As I sit in a nice, warm room, watching the thermometer drop into the 20's (F, not C), I'm reminded of the coldest bike ride I've ever taken.
But--as with most of my scribbles here, we need some back-story.
It was January, 1996. Tallahassee. About 5 months before, I'd moved to town and took up a room in an apartment. The main tenant--let's call him Roomie--seemed friendly enough, but I quickly learned that he had some sort of deal worked out with his landlord. The rent would stay low as long as Roomie didn't ask for many repairs--especially to the heating/air-conditioning unit.
The apartment was basically a cinder-block box. I was forbidden from opening windows or even the drapes, because Roomie didn't want people seeing (and 'liberating') his computer. The place was a freaking oven in August. In January, it became an icebox.
...And that's when my car died, leaving me to get around town on a 10-speed. I was working for a nationally-known inventory company at the time, and for any job site within 20 miles of town we were expected to drive ourselves. Fair enough.
On the Coldest Day, my team would be counting a clothing store in Governor's Square Mall, beginning at 6 a.m. I woke up at 4:30. Painfully cold. It was around 17F with a wind chill below 0F. Very quick shower. Long johns, work shirt, pants, sweater, heaviest coat, doubled gloves, and I'm on the road...pitch black outside, the sun still sleeping...uphill on Miccosukee Rd to Georgia St...right on Hillcrest, left on Alachua, still straining uphill (the apartment rests in a bowl--getting out is all uphill)...right on Magnolia, finally seeing some street lights, but feeling as though there's never been any heat in the world...south on Magnolia, left on Simpson and finally, the Mall...a cluster of cars near one entrance, lucky bastards with their heaters...a pair of Mall Cops, here, and my hands are hooks on the handlebars, my feet aren't answering the phone, and I have no ears anymore...dismounting is painful, walking more so as feet wake up and call me back, ranting abuse...walking into the Mall, pushing the bike, starting to feel other forgotten body parts...I find the store.
I was on that bike for about a month and a half before the car--a 1976 Impala wagon--got replaced by the '83 Citation. But I was never that cold again.
The Devil's Backbone (2001)
2 hours ago