Thursday, April 1, 2010

First Ride to Work In 2010

Last week held the promise of warm weather.  I thought I would ride my bike to work one day, taking advantage of the early season heatwave forecast by the weather augurs and of my kids' spring break. When the weather turned out as balmy as predicted, I checked my bike, dug out my saddle bag, packed it on Monday night and hopped out of bed at 5:00 on Tuesday morning. The usual cup-o-joe, sudoku, leftovers from the fridge for lunch, one last equipment check and off I went, at 6:00 sharp.

I had hoped that the gusty winds would start only after day brake, but I was not as lucky. I was buffeted by strong southerly gusts all along my ride form St. Paul to Eagan, which happens to be oriented completely north-south. Especially the open areas were a little troublesome, but hey, biking on March 30 in Minnesota at 12 C, not even a month after my last cross-country ski outing, I'll take it. I have to say that I do mind a head wind on the way home more than on the way to work. As always, I love crossing the Mississippi via the I-35E bridge. The river was still well outside its banks and the slower pace of the bike allowed me to take in the view. Again, as always, Valley Park in Mendota Heights is a welcome relief from the frantic traffic on the interstate. By now, day night definitely started to give way to the gentle light of dawn and the noise of the nearby free-way is muffled by trees and shrubbery. Nature is still dormant, the meadows and woods seem still barren and grey. Because of the wind there is no hint of the morning mists that I love along this stretch. 

After labouring up to Hwy 110 I am back on the road, Dodd Rd, just for a short piece, until I cut through a residential neighborhood to get to Mendota Heights Rd. and then Argenta Trail, which takes me almost to the West campus. While I love Argenta Trail for its almost rural character, it has the nastiest stretch of the entire commute: the short piece of way between Hwy 52 and where Argenta Trail turns south from Yankee Doodle Rd. Always heavy traffic on four lanes and not a good way to make it across. But this morning it worked out because of a slow semi that kindly held up traffic, thus creating a gap. 

I made it in about 11 minutes more from my usual time, due to the strong head wind and my lack of practice with the bike. 

In the screen shot above, note the time difference between ride to work and ride home. Most of the times, for this ride I am a little faster in the morning than in the afternoon, mostly because there is significantly more traffic on Hamline Ave, especially near University Ave. This time was no exception and I was further delayed because I lost my pack when I jumped a curb at the Midway Target. There is just not enough room on the road to ride a bike safely in rush-hour conditions.

All in all, an excellent first bike outing. Later that evening I also rode my bike to the Midway Y to attend my second to last front crawl swim class.

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