“And so this is Christmas,
And what have you done?
Another year older.
A new one just begun.”
– J. Lennon
Remember my last post, the one about the remarkably warm weather? Well I had a hard time remembering it when I pondered my Christmas ride, standing in the early morning sun with the temperature around 25 degrees. Three days earlier, I was scooting about in shorts and a short sleeve jersey. Today, I grabbed my new cold weather pants, put them over some shorts, and pulled out my cold weather gloves and balaclava to go with my cold weather jacket.
To be honest, my heart wasn’t in this ride at the start. In my fourth winter of cycling, I still have not found joy in cold weather cycling. I’ve become much better at staying warm, but surviving and thriving are two different things. Truth be told, I only went out for you, Dear Reader, as I know how these reports can be so very important to your day. Being an influence on the global cycling scene has its burdens, which I carry gladly.
In the end, I was quite happy to have gone out. Maybe cold weather cycling can be pleasant. Maybe.
To spice things up, I went on a seldom-used route through the Prince William Forest. I don’t often go this way because it’s a relatively short ride and it requires riding over a gravel trail for a mile each way. I would not have enjoyed repairing a flat tire in freezing temperatures, but since this was only three miles from home I took the risk.
The forest was very quiet and I hoped to see some wildlife. Every so often I get lucky and surprise something on still mornings such as this. The bike is extremely quiet and much faster than other quiet things in the woods, so I often surprise the animals. The most exciting example of this occurred two winters ago in Leesylvania Park, when a buck burst out of a woodline and ran alongside me for over one hundred yards. Very cool.
There was no wildlife on the gravel road but there was a modest bridge. I know there is a large interest in bridges throughout the readership of this blog, so I made sure to stop and take a picture for your viewing pleasure.
This is Quantico Creek, which flows eastward for about ten miles before emptying into the Potomac River and forming the southern boundary of the Marine Base that bears its name.
The park’s ring road was very quiet. Over seven miles I came across one truck and three parked cars. I basically had the road to myself, which allowed me to horse around with some daredevil photography. I found that the wind in my face was tolerable as long as I kept my speed below 15 mph. That wouldn’t give me very much of a workout, but bundled up as I was I’m not sure an intense cardio effort would have been very productive. The below pic is pretty much the view for all 7.3 miles of the ring road.
I came across two more bridges in quick succession. These were of a more modern design than the first, engineered to support cars and trucks. Most bridges in this part of the world tend to be very utilitarian with little character, and these were no different.
Although the second one had an unusual feature of incorporating a walking path under the bridge. Even here in a park, cars rule the world and we cannot have pedestrians potentially coming into contact with them. Best to send them underneath the road rather than having them cross it.
The thing I’ve learned about bridges is they tend to take you over water. Water tends to be in the lowest ground around, meaning to get to a bridge you usually descend a hill and to move from a bridge, you usually climb one. And climb I did, for the better part of a mile over some moderately steep hills. I climbed these hills in August during the Prince William Tour Of The Towns century and they took a lot out of me. However I hit those hills after already riding 30 miles. Today, they were at Mile 10 and I had been puttering all day, so I had plenty of energy and climbed them without difficulty.
As I turned northward on the loop, I got my wish.
I was still climbing, which often has me staring blindly at my front wheel and the five feet in front of it. I looked up and spied a doe about 20 feet from me. She was grazing on the side of the road and seemed just as surprised to see me. I stopped and we stared at each other for about half a minute. Slowly, I reached into my jacket packet and pulled out my camera. This movement caused the deer to trot about fifty feet into the woods. She turned around and we resumed our staring contest. This went on for another minute or two before she decided she’d best be off before I did something crazy like pull out a rifle and shoot her.
It was a pretty cool moment, the kind I had been hoping for. I took some pics and they turned out horribly. I submit the best one to show you how much practice I need before I become acceptable at capturing these fleeting opportunities. In this case, the camera was on auto-focus, and it dutifully focused on a tree and some grass about ten feet in front of the deer, leaving the animal out of focus. Oh well, something to work on in 2014.
The rest of the ride was simply doubling back on my way into the park. I got home in good shape, my new cold weather pants worked very well and my puttering kept the wind damage on my face to a minimum.
For those of you who celebrate the holiday, I hope your Christmas was a merry one. And I hope all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are relishing the prospect of more sunlight each and every day. For you Southern Hemispherians, I’m sorry, but it’s our turn now.
“A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year.
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear.”