I #LoveMNWinter! Today, I love Ice Bikes & Justice Shacks!
By Casey Wollschlaeger
The best balaclava is a fake beard. Casey & Confession Shanty Medicine Lake, MN, 2009
As I write this, it’s sunny and grazing 60° F in Minneapolis, MN. My winter bike (still the same Kabuki pictured above) has been back in the basement for weeks. I’m leaving my studded tires on just in case the snow promised for later this week sticks. Next weekend is the last chance of the season for biking with the snow beasts of the Art Shanty Projects on White Bear Lake, cold temps withstanding. The Art Shanty Projects have a special place in my heart as the fun and cozy intersection of an art, bike, and social justice Venn diagram on ice.
Lady Bear on Ice, White Bear Lake, 2016
The ice was slick at the Art Shanty Projects last weekend with studded tires and crampons getting their day in the sun. This weekend was the all-access weekend, which included audio described and ASL interpreted tours and kick sled and pedicab rides in the Seal Bike to assist with transportation. February 24 and 25 is the closing weekend and one last chance to peddle around the lake on sparkly faux fur covered bike bear saddles, warm up while writing a message to congress in the Justice Shack, share stories at the Sensa-station Shanty, and get one more ride out of your winter rig.
Justice Shack, White Bear Lake, 2017
Back in town, the roads are dry and it’s t-shirt and slicks riding weather. Earlier today, I caught myself dreaming of spring rides along the river and summer bike tour plans. I can see and feel signs of the thaw all around me: smiles and waves have replaced anonymous, bundled nods of solidarity seen through glittering eyelash icicles as we plow through drifts of potato starch and sand in the bike lanes; my shoulders are starting to relax from bracing against the wind; and pogies and fat tires have given way to bare hands and scant tire clearance.
Inspirational Insulation in the Justice Shack, 2017
While I relish the sun on my skin and speed of getting ready without wearing my own weight in winter layers, I’m not quite ready for winter to be over. There is a soft, stillness to winter on the plains/prairie/lake country where humans get to hibernate inside of fluffy blankets and frosty balaclavas. Silently biking through a fresh, sparkling blanket of snow on a clear night feels like a secret. Hot drinks and flannel sheets are rewards for riding home in a sleet storm. Blizzards and snow emergencies make room for reading books and writing letters. Our eyes peer out from our hats and scarves. I recognize friends by their bikes, cadence and silhouettes against a backdrop of white and gray.
SealBike, White Bear Lake, 2017
I love the contrast and the balance of the seasons. It’s one of the reasons I moved back to the upper Midwest after 5 years of desert dwelling. I love biking on top of frozen lakes then swimming in them 6 months later. I love watching families ride around on seal bikes and pedal bears then switch to Surreys in spring. I love the security of studded tires on ice and a good healthy snowpack before a hot dry summer. I love the committed community of cold weather cyclists that convene at Grease Rag Full Moon Rides, on frozen lakes, at marches, and in living rooms in the midst of this increasingly unstable global and political climate.
Note to Justice Seekers in The Justice Shack, White Bear Lake, 2017
Info about The Art Shanty Projects: http://www.artshantyprojects.org/
Info about how climate change affects our communities: http://www.naacp.org/issues/environmental-justice/
Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.