Sunshine and skinny tires.

Sunday was the first really warm day of the season, with temps souring into the 50s and barely a cloud in the sky to boot. Luckily, it was also my day off. Trails and wooded areas were still pretty well packed in with snow and ice, so it was a fitting occasion to break out the skinnier tires and drop bars and put some miles in on some central PA back roads.

I was joined by a few friends—the Raders, usual riding companions, and Jeff, one of my longtime best friends who is currently trying to make his way out of winter hibernation. We hung out in the back parking lot of the shop for a little while, messing with layers and pumping up tires, basking in the sunshine that seemed like such a rare treat after a winter of clouds and cold.

We decided on a direction to head, and began pedaling. Soon, we were out of town, cranking past fields and farms, battling the occasional headwind.

We passed through McConnellstown (Mactown), and I admired a run-down, overgrown old building. I thought about stopping for a picture, but decided against it. The rest of the group was already moving along. We hopped onto the main road briefly and then were back in the middle of nowhere, alone with the cows and silos. We passed a car or two here and there, but for the most part, we had the asphalt to ourselves.

We kept a leisurely pace, stopping a lot, taking pictures, chatting. Jeff discovered a perfectly good coffee mug by the side of the road and just couldn’t resist picking it up and stuffing it into his pannier. We looped back to Mactown, forming a lollipop, and ended up stopping for a break at the run-down old building I had so admired earlier. I took a picture this time. We munched on beef jerky and energy chews before heading off in a different direction than before, through Hartslog Valley to Petersburg.

It feels as though this year, I am more excited for spring than I ever was before, despite this winter being considerably easier than last. Our house was warm (enough) when we got home at the end of the day, and we didn’t have to fire up the woodstove just to cook dinner. Our walk to the house via the snowed-in driveway was considerably shorter. And, Evan and I had plenty of our own space to be cooped up in, rather than 120 square feet of a tiny cabin. But somehow, this past month has been mentally difficult, and I’ve been ready for this thaw for a while now.

As we pedaled along, I thought about how great it was to be outside without a jacket and still be warm, how easy it felt to just ride along and not spin out every few feet from the slippery snow, and not have to push the bike up every hill. It was a delight to not have giant ice balls around my cleats, and a million layers around my body.

Yes, I’ve been a little sick of winter. It happens every year. And then, every fall, I’m excited about the first snow. It comes with living in a temperate climate, with changing seasons. I enjoy the variety, and though perpetual sunshine and warmth would be lovely, I know it would soon get old. But for now, I’m more than ready for it.

We rode past the river, its distinct odor reminiscent of many a day on the water, then through Petersburg and up over the mountain back towards town. We thought about doing a longer loop, but decided against it in the essence of time and other commitments. At the bottom of the hill, we stopped at an intersection to reconvene, but Jeff never showed up. My phone dinged, and it was a text from Jeff. He had a flat. He told us to go ahead, but we couldn’t leave a man behind, so the rest of us chugged back up the hill to find Jeff all the way at the top, changing his tube. A few short minutes later we were all back on our way, down the hill again.

The last few miles to town were rolling and easy. Back at our cars, we talked about the ride and shared a few sips of whisky before going our separate ways for the rest of the day. We had ridden almost 40 miles—and I felt a lot better than I thought I would after the past month of not doing as much physical activity as I should. I always forget that riding in the snow takes a lot more effort, and every spring, I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m not as out of shape as I thought I was. Always a good thing!

I don't think it's quite warm enough for these yet, but Jeff does.
I don’t think it’s quite warm enough for these yet, but Jeff does. And yes, he knows they’re mismatched.

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