Radar Love

Bike tourists love maps. They pour over them before their trips and imagine lovely country roads with barns and cows and Mail Pouch tobacco signs. They don’t give much thought to steep hills and dogs while doing this because it’s all about imaging the perfect tour. On my 2003 tour from Indiana to DC, I carried an absurd number of maps, most of which I mailed home after a few days.

Bike commuters are radar junkies. Today, the forecast was for afternoon storms. If you’re going to slog through puddles and mud, you ought to be riding a mule. So, The Mule got the call. The morning ride was enjoyable with a nice tailwind and warm temperatures.

At noon, I checked the radar. I kept checking it throughout the afternoon. I was stuck in a meeting in my boss’s office but he has a nice few to the north and west. The skies looked pretty ominous. From 3:30 on I kept refreshing the radar on my computer. I wasn’t getting a whole lot of work done, so I packed up my bags at 4:30, a little earlier than usual, and headed out. My last radar check showed that the heavy rain was a couple miles west and north.

I didn’t factor in the delay in posting the radar. I hit the street with a reflective vest and my head and tail lights shining. The rain had just begun. I managed to catch a red light and the rain intensified while I waited. By the time I turned onto the Mount Vernon Trail for the ride to the southeast, it was pouring. The raindrops were big and long. They caught the light of my headlight and looked like silvery fish. I was riding through bait.

Within a mile I was completely soaked. Once you’re wet, you’re wet. You might as well keep riding, that way you’ll at least stay warm.

It was raining so hard that I was actually getting a drink from the water pouring down my face as a I rode. It was a nice bonus, but the nicer bonus was the strong tailwind pushing me down the trail. In fact the only downside to riding in the downpour was the stinging in my eyes. It’s a good idea to wear a cycling cap in rainstorms to keep the water out of your eyes. My cap was back home. One of these days I’ll get around to buying few more.

Riding blind in a down pour isn’t all that dangerous when you know the path ahead. I’ve ridden the Mount Vernon Trail a couple thousand times at least so I wasn’t about to veer off the pavement.

Under the 14th Street bridge, their are three huge downspouts that carry the rain from the roadway above straight down onto the trail. (Proving once again that trail users get no respect.) There was so much water gushing down that the flow of water looked like waterfalls.

As usual, there were several people under the bridge waiting out the storm. Judging from the radar they were in for a long wait.

About 100 yards south of the bridge, the rainfall slowed. The farther south I went, the lighter the rain. In fact, it didn’t pick up again until I was about 1/2 mile from home.

I pulled in to my yard soaked to the bone. My saddle and pants and shoes were all making squishing sounds. Rather than feeling miserable I was chuffed. Sometime after your tenth birthday, you lose track of the fact that playing in the rain is a lot of fun.

No rain tomorrow. My liquid refreshment will be a jumbo coffee at Swings near the White House.

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4 thoughts on “Radar Love

  1. I haven’t had a good rain run or ride in awhile. They always make for so much fun. I once did a Sprint Duathlon. 5k run, 17 mile bike, 5k run or something close. As I finished the first 5k run, the skies opened, complete with thunder. As a noob on a mountain bike, I’m glad it was pouring — made for a ton of fun.

  2. I’m a radar junkie at work. I check my weather widget throughout the day, wondering, fretting about approaching storms, or — worse — that the headwind I endured in the morning has now changed directions for the afternoon ride home.

    Last year I pulled over in a torrential downpour that didn’t look like it was going to let up. I knew the road, but it’s too narrow to safely ride it in those conditions with automobiles. I knew the drivers would have a difficult time seeing me on the shoulder.

    1. Just to clarify, I had on a reflective vest, and my helmet mounted light and red blinkie light were both turned on. Of the 15 miles in my commute only about 4 are on roads, and most of those roads are lightly traveled by motor vehicles. If you ride in the rain in traffic, I recommend doing everything you can to improve your visibility.

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