuque thawed, we got the hell outta dodge. Packed up the car and drove to SoCal, never looking back.
But here? There’s just too much upside in Oregon, what with the waterfalls, mountains, rivers, trails, etc. I’ll stick it out. And stay warm.
Time to ride.