Today I took my bicycle off the device that makes it a stationary bike. I added air to the tires, oiled the chain, and took my first real bike ride of 2022. My legs are not in summer biking form, but it was fantastic. Snow was sparse, the pavement was mostly dry, and the temperature reached fifty degrees.
I was not the only one outside. Runners and other bikers who’ve been waiting three and a half months for the weather to warm hit the sidewalks and trails the same day. I don’t think people who live in less severe climates understand the significance of leaving the house after a long period semi-trapped inside. It is more than enjoying a day of balmy weather. It is surviving the winter.
Prior to moving to San Francisco in the early 80s, I’d never lived anywhere without harsh winters. When I first arrived, I took a job at a NorthFace store to pay the rent (barely pay the rent). In my first week of work, a woman came into the store and asked about down coats with Gore-Tex. I
started to tell her that if the weather was warm enough for it to rain she didn’t need down, but my Californian coworker cut me off and took her to the down Gore-tex jackets.
I eventually learned that Bay Area winters do have a bite to them, but the residents there don’t experience that same cabin fever as those of us in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Even the rainiest San Francisco winters have occasional sunny days, so people rarely are cooped up longer than a week at a time.
Also the constant rains turn everything in northern California a luminescent green. It was January when I moved by car from Boston to San Francisco. After five days of driving an interstate highway lined with dirty roadside snow, I arrived in the middle of the night and immediately collapsed in a cheap motel east of Oakland. I remember leaving the motel room early the next morning and feeling I was Dorothy stepping out of her house into Munchkinland. I’d never seen any place so lush, and I though I was in paradise.
While I was in my backyard working on my bicycle, I noticed the last dwindling pile of snow and ice on my concrete patio. As I am sure I’ve mentioned many times, Manyu is Taiwanese. In this last remnant of winter, right down to the offshore tidal flats and snowy peaks, I saw a contour map of Taiwan’s land mass. Not many people in the city of La Crosse would have made this connection, but to me it was obvious.