I pulled up the weather report for Saturday and it showed that a front was coming. It called for rain/snow in Salida after 5 PM and snow starting as early as 11 AM for Gunny, and sharply colder temperatures for Sunday. Looked doubtful to be a bluebird day, but I called it "game on".
I rarely have any energy on evenings after work days, so I left all the preparation for Saturday morning and planned for an early start to beat that 11 AM snow forecast. Saturday morning, the cloud line in Salida out my back door was about 8000 feet. Looked to me like the front had showed up early. Weather reports didn't show that it had snowed yet in Gunnison, and still showed a forecasted high of 40. The likelihood of snow had gone up from 30% to 40%, but they were still calling for arrival after 11 AM. The camera on Monarch Pass showed that the road was covered with snow up there already. No surprise.
I took out the big pack and focused on having a full complement of warm stuff, including shell, wind pants, extra baselayer, gloves, and the like. The weather in Salida looked like it was degrading as it approached 7:00 AM and I had the 'is this stupid?' question rolling around in my head. I figured I better just load the car and leave before I thought about it too much.
View from The Ridge trail, picture taken with numb fingers
The drive over Monarch was not awful, not much traffic and just snowy. The car's thermometer showed 19° F. No surprise. The flats all the way into Gunny were dry, standard 72 mph. As I got closer the temperature reading went up into the low 20's.
I drove straight to the lot. Thermometer read 24° F at about 10 minutes to 9. The sky was high overcast.
How goofy is this? Here I am getting ready to ride a bicycle off into the sage on January 7 at 9 in the morning, hoping that it doesn't snow on me before I can have a decent ride and get out. Better not to think about it too much. Just suit up and get going. I got out, peeled my upper half down to skin and put on my magic Sugoi hoody and a wool jersey over that. That hoody has magical properties; the warmest single layer I have other than a down coat. Then I reached for my shorts and leg warmers.
Immediately a shock of realization went through me. "Holy crap! I forgot to bring any shorts!" I had everything else; shoes, socks, helmet, leg warmers, copious warm clothing, but nothing with a chamois. For just a moment I thought, "well, I guess that tears it. This truly was a futile gesture."
Then I looked down at my faded Carhartts. I laughed out loud and decided on the spot, I'll just stuff the cuffs of those pants into my socks and roll. Fsck it. An absurd mission; why not wear an absurd biking costume? It meant I didn't have to bear my butt in the cold parking lot.
This section was about as snowy as any I saw, totally rideable.
I rolled out of the lot and started climbing to the top of kill hill. I chose to ride backwards on the 2009 Growler course which I had loaded on my GPS. It was the start of the 2010 course, but I didn't have a track for that one. By the time I got 10 minutes away from the car my hands were painfully numb even in my winter Pearl Izumi gloves. I currently have about the same fitness as your typical Green Bay Packers fan, and the cold air burned my lungs. I wondered how long I was going to be able to handle this as I pedaled along under an indifferent winter sky.
From the top of Skyline.
But as I climbed Top of the World, my hands thawed and I started feeling that calm peace that singletrack brings me. I was going to have a ride. Whatever the barriers, I was going to ride.
I wound up out there in the sage until almost 1 PM. When I drove out of the lot toward The Bean Coffee House the thermometer showed 33° F. I had just had a ride, an Absurd Success.