Winter here in Slovenia has yet to decide whether it wants to stay, go or whether it has even arrived. December and January were somewhat cold but mild by historical standards. On most days we walk outside with a warm jacket, hat and gloves. On the warm days I found myself wearing only a sweater and relishing the sunshine. There have only been two episodes of snowfall in the city that have had any lasting impact. When I say lasting I mean the snow stuck around for maybe a week at best, a bit longer in shaded spots.
The skiing early in the season left something to be desired. Most of the runs were on man-made snow. But leave it to the Austrians (our ski pass is for Austria), they are absolute masters at managing their ski resorts and making the most of what little snow they might have. At most areas the groomed runs were perfect to ski from the morning opening to the last run down at the end of the day. We just forced ourselves to avert our eyes from the edges of the ski runs. On either side all we would see was dirt and rocks. It was difficult to imagine how the areas off the runs could possibly receive enough snow to make them skiable.
By the time we reached the beginning of February the massive array of dark brown and rocky patches found themselves covered in a thin veneer of white. Still not enough to ski on but the image was encouraging. By the time we hit Valentine’s Day winter had delivered. The mountains in Austria were blooming with vast open and snow covered terrain. It was difficult to imagine that only a few short weeks prior the same gullies and chutes were rocks, bushes and scree. In Slovenia as well the snow has provided a bounty and the mountains were beaming with massive bright white peaks. Their nature and profiles transformed by layer upon layer of snow.
We took a trip up to our “local” mountain last week. The name of the ski area is Krvavec. It is set up in the mountains about 35 minutes from Ljubljana. It is a relatively small operation, only a few lifts, but it serves a huge variety of amazing terrain. Lots of steeps, lots of side chutes (if you know where to look), and really good snow. In a lot of ways it reminds us of Snowbowl. The folks that ski there are from town, they know each other, they want to share a good time but mostly they are seeking every last bit of fresh powder. Krvavec even has its own version of Star Wars Iconolgy.
The last two weeks have delivered a steady stream of big snowfalls to Slovenia and Austria. We have taken every advantage to make fresh track in the deep powder. Fortunately for all of us the kids were on winter break last week. It was mostly raining in Ljubljana but snowing up in the mountains. Rather than getting soaking wet on long walks in the hills we decided it would be best for our mental health to his the slopes. We managed to ski 6 out of 9 days of their break.
Back in Ljubljana it has been a matter of waiting for the gaps between rain storms to get out on the bike and ride. He period between rain is so small that even if it is not raining the roads are still pretty wet all the time. Riding in the rain or on wet roads is something I used to do with out a second thought. These days I have gone soft. The idea of getting wet and feeling soggy while riding does not appeal to me. I will trade a wet ride for coffee and croissant at the local café anytime. Even though I have made my best effort to avoid riding when there is the slimmest of chance of rain I still find myself returning home from a ride covered with a thin film of road grime. My bike is also covered in its fair share of grime. My chain grinds away with the sound of grit churning through the links. Each time I grab the brakes I can hear my brake pads scouring the sidewalls of my rims like a rough stone against metal. It is not a pleasant sound.
After the ride comes the maintenance. Wow, being at MBW on a nearly daily basis I have really taken for granted the ease and flexibility I have to work on my bike. Even at home I can put the portable bike stand out, rinse off the bike, dry it and get it back to a presentable condition. Here in Ljubljana, things are very different. I have no bike stand and only rudimentary tools. Our apartment building does not have a water spigot in front or in back. What this has meant it that I carry two buckets down three flights of stairs. One with water to rinse the bike and one with warm soapy water. It is a funny sight. My bike I hang on the clothes lines that are strung up in the courtyard in the back of the apartment building. The unfortunate thing is that One bucket of rinse water is sometimes not quite enough but I really don’t want to walk all the way back upstairs fill the bucket and then walk back down. Call me lazy, the worst I’m going to do is agree with you.
We have for years offered basic bike maintenance classes at MBW. In those classes we discuss very simple and very efficient ways of keeping your bike and drive train clean. Brushes, sponges, soap, and water. That is all I need. But, wow, I would love to have my bike in the stand, with a water hose and an air compressor. I’m not comaining, OK, I a complaining a little bit but that is only because I have been so spoiled for so long. My bike is looking good but it is a funny sight cleaning a bike that is hanging from a clothes hanger.
I had to find a new bike lube for my chain. I have been using Dumond Tech chain lube for a while and I love it. It is probably the best lube I have tried and I have grown quite comfortable with it. I went to my favorite local bike shop and asked for a recommendation. They gave me a lube that they said was their preferred lube. Trying new lube, for me, is like trying out a new brand of jeans when you already know that which pair of Levi’s you like. I have been riding the new lube for a while. It is good stuff, not quite like Dumonde Tech but it is good. The folks at my local bike shop have been really good to me. You can’t beat your local bike shop for keeping your bike rolling.
Getting out on the road bike is a great way to explore small side roads out in the countryside that I would not have reason to explore by car. Small side roads meander up narrow out of the way valleys. Along the way the roads pass through small villages where it appears that the pace of life and the daily routine have not changed in decades. Old farm houses and barns are spread out across the valley surrounding the village. The only obvious indication that I am still in the twenty first century are the satellite dishes on some of the houses. Despite some of the relatively remote locales I have explored I find that the roads are almost always in great condition. Smooth, clear of debris and great for riding. But that is not always the case. Everyone once in a while I wander on to a random side road with an unknown destination. Curiosity being the driving factor. Usually those roads are in good condition but every once in a while I find a road that makes even the worst roads in Montana look like new pavement. My Cannondale Super Six has been a great companion on these roads. Shameless plug, but my bike while designed to be a world class race bike is still comfortable enough to smooth out some pretty rough roads.
Only in the last week of February have I noticed that perhaps winter has relented and spring has arrived. The locals give a good indication of this transition. I have noticed that the fields are newly ploughed. Green is returning to the fields and hillsides, road crews are clearing dirt and debris from drainage ditches and one of my favorite locals has returned to town. I was out for a hike up to the castle with one of my kids and we came across a hillside covered in bright colorful purple crocuses announcing their arrival.
Perhaps spring will finally assert itself in March. Until then my seasonal indecision will be split between putting on the skis or getting out on the bike. At least I have a decent method of keeping my bike clean.