Wheel you be my valentine? The forecast did not answer that question with certainty, predicting frigid temperatures, snow and 40 mile-per-hour winds. Despite this, the question was answered by an astounding 43 riders who showed up at Whole Foods on February 14, 2015. What they did not know was that the ride leaders, Jennifer Cowley and Kathleen Koechlin, along with other Yay Bikes! members spent the previous week, evening and early morning working to determine the best course for a safe, successful and fun ride, given the weather. At 10 am, the weather was mild and promising and after announcements by our fearless Yay Bikes! Executive Director, Catherine Girves, and an explanation of the ride by Jennifer Cowley, we headed out towards The Ohio State University (OSU). We wove through the streets of Upper Arlington to pick up a trail off of Guilford and North Star that led us to campus and the OSU Ornamental Pant Germplasm Center.
Dr. Pablo Jourdan met us there to share his passion for the genetic diversity of floriculture. The best explanation of what is done here is on the Center’s website which states, “Our mission is to conserve genetically-diverse herbaceous plant germplasm and associated information, conduct germplasm-related research, and encourage the use of germplasm and associated information for research, crop improvement and product development. Our goals are to acquire, document, maintain, characterize and distribute herbaceous ornamental genetic resources and associated information for conservation, and to enhance scientific research as well as the floriculture and nursery industry.” Dr. Jourdan also gave us a tour the greenhouses. It was interesting, educational, warm experience and offered our first gift of Valentine’s Day…..flowers!
While the weather was holding we decided to continue towards our second stop. We rode through campus, via Hunter Ave and through Victorian Village where Third Ave took us east to the Short North, and The Garden. After all, why not lingerie on Valentine’s Day? The Garden is an adult emporium with two levels. The first floor features shoes, boots, stockings, lingerie and costumes. For those seeking a more adult Valentine adventure, the basement level had everything you could need. It was all presented in a respectful way. The staff was friendly and informative, and the atmosphere was comfortable and inviting.
Leaving The Garden was where the true adventure began. Snow began to fall with enthusiasm, and visibility diminished. We found ourselves in a serious white out! We decided to skip our 3rd stop, the chocolate shop (not to worry...there was chocolate later...stay tuned), so onward to our 4th stop, which was on the way back to Whole Foods. This part of the ride was amazing in so many ways. The snow was coming down in big, beautiful flakes and the gusting, 40 mph westerly blew the snow sideways fogging our glasses and goggles. A number of riders had never ridden in these conditions before, so there was a feeling of uncertainty along with exhilaration and pride. It served to remind us of the hardships those who have no other form of transportation endure. Caution was exercised and we looked out for one another. As John PC later wrote, “What's interesting to me is that during the worst of the storm, everyone was going about the same speed due to visibility and the condition of the road. For those few minutes, I felt safer and less worried about being rear-ended than I did during other parts of the ride.”
We soon arrived in intact at Weidinger Jewelers and the French Loaf on Grandview's Fifth Ave. Weidinger Jewelers is the shop of William A. Weidinger, who has designed and created original jewelry for over 40 years. His shop has 24 showcases highlighting his designs with platinum, gold, and gemstones. There were beautiful gifts for a well healed Valentine! While some riders perused the many elegant jewelry pieces on display, others went into the neighboring French Loaf to warm up with hot coffee. Some refueled with delicious baked goods, some of which were Valentine themed! We returned outside to find our bikes covered in new snow, and the visibility and the road conditions were getting even more bleak. The wind had picked up, and at times was a challenge to stay upright! Again the route was altered as we moved off 5th Ave as soon as possible. We chose to head north on the lesser traveled North Star and wound back through Upper Arlington. No riders were left behind. In fact, even more camaraderie was displayed during this last leg. The cross wind was relentless and a couple of first-time Year of Yay! riders chose to walk their bicycles. Several seasoned Year of Yay! riders dismounted and walked alongside them to be assure they felt comfortable and made it back safely.
Back at Whole Foods, we became prideful. Many of us had successfully negotiated our first snowstorm, but the day still promised surprise. Because the forecast was so uncertain and stops might have to be abandoned, the leaders provided a drawing for items representing each stop. There was chocolate for all (Dove dark chocolate hearts wrapped in red wrappers) and names were drawn for items representing The Garden and Weidinger Jewelers. These token items made for a lot of laughter and fun. Many stayed to enjoy a cold beverage or two and a meal. The bond had been set as we all felt stronger for having weathered the weather through a significant storm together. In fact, there are aspects of this ride that will forever connect us—suffice it to say that sometimes what happens on Year of Yay! stays on Year of Yay!. Jeff Gove summed the ride up perfectly in his post. “For me, Saturday's ride was a tribute to everyone's common sense, concern for their own safety and those around them, awareness of weather conditions and all vehicles, etc. The fact that it sprang up on everyone and we banded together so well and so naturally proves that motorists and cyclists can co-exist, should co-exist and need to for the health of our community.” It was a total winter blast.