Monday, January 23, 2006

Goodbye rain-Hello black ice!

Good news, the rain is gone. Bad news, it's been replaced by freezing fog and black ice. Sunday was a great day for riding. The sun even came out for a while and, sure enough, I saw more bikes out that day than I have in the last few months combined. I guess the enthusiasm for riding is still alive even if the passion and dedication that causes some of us to commute year round is missing. It was the typical mix of riders. Some were out on bikes that were unmistakably practical. These riders were doing errands or riding just to enjoy the day. It was also obvious that some were out just to "be seen". Whatever their purpose, motorcycle tires were spinning on Sunday.

This morning the effect of removing the insulating cloud blanket was evident in the cold temperature and heavy fog. The Valley was under a dense fog advisory and the mercury was at 33 degrees. Except for a few days which were a rare exception, this seems to be the pattern. Either rain or heavy fog. I decided to leave the electric vest at home as I set off to work. Some of you are riding in colder weather right now and you have my deepest respect. It totally blows my mind how COLD it feels under these conditions. The fog seems to penetrate everywhere, bringing the low temperature in with it. The decision to leave the vest and balaclava at home would not be the best one I've made recently.

If you have never experienced freezing fog you haven't lived. Ok, maybe you have. I have to make it seem brave and adventurous somehow, don't I? The trouble is that this moisture causes black ice in unexpected places. The Highway Department guys had done their usual excellent job of spraying that fluid that smells like vinegar and is supposed to help keep the water from freezing on bridges. I'm glad the stuff gets sprayed but they usually seem to put it on heavy just before I come along so I end up smelling like pickles when I get to work. Some spots had sand down. My bike had a little rear wheel spin issue on an on-ramp. Not sure if it was ice or sand. Suspect it was both - sand on top of ice. Neither one gives the bike much confidence although I have to say I prefer sand to ice. Perfect example of why it's so good for road riders to have some dirt bike experience so that less- than-perfect traction situations don't freak you out as much ( which can cause you to do something less than wise-don't ask me how I know ). Did fine until I got close to the office. Spores Bridge spans the McKenzie River. There were some slick spots but since bridges automatically engender suspicion in seasoned travellers I was ready for them and all was well.

Got to work without further incident. I had high hopes that the sun would come out later and that there would be glorious riding to be had in the afternoon. Next dream, please, as this one didn't pan out. The fog never burned off and it was COLD on the way home. Seems like I had just been there. (riding in the cold, that is ) There was one bright spot. I had to run an errand around 3:30. ( On the bike, of course, who says your company car has to be a CAR?). On the way back I actually saw a COMMUTER!! This guy was riding an older Kawasaki 454 Ltd cruiser with an actual lunch pail strapped to the back. Needless to say, enthusiast waves were exchanged by both participants in this brief encounter. The temperature rose to the point that ice wasn't an issue on the ride home. My faithful ST is covered up for the night and patiently waiting for tomorrow's adventures. By the way, a cover designed for a Harley bagger works great for the ST1100, too. I won a gift certificate from a Harley dealership as a door prize. I was able to put a little money with it and get a great new cover for my daily ride. Yes, I did find one without the Eagle logo. No offense to the Eagle, but I didn't want to give the ST an identity crisis.

We are supposed to have one or two more days of dry weather before the rain comes back. The hope is that some of the moisture will evaporate leaving less to freeze on the roads. I guess we will find out tomorrow if we face fun in the sun or a freeze in the fog.

5 comments:

ART said...

Hey Dan,

We can't always win do we? It either we ride with warm temperature with mixture of rain or a nice beautiful sunny day with temperature on the lower 30's. On my commute this morning it was the latter...The sunrise was incredible something that I probably would not notice if am riding my car too busy listening to music or doing other things. I saw two riders on my way to work. One on the cruiser and the other one was riding a scooter. I have experience freezing fog. That's when the fog hit my visor and it freezed. This happened when I was on the freeway going 65mph. Trying to scrape the ice was nerve racking for I could barely see my way. So I can say been there done that. I have also experienced carb icing where my bike just want to stall while running. Well let's enjoy this day for it will be back to rain again soon.

Good day
Art

irondad said...

Art,

Had exactly the same thing yesterday morning. The fog was freezing on my visor and windshield. Also had the freezing which caused the bike to run rough. Think it was carb vent tubes icing up and starving the fuel flow.
I'm glad you are getting to experience these things. They are not always pleasant but the experience is invaluable. Sounds like you are having fun, too.

Enjoy the day, like you say the rain is supposed to come back tomorrow.

Dan

Mad said...

I get a weird pleasure from riding in really adverse stuff like fog...
I should probably worry about that.

irondad said...

mad,

I SHOULD worrry about that if I were you. I don't worry about it because I march to a different drummer than most. Fog is actually quite peaceful. Until you collide with something you didn't see, that is!

Dan

Mad said...

Yeah! That's what it is, it's peaceful and other-worldy. I get a kick out of seeing the world in different way.
I'll never forget the guy I saw in car last time it was foggy on my ride home from work. It's was on an unlight dual carriageway (Gary stop sniggering!)and the fig was THICK and there's this guy tootling along at 40mph with no lights on. He was virtually invisible until the light from headlights reflected off his rear lights. If I hadn't been tootling myself I might well have hit him. I can't figure out what was going through his tiny mind...