The ice commute.

It was early, just after dawn. I glanced at the thermometer on the porch. 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Which meant that away from the protected alcove of our cabin, it was even colder. It was just cold enough to make me second guess my decision to commute to town by bicycle this morning. I thought about bailing out—it was cold enough that I shouldn’t feel too bad.

But I knew I still would. Feel bad, that is. And after all, this wasn’t just any commute, it wasn’t even just any bike ride. Evan and I were supposed to be meeting our friends Jake and Tony to ride from our house all the way to Huntingdon on top of the ice on Raystown Lake. Conditions were perfect—an extended period of exceptionally cold weather meant that the ice would be more than thick enough to be safe, and there was a thin layer of powder on top of the ice, providing traction without too much rolling resistance.

I knew that no matter how cold it was, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. So I bundled up, resigned myself to cold feet, and the two of us headed out, meeting up with the others down the road.

On the lake, the rays of the morning sun and the beauty of the steam rising off a patch of open water in the distance made it seem just a little bit warmer, but by the time we got to town, my feet were still frozen and ice crystals decorated by eyelashes (and the men’s beards).

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Ice mascara?

That evening, we began the commute home in just enough time to catch the sunset on the lake, and watch the surrounding mountains turn purple and the trees transform into ghostly silhouettes against the dark gray-blue sky. We took a detour from our morning route to stray towards the center of the lake, until the ice grew noticeably thinner and free of snow. The open water interacting with the ice created a haunting song, and we stopped and stood there at the edge of the snow-covered ice for a while, mesmerized, listening to the murmurs of the lake and looking down into the black abyss underneath the clear, frozen layer in front of us.

Riding beside a no-wake buoy is just plain weird.
It’s hard to believe this place is packed with boats most of the year.

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Testing.

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Eventually, as we began to grow cold, we hopped back on our bikes and continued towards home.

The next day, the skies dumped nearly a foot of snow on us, rendering the ice commute much more difficult, maybe nearly impossible.

I’m glad I didn’t bail that day, because as it often is when it comes to riding bikes in the winter, the chilly feet were worth it.

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