Friday, February 1, 2008

Rain, Rain, Redux, Redux

And oft-told tale this week surfaced again yesterday in a brief phone conversation with one of my teammates: "Dude, it's raining out there." This meteorological phenomenon seems to recur a lot this winter; January feels wetter than it did last year, and I hear a lot of guys complain that they just hate riding in the rain.
I hear ya. I don't love it either. But as a I said in a previous weather-related post, my life in Nebraska ruined me for the trainer or rollers. I just hate riding indoors.
But even a trainer-thrope like me waffles a bit from time to time. I woke up last Sunday to a steady drizzle, and after a pretty hard ride in the soup on Saturady, I had a helluva time getting my still-wide posterior off the couch. My training plan called for 3-4 hours with some ANT1/ME in the hills, so I told myself that I'd leave Davis at 10:00. As it will, time passed; 10:00 became 11:00, 11:00 became 12:00, and finally 12:00 turned into "Get your ass off the couch and go train, you lazy sh*thead." When I start calling myself names, it's time to listen, so I threw the bike on the rack and drove to Steady Eddie's in a downpour, muttering at myself the entire time.

I wore my warmest thermal-hoodie baselayer (a miraculous Christmas present from my Minnesotan friend, Scott), a DBC jersey and knickers, shoecovers, an Aggie cycling hat, and one of those gawd-awful Giordana clear plastic rain slickers that ensure you'll sweat out from the inside instead of soaking from the outside.

And none of it mattered a damn. All the way south on Winters Road, the rain lashed sideways in sheets and soaked my feet, head, hands, and legs. Geeting to Allendale Road became a skull-shredding pride-killer in a head/crosswind that ensured my eyewear was coated by sweat on the inside and road grime on the outside. MIS-ER-EEE.

But guess what happened next? After all, this IS a story of the "Davis Weather Is Great So Shut Up and Ride" variety, so you must be expecting a miraculous redemption payoff, right? well, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and rainbows started exploding on three horizons like fireworls on the Fourth of July. All the way up English Hills Road toward Steiger, I continually had to stifle inhilations of shock as the green grass and hills forcibly shoved my sense memory back to Ireland in the Summer of 1995, the last time and place I saw such glowing emeralds surmounted by rainbows. The western light darting over the mountains and under the clouds somehow tinted the droplets of water on leaves and bushes in amazing palets of metalic golds and bronzes.
Somewhere on the run up Steiger hill, I stopped to look at a mini-rainbow in the mist along a fencerow and nearly swallowed my face at the sight of an enormous red-tailed hawk sitting on a post five feet from me. I slumped over the top tube and watched him watch something in the tall grass for about five minutes. He didn't even startle when I clicked in and resumed climbing.

I realized then that if I'd joined a group ride that day, I'd have never seen the hawk--or the doe I saw sitting in the tall grass half-way up Cantelow, or the red salamander that sat in the road at the summit of the hill, or the last, best, most exciting wildlife sighting I've ever had on a bike.
After winning the sprint at the wildlife viewing sign on Pleasants Valley Road (I was alone, as you recall, but I still sprinted--kind of), a turned right to swing down Putah Creek Road. All week I've been practicing riding without hands in order to teach myself how to get food and clothes out of my back jersey pockets without crassing or slowing down, so I sat up, reached for a Clif Bar, and promptly bobbled it in the air a few times before dropping it. I turned the bike around and spun 50 yards or so back across the little bridge over the creek crossing, made a U-turn to face back east, bent down from the top tube, and grabbed the bar off the ground.

As I stood back up, I looked down the road toward the bridge--and at that exact moment a bobcat jumped up onto the road from the creek below and starting trotting across the bridge along the right-hand shoulder. When I moved my foot the cleat clacked against the pavement and the cat looked up. But instead of bolting, he ambled nonchalantly across the open field next to the horsetank where we always stop for water on the Wheelworks ride. He loped a few score yards, turned back to look at me, and then loped away some more. I was able to sit on my bike and watch him trot all the way across the field.
Even after hundreds of days spent backpacking, hiking, and riding, I'd never before seen a bobcat in the wild.
As I spun back east toward Winters, I considered a marvelous irony. After hemming and hawing and rationalizing away most of the morning, I had managed to escape the rain and sink into the Putah Creek watershed ecosystem all afternoon. And while I usually treasure the camaraderie of my DBC and Aggie teammates, on that particular Sunday I was glad none of them decided to join me--some lessons I learned on the ride required some solitude.


the glide said...

dood - wish we would have went with you (me, hal, and spence )

all we saw were squished and not yet squished salamanders all over cantelow. and with salamanders being all like amphibious and stuff, you can guess how much water was around.


Nelson said...

What a cool ride. That's just one of the many things I love about this sport: sometimes it's just a good excuse to get out there and enjoy this beautiful world. Training is hard in any sport, but there aren't many sports where your training sessions include experiences like that.

FWS said...

Hey O'B...
Being a Bunch O' Guys ya
want'a say! HTFU... SSA is
what it's all about. But I
have to admit I loved your
story. I just wish I would
have gotten to enjoy the day
like you did. Keep'em coming.