Saturday, 27 November 2010

Let it snow, let it snow...

Hello my dear friends, Aunty Jayne here to tell you about another little adventure in our curious lives. This one happened only yesterday and I am still cold, but what can you expect from winter in Northern Europe, which let's face it Britain is in.

So yesterday morning, I popped down to the garage and got the always fantastic Sylvie out for the blast over to Nailsea, there was the first frost of the new winter on the ground and the morning sunshine was glorious. I was wearing a thermal base layer, a thermal t-shirt, a fleece, cycling shorts, cycling tights, two pairs of socks, motorcycle trousers and over trousers. Walking was hard work, but I was toasty warm. My liner gloves and my outer gloves have given me huge hands, but inside the layers my hands can barely close around the grips anymore. However with Sylvie's precious little engine rumbling happily away, I popped her into first and rode away.

Now, I needed to fuel up and decided to stop at Sainsbury's on the way, which was a great idea because when I got there, my hands were too cold to work the fuel cap and I ended up with both hands wrapped around the exhaust system as they slowly defrosted. Once I was fueled up, came the laborious process of pulling on the outer shells again and getting ready for the motorway wind blast which must have been below zero.

Sylvie was flawless in her running, she galloped up the motorway with her usual finesse, barely working hard as we worked our way through the traffic. Even when it was that cold, she is a pleasure to ride and before long I was pulling off the motorway and onto the nice windy roads that lead to Nailsea. The final approach though was a nightmare of freezing air and a road so bumpy, it was like riding off road in the arctic! A stop for coffee and a chat and then I was off again.

From Nailsea, I took the winding road to Failand and then over to Portishead before meeting a new lad and making myself known as a fixer of computers and supplier of hard, dirty Metal. With a few plugs for the Sunday School, I began looking out of the window and then saw to my horror, snow flakes, whirling in the street lighting outside.

From Portishead to Weston is usually a short blast down the motorway, holding between fifty five and seventy, depending on which bike I am riding. With Agnes, a fifty five mile per hour cruise is just joyous, on Sylvie, a seventy MPH blast is much more fitting. However with snow howling in my face and freezing on my helmet, just getting to the motorway was a challenge. Wiping snow off of my visor was getting harder as the snow got heavier, but with the visor up, I could barely see a thing or keep my eyes open. So it was a long journey of wiping the snow drift off of my visor.

Gordano Roundabout was full of traffic, the motorway was moving very slowly and on every surface not being driven on, snow was settling, covering every blemish with a crisp clean blanket of white. The world looks so clean with a fresh coating of snow hiding the litter, dirty streets and churned up mud. I dropped down the sliproad and joined the flow of the motorway, tucking in behind a large truck. The snow was so heavy that I was wiping my visor every twenty or thirty seconds when it became too clogged to see through, my air vent filled with ice and froze up, which stopped air blowing on the inside of my visor and de-misting the double laminate. As we made progress along the road, traffic was moving at a steady forty five miles per hour and so I just sat serenely behind the truck, watching the road carefully.

Riding in snow is probably one of the most scary things I have done on a motorbike, riding pillion with a nutter who rode at 150MPH was nothing compared to this, every corner became a fear filled step into the unknown, Sylvie took it all in her stride and just kept rumbling away happily, although her temperature was reading somewhat lower than usual. Finally with hands that felt like they were cast in ice, the Weston junction came and as I prepared to turn off of the motorway, a lunatic in a Mercedes sports car, came hurtling across the three lanes of traffic, braked really hard and turned the road in front of me into a red mist with his high intensity brake lights. I had no option but to keep going and hope that he had not stopped in my path. Luckily he had decided that the line of traffic I was a part of was too slow, so had turned across the lane and pelted off ahead, only to have to brake hard for a large truck in the outside lane of the motorway exit!

I trundled off and headed up to the lights and pulled out onto a slowly freezing road, the edges of the road where white and the snow was starting to settle on the damp tarmac. Sylvie cut through the snow and just kept going, agile and sure footed as always.  The traffic was backing up again and so with a carefully made decision I headed for the Toll Road into Weston and then back home. Only once before has the Toll Road felt so long and on that occasion I was riding my mountain bike while fighting off an illness. Half way along the dark, but sheltered road I could stand it no more and almost in tears I pulled into a small layby and dismounted, the pain in my frozen hands was too much to bare and for five minutes I just knealed in the snow, resting my poor cold, gloved hands on the thin exhaust pipe, just below the exhaust can. The heat began to seep through to my hands and the bust of pain did bring a tear to my eyes.

I waited for a few minutes, the pain in my hands had subsided somewhat, but getting back on my precious Sylvie was one of the hardest choices I have ever made. Coming out of the woods, the road was a coated with snow, the going was treacherous and the wind made my whole want to shrink away. I have not been this cold since being sat on an icy belay in the lakes while winter climbing with my old friend Will the Mountain Leader. I passed by my Mother in laws house and wondered if I could take shelter from the weather, but thought better of it. I was so nearly home, I had less than a mile to go.

Pulling up outside the garage was a moment of bliss, I had made it home despite the weather. Sylvie purred on idle as once again I had my hands resting on the exhaust system just for the warmth it provided. Finally, when my hands could move once again I phoned Carol and asked her for her help in putting Sylvie away. I could not stop shivering and the ice in front of the garage was the final step for me. Between us both, we parked Sylvie up before Carol and I locked up and headed back to the warmth of the flat, a roaring fire and a got drink.

Never before have I ridden a motorbike in the snow, never before has my decision making been so important and never before have I wanted to get off and sit on the side of the road while I sobbed. Once inside my helmet was frozen shut, my jacket was soaked and the ice on the outside was starting to melt. My hands were barely able to move and Carol had to help me out of my gear, before wrapping me in my sleeping bag and leaving me on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate. That night she cooked one of her stews, a boiling hot blend of meat and veg and never before has it tasted so good or been so warming.

In another universe somewhere, I did not make it home, another Carol was struck with the loss of me and I could almost feel the grief of that desperate soul. If every action and every possibility has it's own universe, I wonder in just how many of them I made it home?