Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Riders on the storm

We hopped on our bikes at 6:15 knowing full well that, at 7:00, the chance of rain and thunderstorms was 80%. Did we stay home? No way! Should we have? Now, that is the question . . . 

"We'll ride until it starts to rain, or until we see thunder or lightening, and then we'll turn back," we agreed. So, we played Frogger trying to cross one of the busier streets in our area and headed west. 

It looked like we were heading into the eye of the storm. Though the skies overhead were still clear and blue, the front was clearly visible, marked by a jagged line of billowing gray clouds. Beyond it, the sky deepened to a dark indigo before turning nearly black. The lyrics to "Riders on the Storm" began playing in my head.


The wind picked up mightily as the first fat raindrops began to fall. Before we could safely turn around, it became a full-on downpour, immediately obscuring visibility and covering the road in sheets of water. Of course, the roads are most slippery when it first starts to rain as all the grease and oils rise to the surface. If you don't believe this, or have never experienced it while riding around in your two-ton motorized metal vehicle with four fat tires, then try getting out there on a feather-light bike with two tiny slicks: any more than the tiniest application of breaks causes the tires to fishtail beneath you. 


It's all well and good on a flat road and in dry conditions, but when we turned around and reversed course, the wind was at our backs, shoving us down the road at speeds in excess of 30 mph on a relatively flat road! That's a speed I don't usually see unless I'm screaming down a huge hill. Try stopping on a wet road without fishtailing with that kind of force behind you! (Like applying the brakes in your car when it's weighted down and packed to the gills with vacation gear or towing a boat.) It was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. 


We were going fast enough that we outran the storm and actually ended up back on roads that were still dry, albeit now under the cover of the gathering clouds. 

So, did we cut our losses and head home? Not yet. Given the little extra window of time, we tacked on a few more miles, achieving only half of our total intended distance but still nearly that of a sprint triathlon. Shorter than hoped for but definitely better than no ride at all. 

We finally arrived home, drenched but in one piece, before the thunder and lightening began. After seeing cloud to ground lightening last year while pedaling beside an open field, and sparks shooting out of a box attached to the electrical lines, I have no desire to cycle in a thunderstorm again. Ditto that for heavy rains after nearly hydroplaning to my death at a race in 2010 (At least it seemed that way; careening out of control down a steep, curving descent with fellow bikers crashed into the ditches on either side. So scary! It is by pure luck that I remained upright on that descent. I left my balls on the road that day and have yet to fully recover them.) 

Did I mention the car that almost made a left hand turn directly into me tonight? Someone blindly following the other left-turning cars without bothering to check for oncoming traffic (or cyclists). Yes, while cycling, when it comes to motorists, I've learned to expect the worst. I dislike that it chips away at my sense of pure freedom, saddling me with an edge, a tension in my body that I can't quite shake, but it's a necessary evil.

Guess it's a good thing I like living a little on the edge. :)

There's something right with the world today
And everybody knows it's wrong
But we can tell 'em no or we could let it go
But I would rather be a hanging on

Livin' On the Edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'
Livin' On the Edge
You can't help yourself at all
Livin' On the Edge

Aerosmith - aerosmith photo

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