Last Tuesday I was sitting at my writing table in the living room when I looked out the window and noticed the falling snow. The snowflakes striking pavement were still melting on contact, but the snow on the lawn was sticking and was almost as high as the tallest blades of grass. My plan had been to put my bicycle into storage come the first significant snowfall, but at that moment I wanted to sneak in one last ride.

I jumped on my bike and left immediately, but twenty minutes into my ride, the snow changed to sleet. A half hour later the sleet changed to rain. My feet got cold, as did a thin strip of my backside where the rear tire of my bike continually splashed up water. My windproof jacket and pants repelled the rain for a short time, but it was not long before I was soaked. Seven miles from home I began to shiver. In my mind, I had two choices. One, I could pedal hard as a way to generate body heat. Two, I could pedal slowly and lessen the chances of wiping out on an icy patch. I concluded it was better to take a spill than risk hypothermia. I pedaled very hard and luckily made it home without incident. After a hot shower and a change of clothes, I was fine.

Manyu is away in Taiwan, so I did not receive a lecture about my lack of common sense. Clare was completing her own workout in the family room when I dragged myself through the door. Her only comment was, “You look cold.” I could mention that I tried to take my dog on his daily walk earlier that morning. When I opened the backdoor, Jack shot outside before I could even put his leash on. Once he noticed the weather conditions, he reversed direction and ran back into the house. My dog would rather hold his pee than freeze his feet. If only I was as smart as my dog.

It seems I make small outdoor-related mistakes about once every couple months. I kayak across the wide main channel of the Mississippi River on a windy day. I take beginners into nature and make the outings too difficult or too long. I try to sneak my canoe through a culvert and get stuck. This time I went for a bike ride when everyone else knew it was prudent to stay indoors. I seldom learn from my mistakes. Instead I get past the immediate danger and then congratulate myself for not succumbing to an old man’s sense of excessive caution. 

Steven Simpson