James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 5.15'
Flow: 5290 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond


Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 7:24am
Low Tide: 3:06pm

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Posted In: Mountain Biking

Riding the cold like an ostrich

January 8, 2014 11:46am

Who can say where the line between avocation and addiction is?

I enjoy many outdoors pursuits — canoeing, fishing, hiking, tracking falcons on cloudy days — but I chose just one of them yesterday, the most frigid day in decades: riding my mountain bike.

On Belle Isle, stopping to retrieve phone.

On Belle Isle, stopping to retrieve phone.

By now perhaps you’ve heard that yesterday, Jan. 7, 2014, was cold. I won’t belabor the point; you’ve seen the statistics. But it was also Tuesday, as in a day, a day with the same promise as any other. To quote the great George Meyer, “Our existence is but an eyeblink. Why, then, should a man not chase down his passions, wrestle them to the dirt, and ride them like ostriches?”

He should, and I did.

Local speedfreak Dave Salley rolled over to the RichmondOutside.com compound around 11 a.m., and we hit the road. Actually, we specifically avoided the road, wanting to limit our wind exposure. We hit Buttermilk Trail going east from the Nickel Bridge. By the time we reached Forest Hill Park, Salley’s CamelBack tube had frozen solid, and the water in my bottle was on its way.

We pedaled Forest Hill, then headed back to the compound to get Salley a bottle. Having layered ourselves to the bajeezus belt, we were surprisingly warm. That is until we crossed the Nickel Bridge to go grab some Dogwood Dell.

Holy mackerel! The wind whipping down the James was just barely in the realm of human comprehension.

“I can’t go back across there,” Salley said.

Luckily the Dell’s singletrack and then the Northbank Trail got us back pedaling hard and producing some heat. We crossed over Belle Isle then took Buttermilk East back to the Reedy Creek parking lot. That’s when I asked Salley to take a picture for this post and realized my phone was gone.

Not afraid to rock the "doofus" look.

Not afraid to rock the “doofus” look.

At this point, the sweat we were producing meant that stopping for very long was hazardous. We retraced our steps all the way to Belle Isle where the phone sat in the middle of (appropriately) the Lost Trail under the Lee Bridge. In our two hours of riding we saw a grand total of three other human beings: one photographer, one runner and a ne’er-do-well on Belle Isle.

We parted ways there. Salley rode on; I rode home, thinking about the fun I would have missed had I sat inside instead of wrestling this passion to the dirt.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?