Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sneaking One In

'Winter Storm Watch,' 'Hazardous Weather Outlook,' and the like, have been blazoned across all the local news and weather outlets for the past three days.  All eyes have been glued the massive band of weather approaching across the continent via satellite and radar images.  Last night on the bus to the symphony, I watched a guy compulsively refreshing his iPhone browser page on weather.com.  Every conversation I've had in the past 48 hours have turned, early on, to the weather.  The mall, Target, and Cub Foods parking lots were jammed with cars yesterday, stocking up for the storm.

So what do I do this morning when I wake up?  Peeking out the blinds and simultaneously firing up the computer to check the weather,  I quickly decide I'm going to ride.  By my judgement, I have at least 2 hours till it hits. What else would I do on a 30 degree winter day when a major storm is bearing down upon us?  Especially a day that I originally didn't have any plans for, as I was supposed to be traveling to the Twin Cities for a baby shower (which I'm pretty bummed to be missing, actually!) - so a day that is essentially "free."  (Ok, the to-do list is ever growing and things just don't seem to be crossing themselves off of it, but anything I accomplish on a "free" day is just bonus, right?)

Then there's also the little voice in my head, the skeptic, which says, "They've been hyping this up too much.  That fierce wind off the lake will keep the storm at bay, and it will just swirl around Duluth, hammering all the surrounding areas, but we'll get nothing."  That is not an unprecedented thing, and well within the realm of possibility.

So, carefully dressing in layers, and packing along a bag of extras (2 pairs of hand coverings - 1 mittens, 1 gloves, 2 head coverings - 1 wind-proof balaclava, 1 standard winter hat, Carhartts - just in case the fierce wind at my house is doubly fierce at the barn), the dogs and I head for the barn.  The wind is really whipping, but it's not out of control (yet.)  My wind-blocking winter riding tights are doing a good job layered over my midweight long underwear, and I leave the Carhartts in the car.

Rhio lets himself into the barn, as G and I stand talking (she's finishing up mucking out stalls and feeding hay, the gate is open...) and I waste little time tacking up.  I was so tempted to ride in my bareback pad, which I haven't used a single time this winter!  It is so comfortable and warm.  But, I'd eyed up the big hill on my drive up (the paved one) and thought it was about time to tackle it for the first time this year.  A saddle is preferable for safety and security, plus I can use my blaze orange breastcollar tubes and rump rug for visibility.  This low, gray sky, dirty snow, and a dirty white horse don't mix well to make us visible to drivers.  And, if I need to get off, with my saddle I can actually get back on - not so with the bareback pad!

We set off down the driveway, testing out the footing.  Despite being snow-covered, the relative warmth and high humidity of the past few days have made it squishy, soft, and grippy.  Yeah!  Off we go, gusty wind be damned.  Rhio is as eager to get out and about as I am; he looks around at the wind-whipped trees, and flapping bits o' this and that, and flicks an ear at passing traffic, but mostly just focuses ahead, ears pricked, as if to say, "Where we goin', Mom?"

The flagpole at the school, no flag attached, was actually vibrating in the wind, making an interesting sound at counterpoint to the clanging of the metal flag clip also banging into the metal pole.  Rhio was unfazed.  The wooden sign 'Lakewood Town Hall' was swinging violently in the wind.  Rhio remained unfazed.  At this point, I am thanking myself for NOT choosing Red on this day.  Red is Mr. Spooky, especially when ridden alone.  It would not have been fun to ride him today.

The only thing Rhio balked at was the flapping, snapping yellow caution tape in someone's yard (ostensibly to keep the snowmobilers from riding across their property) - he watched that very carefully while walking past on the OTHER side of the road.  We trotted all the way up the big hill, and turned the corner on the gravel road to make the 4 mile loop.  I was prepared to go back the way we'd come if the footing was bad, but it was delightfully good and we were able to complete the "walk around the block."  The woods trail had been packed by a snowmobile or two, and we were even able to canter a bit on the way home. Whee!!!

The snow started about an hour after I got home.  I guess we really are going to get this storm.

The calm before the storm.

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