Sunday, 27 November 2011

The last bike ride this autumn and the first snow (?) this winter (?)

I rightly presumed the first weekend of November was the last opportunity to enjoy warmth this autumn. On Saturday, 5 November day-time high topped almost +15C, while on Sunday it hit less than +10C, but only then I found time to take my bike out of the garage and set off for the last, short trip this autumn. I covered less than ten kilometres, yet the trip brought about many thoughts. To the right – a commuter Radom-bound, almost empty train. How long since I last travelled by train? Didn’t I get too used to carrying my arse in a car? And who the hell cut down on number of Warsaw-bound trains in the morning in the new timetable, effective from 11 December?

I cycled along the tracks towards Jeziorki up a dirt track that according to some maps is a street. Burrows and traces of tyres indicate some desperate drivers might have ventures here, but these were probably only local farmers in their tractors, on their way to plough their fields. How long before a civilised road is built here? Which expressways and motorways scheduled to be opened before Euro 2012 will indeed be opened? Would it be possible to finish the construction of S2/S79 roads before next winter? Will the southern bypass of Warsaw be completed by 2020. Will we have decent roads out of capital by the end of decade? Will the construction of S7 expressway linking Warsaw with Kraków be put back by more than two years?

Fallen leaves rustle beneath the wheels. Instead of cycling at the side of actual road, I decide to ride on the bumpy roadside. This option is safer for me and for drivers. Why so many people, totally unaware of traffic regulations and dangers they might cause, often physically incapable of cycling on a busy road, get on their bikes and ride? Why so many do not have front, nor rear lights on their bicycles? Why so many do not have any flashy stripes on their clothing? Why must there be so many accident involving cyclists and pedestrians in the period of year when days are shorter?

The riot of colours on the trees. Trees have shed their leaves quite late this year, as September and first days of October were very warm. Then the weather has taken a turn for worse and warmth has become a scarce commodity. What will the coming winter be like? Prophets of doom would predict the harshest winter in this millennium (incidentally the third in a row), but early attack of snows and frosts in November has not been brought off for some reason…

Lukoil (Russian brand, watch out, invaders coming over!) petrol station. Unleaded 95 petrol cost three weeks ago 5.20 PLN. Last Sunday I was lucky to fill up my car for 5.28 PLN per litre. How long before high fuel prices begin to be a drag on Polish economy. Remember February 2009. USD/PLN rate hit then 3.90, but price of crude oil hovered between 30 and 40 USD per barrel. Petrol cost then some 3.20 PLN per litre. Now USD/PLN is some 0.50 PLN short of reaching the same rate and amid the current turmoil it is conceivable to that it even hits 4.00, but prices of crude oil remain absurdly high. If you assume costs of commodity makes up half of petrol retail price, it means that if USD/PLN rate is the same as in early 2009 and crude oil price in USD is three times higher, retail price of petrol should reach some 6.40 PLN. Imagine this… No room for interest rate cuts, inflation pressure may even send them rising and increase cost of borrowing. We have the nail to the coffin, now where’s the hammer?

I don’t even know if I can sincerely say we’ve had the first snow this winter, but just for the record some photos taken on Thursday, 17 November. Temperature in the morning ten days ago dropped to –4C, air was humid and as a result I beheld a considerably thick layer of hoar-frost on my car (to the right – a good examples of the bogey that winds up drivers who don’t keep their vehicles in garages). I left earlier to bring the car to a roadworthy condition. Instead of some ten minutes, the whole operation took my car and me only three minutes (I scraped the ice off side windows, while the car defrosted its windscreen, rear screen and side mirrors – accolades to the wise scientist who invented defrosting devices).

Traffic on ul. Puławska was quite sparse (I noticed on colder mornings number of old, rickety cars is lower), so I reached P&R Wilanowska much earlier and decide to walk from Metro Centrum to my office - mere 3 kilometres on a brisk, frosty morning give a decent dose of oxygen for the brain. As I walked out of the underground station it seemed to me the world looked a but whiter. As I sauntered some three hundred metres west, surfaces of all objects looked much whiter and it didn’t look like hoar frost, hard rime or ice.

As I wandered on west, the layer of white powder was more and more visible and… treacherously slippery. To the right – around five millimetres of flurry or something like this on what used to be ul. Prosta and now is the construction site of second underground line. Later I read on TVN Meteo this kind of precipitation is called snow grains. Whatever it was, it disappeared by midday and I don’t call it first snow in winter 2011/2012. It was observed only in some parts of Warsaw (my parents told me nothing had fallen in the southern suburbs) and had this happened on Saturday or Sunday, these photos would not be put up here.

Believe it or not, I don’t wait for the snows, sub-zero temperatures, or any other signs of winter. Currently North Atlantic Oscillation is very active and draws in warm air and rainfalls from the west. Upsides – high temperatures (today at 19:00 weather station on Warsaw airport reports +8C!) and no risk of snow. Downsides – gales and risk of havoc wreaked by gusty wind, plus low air pressure. Despite the downsides, I’m glad we have this kind of weather, may it stay like this possibly long. Current long-term forecasts show no intimations of winter on the horizon, really bothersome winter is unlikely to come before Christmas. Good news, given that I’m still in for two business trips in the first half of December. Chaos caused by attack of winter and inability of Poles to tackle it when it hits for the first time in a season, wouldn’t rather make the journey enjoyable.

But frosty mornings, despite nuisances, have their charm – to the right – construction site of Rondo Daszynskiego underground station, in the distance, skyline of Warsaw with its new element – Złota 44 skyscraper and two cranes surrounding it. Snapped on 23 November, the coldest morning this autumn (-6C).

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