I dropped over the bump above Panther Creek Road into shadow. Slid between the hills rising north and south and into the first little rise of the coast range. A little steam curling off my skin. Even a light, pleasant sweat under my jersey. Not a car on the road. Nothing but a little bluster out of the west. I put my head down and accelerated up the rise. Found a rhythm and looked up the road. My view was blocked by trees. A flock of leaves sprinted across my path.
The first drop, fat and juicy, slapped my cheek. Ain’t nothing, I assured myself. The second one pinged on my helmet, another slid down my neck. I reached my turnaround point at the turn-off to Flying M Ranch and swung back to the east. I could outrun this weather. The tailwind would spank me all the way home and, while I wouldn’t need my sunglasses, I’d be rewarded with speed. I cranked up a big gear, pounced on the downhill grade. A gust smacked my side. I could outrun this weather. I careened into a sharp left-hand bend, set up for the sweeping right.
Right, I told myself. To the right. The wind fought against my turn, pushed me to the centerline of the road. At the turn’s apex, a wall of rain smacked me in the chest and face. I buried my head and – wasn’t I going downhill, wasn’t the wind my friend, wasn’t I going to outrun this squall? My legs told me otherwise. I shifted down. Instead of 28 miles per hour, I struggled to hold 18. The road flattened as I drifted through a left-hand turn. The east. My friend. A spot of sun burned on the horizon. I squinted into it, just to prove I could. The wind swept over the top of me. Soon I would be in its slipstream, gliding home. The short rise about Panther Creek Road, not even a whisper of breeze, then topping the hill. The long, sweet straight stretch before my homeward turn. I’d ridden this piece of road so many times, even on the slow days clipped off the two miles at 20-plus miles per hour. I shifted into the big ring.
Whoosh! No, not me accelerating, but a wall of wind and rain screaming at me to shift down, shift down! 16 miles per hour. 14. 11. I was in danger of falling over. I was nearing single digits. And I was cold. Underdressed in my long jersey and jacket, gloves, tights, helmet liner. I was soaked in 10 seconds. Three miles from home and probably 15 minutes the way I was going. A log truck ground past me, throwing up a fog of wet stuff and exhaust. The wind buffeted me from the front, both sides. In surprising moments, I dropped into a vacuum. I accelerated, only to be pushed roughly back at the next stroke.
I made the turn homeward. Usually I relax there, but my nose was numb, my left knee was keeping beat to a bad song, rain ran from my chin and down my neck and chest, my sunglasses were all fogged up and I wanted to be home.
And I was, some 7 minutes later. I stashed my bicycle in the garage and dripped into the back porch. Emily was just pulling a teabag from a hot cup of tea. She’s been on many of these bad weather adventures with me, and so can empathize. She took a long look at me and said:
“Huh. Looks like you had fun.”
Big Mike Ponders:
“Whatever happened to just getting on a bike and going for a ride – without all the gimmicks?”