The holidays are through, and that's a good thing. I'm not a big holiday type person, and I'm glad when the blatant commercialism and worship of well-packaged crap is over for another year. We had a typical Christmas, even though it's harder to make it happen as Kenny gets older and leaves childhood behind. Still, he was more or less happy with what he got and I guess that's enough.
The main thing on my mind lately has been winter. This won't be news to anyone who lives nearby, but this winter has been unusually tough. We've had wintry weather since the end of November, with a colder than normal December and January. The mid-winter thaw that has been such a wonderful reset the last several years just didn't happen this year. We've had just about constant snow cover, and way more than normal days with temperatures below zero. Usually I pride myself in being able to deal with winter and still do the things that I enjoy, but when the thermometer gets down to single digits or below I really have very little desire to be outside.
Between the snow and the frost heave (also known as 'needle ice') on the trails there hasn't been very much mountain biking this winter. I've managed a couple of trips out to West Branch, but the trail conditions each time were less than ideal. With winter riding you expect it to be way harder, so it was still worth the trip - but its not something that I want to do that often. I've also headed over to the nearby North Road Nature Preserve to ride a couple of times in the last two months. These are the mountain bike trails in town that I've been working on building for the last three years. We're a small group of volunteers, so it's taken us that long to build three miles of trails. They're basically beginner type trails, with no real hills, and very few rocks or roots. But they're only a couple of miles from the house, and by riding a complete circuit in either direction I can get an hour of riding in the woods - and that is a good thing.
|Beside Mosquito Creek on the North Road Nature Preserve trails.|
I've tried to take advantage of the rail trails this winter too. I've done a few rides on the Western Reserve Greenway - until I overestimated my skills and underestimated the ice cover, which resulted in the hardest crash I've had in a couple of years. It's been over a month and the road rash is still healing. I also got in a couple of rides on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway, which has to be one of the best around. So far this winter I caught it with just a little snow, with a lot of snow, and in the middle of a blizzard. But the trail is great, with curves and mild hills, where many of our NE Ohio rail trails are flat and straight. And the scenery along the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek is hard to beat.
|The Teegarden Bridge alongside Little Beaver Creek Greenway.|
And just to show how far this winter weather has pushed me - I've been out riding on the roads several times. Usually I don't like to do road rides - as a million mile plus driver I've seen way too many idiots at the wheel to place my trust in a random motorists talents. But with singletrack unrideable, and the rail trails covered with snow packed down by illegal snowmobilers (and boy does that make me mad), the only choice remaining has been on the roads. I do realize that I'm lucky to live in an area that has easy access to sparsely travelled back roads - seeing a car every ten minutes is about the average up there. But I now ride with a rearview mirror and almost always stop when I see a car approaching from behind to make sure I'm not about to become another statistic (go to crazyguyonabike.com and check out the "Sweet Rolls" tour journal for a sad story about this - and take a minute to leave some words of encouragement in their guest book too). But it can be a lot of fun on the back roads in Amish country.
|Gravel road riding between snows in southern Ashtabula County.|
|Old fashioned quality building.|
|Snowy, but not quite TOO snowy.|
In non-bicycling related news, there have been a couple of developments. For one, the firm that I work for has gotten two big jobs in the last couple of months. When the recession hit the competition in our field got pretty fierce for the few remaining jobs, and we've gone over five years between big commissions. But we recently won the contract on the biggest building we've ever done, and another big job not long after that (and another one that looks very promising coming up). So that means some of the pressure is off about paying the bills etc. I'm very thankful to the partners in the firm that we managed to stick it out through the lean times, and keep on pushing ahead towards recovery.
Another interesting happening is that I was appointed to the Trumbull County Metroparks board. One of the retiring board members, familiar with me through my work on the North Park trails, nominated me for the post, and in December I was sworn in. I have no illusions about the job - things happen slowly, and progress has to be planned carefully. But I think that we have an amazing county park system for the population we have, and am excited to be able to be a small part of continuing the improvements that we've seen in the last ten years.
With the calendar heading towards spring, and the inevitable return of warm weather, I'll probably be way more likely to get out and ride. Which means that I won't be likely to go another two months between posts.