Slipslidin’ again: the story of an unprepared randonneur

by Raymond Parker on December 26, 2008

in Adventure, Cycling, Randonneuring

“Once I’d navigated a car track onto Lochside, the dim light from my headlight revealed a surface of hard-packed snow. This could work.”

After a snow-bound month of December and with the Victoria New Year’s Populaire looming, it was time to get on the bike and check the route. I was looking forward to bicycling further afield, but the pre-ride turned into a bit of an adventure.

I had some problems with reformatting last year’s Excel file for the route sheet, so by the time I’d printed one and cycled out to the start area, it was 2:30 pm. Still, the sun was shining.

In town, the roads were pretty clear, but 30 kilometres out, on the Saanich Peninsula, the snow was deeper and I soon came upon some impassable sections of the Lochside Trail, used on last years event.

I created a bypass, by bailing out to the Pat Bay Hwy. (#17), but then made the mistake of cutting into the #2 Reserve, where I had to thread a thin track between icy ridges of frozen snow on the narrow confines of one-way Qwuc Chus Road. I had a fall while paying too much attention to my computer (checking distance). Once back on Lochside Drive, the road was clear, though the bike lane had been turned into a dumping-ground for snow.

At the usual halfway control, I grabbed some junk food (why stop Christmas indulgences now?) and jumped back on the trusty Blériot. As the sun disappeared, I began the steady climb up to the high point above the strait, where the San Juan Islands floated on the ocean, bathed in otherworldly light.

By the time I crossed the highway again and entered the narrow, winding roads of the Hunt Valley, it was dark. When I stood up to power over the humps leading to Fowler Road, my back wheel spun disconcertingly. The only way to ride safely now was to gear down and not under any circumstance touch the brakes downhill.

Under street lights, the roads sparkled like the cold stars above.

Then, the digital emitter headlight I’d clipped on “just in case I don’t get back before dark” powered down to reserve.

Fearing the unlit length of Blenkinsop Road, I hoped maybe the Lochside Trail would be clear enough of snow here. I decended narrow E. Lohbrunner Road, leading to the trail, 10 kilometres from town. Once I’d navigated a car track onto Lochside, the dim light from my headlight revealed a surface of hard-packed snow. This could work.

Whump! My front wheel dives through a melt hole and I land on my back. So much for that idea.

I turn off my headlight to save the last precious ounces of charge. Standing in the pitch dark, the skeletal winter trees blink on and off in time with my tail light. I listen to the rustle of small animals—perhaps shivering ducks—under the hedgerow. There is nothing for it but to get my cold feet back on the pedals and retrace the rutted track back up to Blenkinsop—easier said than done with frozen, ice-caked cleats.

A couple of phone calls home to my Head Navigator finds a passable way back through to the start, at Christie’s Carriage House Pub, where I rewarded myself with a pint of Guinness. Sixty kilometres will be good enough for a New Year’s ride.

The next day, I hunkered down in my office to enter the revised route data, preferring the horrors of Excel to to the howling wind and rain that moved in overnight.

(The original) Slipsidin’ Away | Winter Cycling

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