A Cold Escape

As mentioned in my previous post, Mother Nature was doing her very best to keep me and the Nightowl housebound in Michigan instead of riding down to Daytona Bike Week.

She failed.

By 1pm, I had finished my obligations for work and could consider making a southward dash towards warmer temperatures. I had a few errands to run and that would give me a good look at the road conditions.

As luck would have it, the sun was shining bright this day and last night’s snow was losing the battle. By the time I was finished with errands and back home, much of the packed snow on my street had melted and the one-shovel-wide path I had cleared from the garage to the street was bare gravel. 

That’s all the encouragement I need. I’m out of here.

While the victory over the snow was rather enjoyable, the ensuing ride wasn’t going to be a complete cake walk. It was still cold. We were currently at the high for that day: a balmy 36ºF (2.2ºC). Since I wasn’t starting until after 3pm, the temperature would already be falling. Traveling south, it was logical that the temperature would be warmer the farther I went, but I knew that I wouldn’t be traveling near fast enough to keep up with temperature drop after sunset.

Naturally, a cold ride demands the services of my trusty Gerbing heated jacket liner and gloves. However, a ride this long in conditions this cold required more than that. We’re talking expedition weight polypropylene long underwear and my purple flannel camp shirt. These extra layers make the full set of riding gear feel a bit like being wrapped up like a sausage, but it does help keep you warm.

Packed up and ready to leave, I did my best tight-rope-walk with the Nightowl, navigating the bike down the narrow strip of cleared driveway. After a quick gas stop, I was off down US23 towards Ohio.

The Nightowl is my first bike with heated grips. I must say that I’m shocked at how effective they are, even through heavy gloves. Remember, a typical set of heated gloves has heat elements on the outside of the grip, along the back of the fingers and hand. When you combine this with a heat source on the grip side of the hand, the result is nice toasty fingers. 

About an hour into the ride and I was just south of Toledo and stopping to troubleshoot a power problem with my iPhone. Apparently, when you run heated clothing, heated grips, a heated seat, and driving lamps at the same time, there’s not enough power left over to charge your iPhone. That’s the only explanation I have for the battery slowly going dead even though it is plugged in to the bike for charging. I shut off the driving lights and, over the next hour, the battery meter slowly crept out of the red.

Between Lima and Dayton, OH, the temperature dropped to freezing. I had the Gerbings on full blast and the heated grips and seat nearly turned up all the way… and I was still getting seriously chilled. Luckily, the temperature found it’s way back up to 34ºF (1.1ºC), which made it a little more comfortable.

When I stopped for gas just south of the Ohio River (that’s almost 250 miles (402km) on a single tank of gas — I love this thing!), I noticed how much I was shivering while pumping gas. This can’t be good. I had really wanted to get down to Lexington, KY. Some quick use of the Maps app found that my intended destination was just under an hour away. Surely I could endure the cold for another hour.

That’s affirmative.

As fate would have it, it got warmer as I approached Lexington; all the way up to 37ºF (3ºC). I know it doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re already chilled, you can tell the difference even a single degree makes.

I found a room at a Motel 6 and walked across a few parking lots to get a pecan waffle, side of bacon, and plenty of hot chocolate at a Waffle House. I was still shivering a bit as I nursed my first boiling hot cup.

Back at the room, I sent an email or two, warmed up thoroughly with a hot shower, and wrote up this post. Tomorrow will be longer, but significantly warmer. I do, however, need to wrestle with the nightmare detour in Tennessee after last week’s landslide closed a portion of I75.

At least I’ll be warm.

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