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Bike Rides 121
The Ice Road Bikers

Last winter (if you can call it that) didn’t produce much for dangerous riding conditions, neither had this one up until the “blizzard” hit. Since then everything has changed, remarkably.

Gone for now are the clean dry roads we took for granted, sailing smoothly and safely over for months on end without incident or delay. Here to stay awhile are the rough, uneven patches of ice buried precariously like IED’s under occasional masses of dirty gray snow. It’s funny how quickly conditions can change in the winter, especially around the solstice.

My neighbor Hank and I (AKA the Ice Road Bikers) watched with interest last year as city officials negotiated new plans for storing city snow removed from the downtown area. In the past it’s been hauled to the end of Main Street and power propelled with an industrial sized snow blower into an abominable heap that grows a little more with each passing storm.

But concern about the environmental impact of melting tainted snow to the nearby Red Cedar River prompted some debate last year.  The result of all the hoopla was a slightly modified version of the exact same plan.

Essentially it appears the melting pot was moved back a few feet from the river and some oversized Hefty Bags were placed to trap the swirling impurities like a catch basin as the water drains into the Cedar come March. I’m not sure of the plan’s functionality but it seemed to appease all sides, including ours, so everything’s jake I guess.

The immediate reason we were concerned about the outcome of the argument is that this heap of dirty snow represents me and Hank’s winter playground.  In the off season we frequently make the precarious two mile bike ride from our neighborhood to climb and play on the “Matterhorn” as we’ve affectionately come to call the virtual snow mountain.

Last year of course we had a very dry winter, thus the playground never really materialized but the one before that saw record snow fall and the Matterhorn was packed high and wide, probably a football field in area and 50 feet high at the peak. Often we’d push our bikes to the summit and ride the compacted snow waves, twisting and turning to the bottom. The whole ride usually represents about a ten second adrenalin rush, which is just enough thrill to entice the easily amused into stomping back up and starting the process all over again once your breath catches up with your feet.

One year during the Winter Olympics we held our own outdoor games at the Matterhorn. I even used a couple of big smoke bombs left over from the summer arsenal to paint five colorful rings into the side of the snowy white mass. The water treatment plant’s perpetually burning waste gas releasers just across the river served as a nice torching backdrop for opening ceremonies too, as Hank lamely mouthed the Olympic theme song:

Na NA, Na Na Na Na Na
Na Na Na Na, NA Na Na Na, NA Na Na Na

The games amounted to improvised versions of luge and hockey among others and even a crude adaptation of curling which neither of us really knew the rules for.  I don’t recall who won what but I think we both brought home some gold (we used quarters). Of course with only two “athletes” competing, second place is the equivalent of last but still yields a silver medal (dime).

Off the record I’d quickly concur this pastime actually differs little from that of children sledding except we use bicycles and are way too old to be playing outside in such a fashion.  But we do it anyway and the trend of perpetually reliving our childhoods via bike rides appears to be carrying over right into the New Year. I, for one, am only resolving not to change a thing.  Remember, you’re never too old to not do what you’re told.

Thanks for riding along.

Traffic Tip:  Respect the cold; dress warmly and forget about the fashion show.

Hear Bike Rides from your radio Fridays, 1p.m. on KMSK, 91.3 FM.
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