Saturday, December 26, 2009

CHRISTMAS 2009: THE DAY AFTER!

We are now 5 days into our trip toward the 2010 longest day of the year and 4 days away from a new calendar year when mileage and other goals get reset for the coming year. December in Western North Carolina has been interesting to say the least. After a very favorable fall riding season that lasted well into late November and early December, Mother Nature brought the end of the year to a climax with the snowfall of December 19th. While our snowfall amounts (14” to 23”) probably wouldn’t faze the upper mid-westerners or other parts of the country used to larger amounts, it did put some serious kinks in travel and holiday plans for thousands of folks in this area.

Today, Saturday December 26th, looks to be the best road cycling day left in this calendar year so I hope to get in a good ride later this afternoon. Our extended forecast calls for chances of snow each of the days through New Year’s. Skinny tires and snow/ice don’t seem to be a good match… I’ll get to try out my snazzy new Novara Stratos Jacket from REI that my “better half” gifted me with yesterday.

IMG_2730 (That’s a 17’ tall variegated Dieffenbachia over my left shoulder.) 

The jacket adds a much needed outer layer of warmth to my riding outfit. I’ve been using a many layered approach thus far, which relied upon a 3 season Pearl Izumi wind breaking jacket to cut the cold air. This new addition should help keep my core temps up and help with warmer extremities. I ordered a pair of Pearl Izumi AmFIB Shoe Covers from Nashbar yesterday to take advantage of some holiday shopping sales.

Now I’ve got a Christmas tale to tell…

I think many of us grew up hearing the older generation talk about the hardships of getting to and fro in the snow or other complicated weather conditions. I know we used to hear  how our Dad “walked 5 miles in knee deep snow to get to school.” Of course, he heard it from his Dad and on down the line. Well, I never had to do that although I do recall when, as a youth, we used to REALLY have snow here in the mountains. The recent snowfall helped provide me with my own Christmas tale to be told in years to come if I can only get my nieces or others to listen.

Since my father’s death in 1995, my sister has graciously moved the Christmas Day traditions to her home. Understandably, my mother had difficulty, as did we all, those first few years after Dad’s passing with having any kind of celebration at her home. Christmas was especially difficult I think because he was so central to getting the day started. He always arose first, got a fire going, and started breakfast for the rest of us. His laughter and smiles filled the house with warmth and his delight in watching us kids open our gifts was joyous.

So, the trip to my sister’s for Christmas Day lunch as become part of the new traditions with the passing of our parents. Christmas Day 2009’s celebration was somewhat in doubt up until yesterday morning because we didn’t know if we could get near her home on the top of the mountain. The snowfall that had changed over to packed ice was a major barrier to getting up the road. We discussed the possibility that we might not make it this year.

However, very heavy rains beginning on Christmas Eve day helped to remove vast amounts of snow and actually made it possible for us to get to the bottom of her mountain. Along with the rain, 3 days of partial sunshine and improved temperatures had cleared much of her pastureland. The road, however, remained impassable. We could slip and slide out way to the bottom of the mountain in our 4 wheel drive Ford F-150 and my brother-in-law could get to the top of the steepest part of their road on his 4 wheel drive tractor. The plan was set – my “best half” and I would drive as far as possible and then hike to the tractor, which would then cart us the rest of the way up the mountain.

Once at the bottom of the hill, a quick look led me to believe it was much easier to hike the pasture than the road so we loaded up my Timbuk2 Messenger Bag and grabbed the cooler of food that we had prepared and set off on our climb. We startled the goats and sheep as we ascended the pasture to the drive leading to the house. Once at the top of the hill, we were pleased to see a gorgeous mountain snow scene as we looked back west toward Tennessee.

IMG_2734(The grasses of the meadow beginning to reemerge from the snow.) 

From the point where this picture was taken, it is only a short hop, skip, and a jump to the house. I was pleased to arrive at the house after having hiked through “my 5’ of snow to get to Christmas lunch.” Of course, it wasn’t really 5’ of snow at all but I bet it will be at least that much by the time I finish retelling the story of Christmas 2009 to my niece’s children someday…

IMG_2732(Zeke with Christmas Day provisions on “the Hike”)

Until later,

- Zeke

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