There is no such thing as bad weather, only a poor choice of clothing.
Chosen for this day: arm warmers over a long sleeved, hooded base layer, short-sleeve jersey, heavy jacket; shorts and leg warmers under fleece tights; foot warmers over Smart Wool socks; road shoes with CalienToes topped with a fleece full-shoe and ankle cover; glove liners and full-finger gloves; ear warmers and helmet cover.
And still it bordered on being a poor choice.
The visual of sunshine and clear skies clashed with tactile signals that warned of near freezing temperatures and a bit of wind. But, that's what cold weather clothing is for, right? With the wind at my back, I cruised down Highway 35 to County K. On the approach to the climb, the wind changed direction twice, a feature in the winding valleys around where it manages somehow to always be in your face. The climb up to Hamburg Road was easier than I had a right to expect, what with not having been on the bike since November 8. Of course my speed (don’t take this term too literally here) was nothing to write home about. Still, it seemed a pleasant climb and the extra exertion warmed me up a bit.
It's not to say that the ride up to this point hadn't been cold, because it had. But, the gloves, ear warmers and all the layers on my feet were doing their jobs. However, the descent-manufactured 40 mph headwind on the ride down the east side of County K made for an altogether different experience. As in colder. Like most of the descents here, it is over pretty quickly. When the road flattens a bit - there is a nice, long run out that allows you to almost coast all the way to Highway 162 – I become aware of the numbness in my fingers, but, surprisingly, not in my toes. This all gets sorted out by the time I reach Cashton, so I’m thinking that about does it for the effects of cold.
Retracing my route for about two miles brings me to Hohlfield Road; I turn off there and again at Wrobel road where I start the climb over the hill I just came down, this path being about 1 mile to the north. This is a really great road. You start off rising quickly above a cultivated field. The road flattens a bit as you enter the more wooded section; at this time of year, you get a good view through the bare trees down onto the farm, a white house, white barn, collection of smaller white out-buildings, cows, doing whatever cows do in the winter, scattered around the surrounding fields. Practicing for the Chick-fil-A* commercials would be my guess.
To my left, the tree covered hill rises up above the road, meaning that most of the climb is sheltered from the late afternoon sun. The temperature has dropped about five degrees, but I’m climbing. Chilly, but not too bad. The road crests at the intersection with Brinkman Ridge Road; there is a small cemetery. A couple of miles of rolling road bring me back to County K, a little below the top at the church by Hamburg Road.
I head down. Against the wind, now, soaked with the chill of the first descent. As Barbosa would say, “I feel … cold.” Those were his last words, actually (in Pirates 1 anyway), but let’s not go there. But I do. Feel cold.
An ice-cream headache lurks just behind the bridge of my nose, but does not strike. This is good, as the sharp pain usually pushes me into a prolonged wince, not the best way to be wheeling down a winding hill. It’s my hands that are really cold. Well, my fingers. Actually, my finger tips. Not cold enough to be numb, mind you; painfully cold. Really painfully cold. I have seven miles to go. All of it against the wind. Did I mention that it was cold? Good. Because it was. Cold.
Not wanting to keep you in suspense - you are in suspense, right? - I made it home and, after a brutally painfully 15 seconds of warming up, recovered full use of my fingers. Whew. That was close.
It was a good ride. Good for early December in Wisconsin, anyway. Just under thirty miles with 1,600 feet of climbing. There wont be many more like this this year, if any. Certainly not this week as our weather will take a turn towards that which is suitable for the Frozen Tundra – winter storm warnings and blizzard watches are up for Tuesday night and Wednesday. Sounds like a good book and a cup of hot chocolate to me.
* You might be interested to know (if not, stop reading now) that my father-in-law submitted some design ideas for the Chick-fil-A logo (although his wasn't the one we see today). He was an artist and entertainer and even worked on one of the mechanical dwarfs (that would be one of THE Seven Dwarfs) in Truett Cathy’s first restaurant. At one point, Mr. Cathy gave my wife’s family a miniature pony. It bit my father-in-law not long after taking up residence with them and was summarily sent back. Oh well, I understand they are pretty high-strung animals.