I checked the radar. I swear I did. And all I saw was a little green blip 40 miles southwest of my house. I got dressed, did some strength training, then headed outside and loaded up the bike.
I was going to do my favorite little 14-miler today. The first half is a nice gradual incline, one I like to do at about 9-11 miles per hour, then I turn around and ride somewhat downhill about 13 mph.
The temperature was perfect – 74 degrees – and there was a nice breeze to keep me cool. I pulled into the parking lot and saw Creepy Next-To-The-Trailhead House Owner dude talking to a fellow biker who was loading his bike. I got out of my car and hoped Fellow Biker would keep Creepy House Owner busy until I unloaded and started riding.
Such was not my luck. Creepy House Owner, with his 5-day beard and breath of chewing tobacco, came up to me and said, WHILE REACHING OUT TO TOUCH ME (cue heebee jeebees), “Those look like rain clouds coming in.”
I shrugged him off my shoulder and worked as fast as I could getting the straps undone and lifting my bike off the rack.
“Yeah, well, I won’t shrink,” I said, as I locked my car and hopped on my bike before he could touch me again. I didn’t bother hitching up my iPod until he was well out of sight.
A few miles in, I was in my stride, enjoying the breeze and the dense foliage that has filled in so beautifully along the trail. Three miles in, I felt a few drops of rain. No biggie. I kept going. It got a little steadier a half mile later and I got off my bike under a tree to wait it out.
I didn’t take out my Blackberry to check the radar (as that would have been the prudent thing to do) because, as those of you who’ve know me longer than five minutes know, I’m as patient as a 2-year-old sometimes. Three minutes under the tree, the rain was still sputtering and I figured why waste my time? Just ride it out, literally.
I hopped back on my bike and continued up the trail. Another mile in, though, the sputtering turned steady and I was getting pretty wet. Frustrated, I turned around and headed back. Nine miles would be all I could ride today.
A half mile later, the steady rain had turned into a sheet of rain and my bike was kicking up so much dirt into my mouth and eyes I had a hard time seeing the trail.
I knew there was a shelter a few miles from the parking lot, so I peddled as fast as I could, never getting below 15 mph.
That is, until I saw the fawn.
She was a lovely little thing, standing on the trail looking toward me.
‘Awww…’ I thought as I slowed down to admire her.
The rain was pouring over me, but I was already soaked so I figured, ‘What does it matter, right? How often do I see a deer on the…’
Oops. I didn’t anticipate thunder. And it was really close and I was really not close to the shelter. I still had at least a mile to go.
‘Um, Lynn?’ I said to myself. ‘Haul ass!’
I cranked on my bike like I was being chased by the devil. Sixteen, 17 mph. I was flying and it was pouring and I was having the time of my life. Soaking wet, cold, but damn, I proved I could be fast when I needed to be.
I saw the shelter up ahead and saw part of a bike sticking out. I remembered passing one other biker on the trail. A guy. I debated: Do I stop or keep going? Stop or keep…
“Holy crap!” I laughed as I got off my bike. “It’s really raining out here!”
I looked down at myself and saw to my total embarrassment that…well…I was in a t-shirt…and I was cold. You know…*ahem*…COLD. I held my arms nonchalantly over my chest as the man moved over so I could sit down. If he looked he never let on.
He had a nice face; a short graying beard and soft eyes. Looked younger than me, but I found out later he just turned 50. He opened his pack and handed me a couple of paper towels (I only carry Kleenex). I thanked him and began drying off my arms and face. We exchanged names and what do you do’s and rode out the rain in pleasant, fun conversation.
He’s been riding for a few years, just like me. He’d converted a 1970s 10-speed Schwinn road bike into a six-speed mountain-type bike. It was really cool looking. He asked if I’d ever ridden the GAP Trail. No, I said, but it’s on my riding bucket list. He told me about his favorite section of the trail and how it wound through several small towns.
“You’ll think you’re in Mayberry!” he said.
Mr. Shelter Guy was funny, smart, and articulate, and when the sun came out, we talked a little longer. Not a bad way to ride out a storm. He asked for my blog site, but since neither of us had paper or a pen, I told him to Google my name.
We got back on our bikes and he went his way and I went mine. I called over my shoulder, “Hey, if you find me online, write if you’d like a biking partner!” I think he yelled back, “OK!” but maybe that’s because it’s what I wanted to hear. I don’t mind biking alone, but it would be fun to go with someone once in awhile.
When I got back to the parking lot, I was even muddier than I was at the shelter.
Creepy House Owner was there waiting for me, too. I’ll tell you what, I’ve never put my bike on the rack so fast as I did today, and I did it while not allowing him to invade my personal space again. I mean, really. Ew. Who touches someone like that? Oh right. Perverts!
When I got home, I put my bike in the garage, closed the garage door and stripped.
Got in the shower and hosed off.
Not sure I got all the dirt out of my hair, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be digging black specks out of my eyes for the next several hours. But you know what? I’m pumped. Today’s ride was, by far, the best worst ride of my biking career. Even though that green blip grew into a massive red blob on the radar, hitting the trail was a really good idea.