Last Ride of the Year.

All of the Weather Smurfs are forecasting varying degrees of snow to begin in a few hours, anywhere from buckets full to a total dumping. In any event, the head Smurfs at the National Weather Something-or-Other have issued a winter traveler’s advisory beginning at 6 am tomorrow morning and lasting until at least 6 am on the first day of the year.

Or perhaps I should say, “Winter Traveler’s Advisory,” using capital letters. Despite the fact that we experience the same exceptionally crappy driving conditions each and every year, we in Missouri suffer from a strange form of Midwestern dementia wherein a collective amnesia seems to take hold: we forget how to drive in snow and on ice. Snow begins to fall and the world becomes a weird and somehow slightly more malevolent place. Drivers have the worst case of Snow Amnesia and do some really stupid things – and yes, I mean way stupider than usual.

I used to have an office located at the bottom of a long hill. On the first snowy day of the year everyone would collect around my desk, popcorn and snacks would come out, and desk chairs would get pulled up around my window looking out on the intersection outside the building. We’d spend the better part of an afternoon watching as cars would come screaming down the hill and slam on the brakes as the light would turn red; dozens would then pile up, smack into each other, and literally knock vehicles all about like so many carnival bumper cars. Drivers would get out and stare at the crumpled bumpers, clueless about the extent of the damage and totally oblivious to the other cars that continued to wham into one another. It was always a wonder to me that no one ever got run down. A few minutes would go by, insurance cards and numbers exchanged, cars would struggle down the icy hill and the whole ridiculous debacle would start all over again with the changing of the next red light.

The Traveler’s Advisory also means that today’s was very likely my last ride of 2012.

I thoroughly enjoyed my JRA* outing this afternoon, stiff winds and all. An hour into the ride I came to the sudden realization that my nose was running, my eyes were tearing over, and my legs and lungs were burning from breathing in cold air and struggling up hills directly into a harsh, cold wind. In other words, just about a perfect day, considering that it’s December 30.

The light that seemed so beckoning as I headed out soon turned a dismal gray and clouds began to form. I rather enjoy the look of the day, and while it doesn’t result in the happiest of imagery, it does mean I’ll get some photographs that have a stark appeal that is a hallmark of some of my better pictures.

The clouds blanket the sky, a single thick layer, much like a huge cottony quilt. Country roads flick up and down, remnants of the last snowfall still cover the shadow side of hills, grasses and weeds have finally turned a golden brown and their husks flutter in the wind.

Coming back through town and rounding the square I stop for a few minutes to chat with a friend and fellow rider. It’s Sunday and his store isn’t open today, but he’s come in to empty the trash before heading out to a meeting. He asks if I’m just heading out or just getting back, openly envious that I’m on two wheels and he is not. I think about how to answer his question. My best guess is that it’s been a few hours since I headed out the door. I look up at the sky. Snow will begin to fall soon.

“I’m just getting started,” I say to him.

________________

*JRA = “Just Riding Around”

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