Monday, February 15, 2010

Sledding is awesome

It's been another snowy winter here on the North Coast. When I was a kid growing up in Columbus, I absolutely loved to go sledding, but was frequently disappointed at the amount of snow we got in the winter. Here in Cleveland we tend not to have that problem (although they've been getting hammered in Columbus too!) and I'm not at all ashamed to say that, at 26 years old, I'm still very into sledding.

Cara and I have gone out sledding several times over the past few years, and had a few adventures along the way. We'll never forget how ridiculously cold it was the first time we went at Forest Hill (which also happens to feature a half mile trek from the parking lot to the sledding hill). And then there was the time that we wanted to go sledding after a big March snowstorm, but had no sleds here, and were unable to find any in the stores. We ended up buying some foam insulation at Home Depot and cutting off pieces on which we slid down the hill. This proved only moderately effective, and we were lucky when someone took pity and let us use their sled for a few runs.

This year we've had our best sledding yet. We seem to have mutually decided that we prefer sledding at night, mainly because of the lack of crowds. While it's fun to observe kids enjoying themselves on the sledding hills, it's less fun to have to constantly look out/wait for people sitting at the bottom or walking up the middle of the hill. It's also not fun to cringe at kids nearly smashing into each other, or parents sending their three-year-old down the massive and steep slope at Forest Hill. Plus, sledding at night has a really cool atmosphere to it.

A few weeks ago we hit up the Cain Park hill, and it was the best sledding I've experienced in maybe a decade or even more. It reminded me of some of the great times I used to have at Wyman Woods in Grandview. The sledding surface was nicely packed down, a bit icy, and very fast, and if you were so inclined you could hit some bumps and receive moderate to huge air. Speaking of Cain Park sledding, I found this picture from 1970. I see a lot of Flexible Flyers - that was my favorite sled as a kid.

Tonight we went to Flavor Tripping at the B-Side Liquor Lounge, which was also a lot of fun (and I think Cara may write about it). Yet another snowstorm was picking up in intensity as we headed out. After the party (the highlights for me were lemons and goat cheese), we walked over to Coventry Peace Park with our sleds. This is a relatively small hill, but it's still quite fun. At least an inch or two of fresh powder covered the previously packed down snow. As we rode, our sleds carved smooth paths into the glistening hillside. It was really rather beautiful to look at.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for the best places to sled in Cleveland? I've read that some of the Metroparks have good hills.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trying out some new toys and nearly freezing to death

For Christmas my parents got me some new accessories for the road bike that I had gotten from them three years previously (and which is probably the best Christmas present I've ever gotten, come to think of it). I finally have clipless pedals and a pair of cycling shoes. For anyone who is uninitiated in the world of cycling and may be reading this post, this means that the shoes lock in to the pedals while riding, enabling a somewhat greater transfer of power with each pedal stroke. I got the pedals installed on my bike last weekend, then promptly got sick, and then went through a few days of weather that was snowy and/or bitterly cold. I had been itching to give my new toys a try, so today, with the temperature a balmy 26, clear streets, and very little wind, I thought conditions were good enough and went out for a ride.

In previous cold weather rides, I have experienced some extremely cold hands and feet (even with two pairs of socks). I recently picked up some toe covers for my cycling shoes, so I put those on. To protect my hands, I equipped myself with two pairs of gloves.

My ride started well. I haven't done much outdoor riding recently, but I'm pretty sure that, thanks to the new pedals, I was riding in higher gears than I typically would with the same effort. Unfortunately, my bike computer doesn't like cold temperatures, so I could not actually see how fast I was going. Hopefully I'll get a chance for that in the not too distant future.

I ended up going about 23 miles. About halfway in, I realized that my fingers were getting very cold. Unfortunately, I was over ten miles from home; I had no choice but to suffer through the return leg of my route. My fingers grew increasingly numb. Two pairs of gloves were obviously not enough - I definitely plan to pick up some hand warmers before going on any more lengthy rides in this sort of weather. (The toe covers, on the other hand, proved effective.) I surged through the mostly downhill last few miles and was greatly relieved to reach home. The worst part, though, was yet to come.

My fingers were extremely cold and numb. I needed to warm them up, and I ran some warm water over them. I knew this would be painful, but the pain was far more excruciating than I can ever remember feeling in similar situations in the past. But it went away in a few minutes.

Hot chocolate has never tasted better.