As I write this on Sunday, the snow from our surprise (and surprisingly epic) snowstorm on Tuesday night is still around. Things were supposed to start thawing on Saturday, but that hasn’t happened, since the temps are still at or below freezing. We’re looking at The Great Thaw starting on Tuesday, when daytime highs bounce back to about 50F/10C. We’re also going to get a good rain on Tuesday, so we’ll probably have a Great Flood as well, ugh. So we’ll have snow and ice stick around for nearly a week. Normally, we get one, maybe two snowfalls a season, usually two inches or less, usually sticking around for two days max. To have two snows last almost a week each is a big deal. We’re looking at the coldest winter in 20 years, and the snowiest in awhile: more than 2014 but less than 2008-9.
And if you haven’t guessed yet, I’m sick of it. (If you hadn’t guessed, you probably didn’t read this post from last week.) I don’t mind a couple snows a year. But we’ve had four so far. (And I got five when I went to Vancouver for New Years. It stayed dry in Portland. Lucky me!) The weather is reminding me a bit too much of New England winter, and I moved away from that for a reason. I know that the standard damp Cascadian winter is not everybody’s cup o’ mossy tea (and even I get a bit sick of it by season’s end) but I do appreciate it, and enjoy it more than a cold and snowy winter right now.
But what is really getting me down is my diminished mobility. I’m not one of those lucky folks who don’t have to go to work when it snows. The hostel is open every day regardless of weather, and I need to be there. I didn’t set up any of my bikes to deal with the snow (we’ll get into that in a minute), so I’ve been relying on foot and bus. Now I do appreciate Portland’s public transit system, since it is pretty good when it works. But on our unplowed streets, buses can only go so fast (they need to be chained). They are slow and the schedules have been unreliable. There’s already been a couple times where I had to wait over a half-hour for a bus (they typically are on 15 minutes or less headways). And the sidewalks are still an icy mess. I’m lucky that I have a pair of ice grippers that go on my boots, but still I wish I didn’t have to use them.
And I realize what’s really bringing my mood down is not being able to ride a bike. Bicycling is my default transportation mode, and I usually ride every day. Since the New Year I’ve only ridden a bike maybe four times due to the snow and being sick. I did ride my Heavy Duti around Northeast on Wednesday when the snow was fresh. But that bike only has a rear coaster brake (and no studded tires) so I wouldn’t want to rely on that for any real commuting in these conditions. Before the winter started, I thought about finally switching out the front fork so I could put a brake on there. If I did, I would have set the bike up for icy commuting with studded tires. But other bike projects took precedence and while I’ll probably get around to improving it at some point, it’s going to be too late for this winter. Coulda shoulda woulda.
As for other bikes, the Raleigh Superbe is okay for a little bit of snow, not this. I could have swapped tires on the Bantam, but the front wheel is still an issue so I didn’t bother. The Crested Butte is a good commuter and would be okay for some of this (though studs would be good). But it’s been sitting in the shop since before New Years, getting a bunch of stuff done to it. It’s been waiting on some parts and the project has become more expensive than I thought it would be. Ugh.
While I’m sick of this weather and am chomping at the bit for the return of regular Portland winter, I still sometimes think about moving to a place with real winter! I don’t know why. Maybe the idea of the snow just being there for the winter, and you have to adapt yourself and your bikes to it? Maybe the idea of cities that are designed to deal with snow? Maybe the notion of becoming a “Real Winter Biker?” I don’t know. I don’t always make sense. All I know is that here the snow is a fun thing for a day or two and then becomes a major annoyance if it makes the mistake of sticking around too long. All I can do is think of warmer days. And the only snow I want to see until next winter is the stuff on the mountains in the distance.
It was a sad day when I realised that I had changed from joy at seeing snow and riding through anything up to five ir six inches with never a thought of falling, to absolute horror at the thought of even going out… The rain has just washed away our recent snow and my mini hibernation is over, thank goodness for my recent retirement and a good travel book to read.
I like winter most of the time but if I lived in Portland I would feel just as you do.