Yesterday, shortly after a noontime lunch, I loaded up the Pugstigator with my minimalist camping equipment (Thermarest pad and a vintage Slumberjack cold-weather sleeping bag) and hit the road.
I crossed the Mendota Bridge, the bike lane of which appears to have been plowed, following two racer-type ladies tootling along cautiously on cyclocross bikes. When they saw me, one asked if I was training for the Arrowhead 135. Nope, just camping! (I don't train for anything)
I hit the woods and was disappointed, but not surprised, to find the trail pocked up with human, dog, and wildlife footprints and cross-country ski tracks, which made the going rather difficult. I reduced my tire pressure, which seemed to help me roll over the slippery, squishy, uneven surface. Still I found myself pushing as much as I was pedaling. Farther along, I saw the tire tracks of 2 or 3 bikes, at least one of which was a fellow fat-tire bike. The bike tracks seemed to follow the edge of the trail, where the snow was still smooth and untrammeled. Following this lead, I tried to stick to sections of undisturbed snow, which was much easier, in general.
At some point, there was a truck track in the snow, and I made good time following one of the wheel ruts. But that eventually came to an end, but by the time it did, I was on a part of the trail that wasn't as heavily traveled, and riding the soft snow was easy, if slow.
I had a location in mind for camping, but given the snow conditions, my destination seemed too ambitious, so I kept an eye open for alternate campsites. Eventually I settled on a marshy edge of a lake/pond, and set up camp.
I got on my wireless internet device to email my wife to let her know that I was safely in my sleeping bag, and even plotted out a GPS-map so she would know where I was in case of emergency. Then, for grins, I checked the weather. It was about 12F at 4:30 PM, and the expected overnight low was 7F. Then I noticed for the first time that we were under a winter weather warning, with 2-5" of snow in the overnight forecast. Huh? Where did that come from? Hmmm, this should be fun.
I put my boots, water bottles, and extra clothes inside the foot of my sleeping bag, and crawled inside. Since it was so early, I didn't go right to sleep, and within a few hours, I heard the tell-tale rustling of snowflakes hitting the nylon outer-shell of my sleeping bag. I was fairly warm and comfortable, and I went to sleep at some point. I woke up around 3 AM when I moved and some fallen snow that had piled near the opening of my sleeping bag fell into my face. I reconfigured and dozed off again. I woke up for good around 6 AM (still pretty dark) and peeked outside to see the bike buried in snow. I decided to stay in the bag for another hour.
I made quick work out of getting dressed and loading up my gear, but when I got back on the trail, I found the extra snow made it mostly unrideable.
At some point, I decided to avoid the snowy trail ahead and to get up on an overpassing freeway bridge, where I knew there was a bike path that would be cleared of snow, hopefully. It turned out that the bike path had not been cleared, and that, in fact, it was now the final resting place of all the snow and debris that had been plowed off the freeway. It was basically a foot-deep morass of half-frozen pie-dough. It was completely unrideable, and barely even pushable. I made about 100 feet of difficult progress before I reconsidered my plan. It occurred to me that if I turned around and pushed in the other direction, I would sooner come to a road that would be plowed, and then a light-rail station. I turned around, and pushed through this nasty snow waste for ~1.5 miles before I got to a plowed road I could ride. The snow plow debris was exhausting and frustrating in itself, but it was made worse by the auto exhaust, which I smelled/tasted strongly with every breath. By the end of this segment, I was coughing frequently. At some point, I saw a large deer down by the river. I stabilized myself against the bridge railing, extended the camera's zoom lens all the way out, and tried my best to steady my arms/hands, which were trembling from the exertion of pushing the heavy bike. It turned out better than expected.
Shortly thereafter, I made it to a paved road, and rode directly to the train station. I paid my $1.75 and headed toward home. Some guys on the train took a break from discussing interior decorating to comment on my large front tire. I, of course, went into technical details about the Pugstification, and their eyes glazed over...
By the time I got home, peeled off the sweaty clothes, and made breakfast, I realized that I hadn't eaten a bite in 22 hours. I've been gorging myself all day, and I'm still 5 lbs lighter than I was yesterday morning.