Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Winter Rain

So...the weather forecast called for rain today. It is hard to tell sometimes, the predictions are as likely to be wrong as accurate. At noon there were just sprinkles and the ominous dark to the west looked like it was stalled and holding steady. I set off at 13:30 on my routine 50 mile ride, thoughts of Gilligan's Island theme song far, far away.

Sure enough by mile 10 the rain started. A driving winter rain is not quite the same as summer rain. By mile 15, the rain started to pick up and I traded my pile jacket for my Burley Rock Point jacket.

I could see a couple miles down river. The hills enclosing the Columbia River were disappearing into the fog. On my way through The Dalles I noticed the golf course greens looked like a combo of yellow and green patches The grass on the fairways was confused. Is it time for dormancy or not?

And sure enough, out on the greens, there were golfers, some dressed in olive green Goodyear raincoats or various colored jackets. What is the facination with smacking that little white ball? How can anyone think of playing golf in the middle of the winter in a driving rain storm? Clearly, these are very silly people.

By mile 32 I stopped to swap normal eye glasses for double lens cycling glasses and pull on my rain pants. The sun had set and the last bits of twilight were fading fast. While bending my arms, I noticed they had that sopping squeegee feel. Leaving the arm zippers open in a driving rain is not the best of ideas when it is cold and nearly freezing out.

The rain was getting serious now. I decided to stay in my rain gear even if I was soaked because conditions were starting to look good for a little hypothermia action. I did not feel cold yet either. Just one 3 mile hill at 4-percent grade and I'd be looking at the last 15 miles. I rode the last five miles on the freeway shoulder because the normal route was blocked by snow. This is where the heavy Continental Travel Contact touring tires pay for the extra energy to turn them. The freeway shoulder opposite the rumble strip is heavily graveled this time of year, the gravel having been run off the main road surface by freeway traffic.

With the rumble strip to the left, the shoulder is always junky and lurking invisibly in the winter gravel are pieces of glass, jagged rocks, wires and various metal flotsam from the freeway. My tires held out this trip. A miracle since there is almost no way to recognize and evade hazards on a dark wet night with driving winter rain.

I wonder what the Truckers thought as they zoomed past a solitary biker in the dense wet blackness on the freeway shoulder getting sprayed and buffeted by semi trailer road wash and anti freeze salt. I started to feel a little light headed and credited not eating breakfast or lunch. By the time I reached my end point in Hood River I could tell the wall was very close as my voice sounded like it was in an echo chamber at the opposite end of a long tunnel.

I found shelter at the bus stop and proceeded to swap wet cloths for dry. I ate a hammer gel and within 15 minutes my wife and the happy dogs crossed the troll bridge rescuing me from the wet winter cold. I was a little bit shaky loading my bike, the cold and wet taking a good sized chunk of my remaining and nearly depleted energy reserves. After several hours at home on the couch, I regained enough core temperature to eat and sit upright. My hands and feet were stone cold for a long time. Wow, was that fun?!

Things not to do during long rides in driving rain and hypothermia risk temperatures.

  • Get soaking wet
  • Run low on energy by not eating.
  • Make stupid choices that expose unnecessary risk.
  • Not notice when the roadway changes from wet to ice.
  • Not bring an extra set of dry cloths.
  • Call your wife and play Ween's Bluebird on your cell phone.

Let me in Deano, it's cold out here!
Crazy golfers!