We’ve had a “threat” of storms every day for the last several because of high temps and humidity. Nothing materialized from any of those threats because we’ve had a high pressure system parked above the Great Lakes for the better part of eleven days. It’s been glorious. And so that led me to think the same would happen again last night, so I prepped the Venge for duty.
The temp on my car’s thermometer read 91 degrees (33 C) and the sun was blazing down as I finished a phone call and pulled my bike from the trunk and got ready for the warm-up. I say “warm-up” in the classic sense of the word… standing outside in that heat for five minutes would have worked, too… we went for a spin. When we got back, Matt was pulling into the parking lot. I was pretty stoked to see him on a Tuesday night. He hadn’t been there much this year.
We started out As & Bs together and it got fast in a hurry, though once everyone caught up, it seemed to settle… at least for a half-mile. We turned north with a slight tailwind and it got fast immediately. Chuck and I had made the decision to hang with Matt in the event he got dropped. I have DALMAC coming up, so I need my legs rested (without actually, you know, resting them), and we’ve been on a fairly hectic streak of late with some really fast rides under our belts. I noticed Matt had fallen off about five miles in as we rounded a corner so I said something to Chuck and he, I and Dave quietly slipped off the back to wait for Matt. He caught us and we rolled out, keeping the pace around 21 to 22-mph. Three miles later we realized he’d quietly slipped off the back and was making a turn for a shortcut.
Matt is a fair-minded, hard-headed fellow. He won’t let anyone know the pace is too hot, he’ll just slip off the back and go his own way – as he likes to say, he knows his way home. So we let him go.
The three of us pressed on at the aforementioned pace, into the mild, but noticeable breeze. Looking at the sky, I already knew we were in trouble and thought about doing the 24, or even the 21-mile route. I was shot down. Chucker said, correctly, that the percentages of storm activity were low – and they had been just before we rolled for the warm-up. My eyes were telling me something different, though. We went for the normal 29-mile and change route.
We rolled through Vernon – a rainstorm had passed through the area just before we got there… the roads were wet. The spray was refreshing after the heat, though. I wasn’t complaining a bit. Three miles later I knew for sure we were in trouble. I could see the storm moving in. As we approached the homestretch, the crosswind was immense – we actually had to slow down to stay upright. We made the turn, though, and the fun began. 200 watts would get you 28-mph, so that’s where I kept it, hoping we’d be able to outrun the incoming storm. We just couldn’t escape the creeping black, though. With the storm on us, I made a choice – fight some cross-headwind for a mile so I didn’t have to follow the normal route, which meant avoiding overshooting our finish point, only to have to fight a headwind for another half-mile. I would literally save a full mile and they’d be stuck with a crosswind while I would have some tail to my final two miles (the wind was northwest – they were heading north east while I would be due east). North, the way I would turn for a mile, was looking awfully sketchy, though.
Dave and Chuck headed straight and I turned north. The cross-headwind was brutal and it was as dark as I’d ever ridden without a light. I could feel the occasional rain drop mixed in with the path-altering wind. I didn’t know if I’d have to pull off and seek shelter as I headed up a 5% hill with a ripping cross-headwind – trees were starting to bend under the weight of the wind. I made my turn and I could barely see with my sunglasses on, but I couldn’t take them off for fear of flying debris getting in my eyes.
As I made the turn on the homestretch, I was out of the saddle and on the gas, hitting 30-mph and keeping it as close as I could. I had the faintest glimmer of hope that I’d outrun the rain as I hit a half-mile to go at 28-mph… and then it hit. Light, at first, but the drops grew bigger and came faster the longer I was out. They stung as they hit me but I kept my head down and the power on. I was running out of gas, but more fearful of what was coming, so I gave it even more power as the skies started to open up… and then I was almost on the parking lot. I had to grab a handful of brakes to slow the bike down for the turn as the rims were wet. I made the turn and made a bee-line for my car. The rain had slowed to a drizzle for the moment, so I took advantage. I pulled my key from my pocket, opened the passenger door, took off my glasses and helmet, opened the trunk and put my bike in and slid into the driver’s seat, dripping from sweat and rain. Chucker and Dave rolled in just as the lightning show started. Chuck was wetter than I was. They’d had it worse than I did by what looked like a long shot. I can only imagine trying to charge into that cross-headwind, into the rain. I was thankful for my choice.
And that was it, folks. We cleared the parking lot and headed for home as the skies opened up and the real rain began. It poured cats and dogs and we’re going to be talking about that one for years to come.
No harm, no foul.