The Illini Chill

This morning was the Illini Chill bike ride in St. Joe, IL. It’s a 22 mile ride in the middle of winter that may or may not benefit the Boy Scouts (there were lots of Boy Scouts hanging around at the start and the half way point).

It started with a “lumberjack breakfast” at a church in St. Joe. For some reason I assumed this meant pancakes but I was way off. It was greasy biscuits, greasy gravy, greasy eggs, greasy sausage, greasy bacon, greasy hash browns. Fortunately I found a small table with bagels, toast, and an apple (all of which I at least consider to be edible). I had been expecting to meet several of my cycling friends from Champaign-Urbana, but I did not recognize a sole at the breakfast.

Next was the small matter of the 22 miles in sub-freezing temperatures with a considerable amount of wind. There was a much smaller crowd at the start than anyone anticipated. Eventually, the ride organizers realized that many people were waiting at the location where the ride started last year, rather than the new location where it started this year. Both groups started at roughly the same time and we all met up once we got out of town.

I was now riding with some of my friends (Karl, Luke, Larry, Tom, Mark), but it was very slow going. The country roads were in terrible shape. They were very slick. There were huge drifts. In some places we couldn’t even tell we were on a road. After the first turn when we got a cross wind, 3 people hit the deck right away. Fortunately the considerable snow padded their falls and nobody was injured.

It was actually pretty fun. All I could do was grin and think to myself, this is some crazy shit.

I was wearing 3 layers of socks (including my magic Gore-Tex socks), 3 layers of pants, and 3 layers of shirts/jackets. I was overdressed. With the wind at our backs I was sweating buckets. I had been cold standing around the parking lot before the ride so I thought it better to err on the side of warmth.

We made our way to the half way point at a church in Royal, IL. More Boy Scouts were waiting with some hot chocolate and granola bars. After a short rest we decided to deviate from the set course in order to travel on roads which were more likely to be cleared of snow. We started quickly on the way back, only to turn into a strong headwind for several miles. This was less fun… but we made it back without incident.

After the ride was a spaghetti lunch at yet another church. It was a good time with some exciting (if a tad scary at times) riding.

Our route for the 2008 Illini Chill ride

The Snowfall

The snow began while I was eating lunch at El Toro yesterday. By the time I left work a few inches of snow had accumulated on the ground and it made for some difficult bicycling on the way home. I bided my time until about 10:30 pm or so, at which point I could wait any longer. I had to go skiing.

I changed clothes, grabbed my skis, and walked 2 blocks to the Arboretum. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fresh set of ski tracks in the snow–I was not the only person in Urbana with this idea. About half way around the 1.5 mile loop I saw the other skier. He was heading the opposite direction at a pretty good clip. I found out today the mystery skier was none other than Gary Cziko, who I know from Champaign County Bikes. Apparently, he’s quite the cross country skier.

3/4 of the way around the loop I went up the (artificial, of course) hill. This hill is short, steep, and one of only two places in Urbana to sled. So, of course, at 11 pm it was packed with people. I worked my way up to the top (it seemed to be mostly kids sledding, but I did see several fresh, empty beer bottles), then back down the other side to complete my loop. The snow was still falling at this point, so by the time I reached my initial tracks they were pretty well covered up by fresh snowfall.

This morning we awoke to a fresh 6-8″ of snow which needed to be shoveled off the driveway and sidewalk. Melissa & I made short, sweaty work of it.

The bike ride to work went slowly, as the roads had a lot of mushy snow (which is hard to navigate through on a bike). Fortunately, with the local schools cancelled and many people staying home from work, the roads were not at all busy. On the way home the road conditions were considerably better, but still not great.

Tonight more skiing is on the agenda, then tomorrow is the Illini Chill bike ride in St. Joe. That should make for some good outdoor fun.

The Frozen Pond

For 5 years Melissa and I had a pond in our back yard at our old house in Champaign. Once or twice a year it would freeze over solid enough to support the weight of an adult human and I would go ice skating. Well, more accurately, I would spend an hour on the frozen pond in ice skates shoveling a path through the snow… then I would skate for a few minutes.

Rob shoveling snow off the frozen pond in 2003

Friends Aimee and Brett skating on the frozen pond in 2003

Now we no longer have the pond, but our friends Cara & John (and our other friend Jeff) live on the very same pond. We had dinner tonight at their house and spent a few minutes out on the ice afterwards. Fortunately there was not much snow, so no shoveling was required. Unfortunately we only had a single pair of skates, so only two of us actually skated. Others walked out onto the ice and slid around a little bit.

Rob and Elliott stepping out onto the ice

Little Miss Claire and John walking across the frozen pond