Living in the center of the country at forty-two degrees north latitude I once cycled year round and in all weather. In fact, before moving to Tampa Bay, way down south at 28 degrees north latitude, I cycled in all four seasons for transportation in all weather, inclement conditions or not, in six states in temperatures as low as minus thirty and well above one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Ironically, when I moved to Florida I mostly stopped riding in the rain.
And I am talking rain, not lightning. While I’ve done more than my share of cycling in thunderstorms in six states north of F-L-A that I once called home there’s more lightning strikes in Tampa than any other US city. Lightning is a real hazard around here, the Tampa Bay area has seen as many as 50,000 air to ground lightning strikes in a single month. Fifty-thousand! Whew. That’s a lot of lightning.
Lightning aside, it would be reasonable to think that riding in the rain in a city where the average high never drops below seventy degrees would be pleasant, especially in August where we average mid seventies for a low and hit the nineties for a high. August is hot, humid and down right wet and logic dictates that cycling in the rain might be refreshing. It would, except I trust Florida motorists less than any state that I’ve lived in and I’ve lived in nine!
So, when rain is falling I don’t ride. Except today.
Today, I set out with my darling intent on cracking the thirty mile barrier. Now, two years ago when I first moved to F-L-A I rode 30 miles regularly but my move south was accompanied by a sever depression that robbed me of motivation and vitality. Having removed the depression monkey from my back I’m working on returning to full function and part of my physical rehabilitation is a slow, moderate increase in cycling mileage. Today, I filled four water bottles, two for me, two for the misses, and we set out on what I figured would be a 110 minute ride. Hoping that I was ready, we pumped up tires, squared oblong helmets on our block heads, clicked into our fancy-schmancy lock in pedals and set out on our journey. Two miles into the ride we turned west and saw a wall of water approaching us as we approached it.
It was I who hesitated, I who asked, “You wanna keep going or turn around?”
My intrepid goddess said something along the lines of, “Onward! Onward! Into the fray!” Or maybe it was more like, “I don’t know. Let’s see how it goes.” You decide. Either way onward we proceeded.
I have two routes that I routinely ride. One is the ever thrilling circling of my block, a .97 mile loop that I repeat a dozen or so times in the mornings on the four days per week that I work. The other route is in a neighborhood about three miles away that I have to travel a scant 1/4 mile on State Road 54, a six lane, fifty-five mph (As if!) major thoroughfare where people act as if we’re reenacting the chariot race from Ben Hur. Once I get to the neighborhood I wind my way back to a loop that traverses 3.75 miles and, again, repeat my loop as necessary.
We, PTK and I, are riding, taking it easy because of the challenging to me thirty mile distance and the slippery when wet road conditions. Away we go while the sun and clouds play peek-a-boo and we get rained on from above and splashed on from below. I remind my wife that manholes and painted white lines are especially slippery when wet, while simultaneously serenading her with impromptu verses about the weather, the traffic, our love life and whatever else pops into my foolish, feeble mind. My serenade is sung loudly, enthusiastically and off-key to Johnny Cash’s “Fulsome Prison.” Yes, I am a very special husband!
The rain with it’s commensurate low traction and poor visibility is holding us in check, easily persuading me not to push the pace. Patty T, my beloved, asks if I’d like to cut the ride short and I make like a horse and neigh. Turns out riding in the rain is fun!
Fun today because today the course has very little traffic and I have a riding companion. Florida scares me and I can easily imagine getting clipped by an errant driver as I cycle carefully in the dedicated bike lane of a housing development and, watching as I fall unconscious to the ground, the driver simply goes about his way. (Not a very flattering picture concerning how I view Florida motorists, is it?)
I like having a Goose for my Maverick, or am I Goose and she’s Maverick? Either way, a Top Gun wingman who DOESN’T fly below the canopy is good to have along and along we go, go, go, go, go. The rain lets up, the rain intensifies, cycling up and down, trough and crest, and onward we continue. Onward, until we hit 27 miles and it’s time to head home.
Remember that quarter mile on State Road 54? It’s even worse going home because inevitably we have some yahoo decide that they don’t have to wait for us to clear the lane before they turn right on red. Right on red right into us is not a pleasant way to end our ride and I’m grateful when the driver of car number one sees us and stops. I’m even more grateful that car #2 didn’t slam into her tail end as I would have felt obligated to stop and help even though I’m getting kinda tired and we had right of way the whole dag-gum time. In any case, no hit, no run, no error and we arrive home having cycled 30.01 miles at an average pace of 16.5 mph, not too bad for an OAF and his goddess.
Wet, tired and triumphant I stumble off my bike, grab a quick bite to eat and clean the 90 plus minutes of sloppy riding off of our two cycles. Maybe there really is a good reason not to ride in the rain.