A couple of hours ride north of my house is a small lake with a park, camping, and bicycle path. We’ve had the sort of weather all week long that you only dream about, and which seems to occur in Missouri about twice each year: one day in the Spring and one day in the Fall. Today was a continuation of that beautiful weather and my wife suggested we pack a picnic lunch and head up to the park to ride the paths.
I quickly loaded up my 1985 Shogun 2000 and began riding the country roads north to meet up with her in the early afternoon. My pace was leisurely; this was a day meant to be enjoyed. About halfway to my destination I emerged from a wood-enclosed road. As the trees thinned and my view of the sky cleared I noticed the clouds had begun to change.
Uh oh. If I don’t pick up the pace, I thought, I’m going to get wet.
So the spinning of my crank, which until now had been without much intensity, began to move faster. In the distance, a low rumble of thunder could be heard and as I pedaled the sound grew more distinct. With an eye to the ever darkening clouds, my pace grew more frenetic and a wind began to blow toward me. I was riding an unfamiliar road now and as I checked my cue sheet I realized I was close enough that my arrival should precede that of the thunderstorm. I could huddle under a picnic shelter house until the storm passed. I could –
Crap! What’s that sign say? Bridge out?
I take a guess, turn around and take the first turn I come to, hoping it will intersect the highway I need to reach. It twists around and heads in the wrong direction, but not before dipping into some wicked hills – very short, but very steep.
Turning once more to the north, the first droplets hit me in the face. I stop and pull out my saddle cover and swiftly continue on. Suddenly, there is the highway I’m looking for. I cross it and am back in familiar territory. Ahead is a steep descent that I normally enjoy; today, the wind is suddenly whippy and I’m apprehensive about heading down on a freshly slicked up road with a farm truck riding my ass. Glancing briefly at my Garmin, I notice that even on my touring bike and riding with caution, I bottom out at over forty miles per hour.
I’m at the road that turns into the park and now the rain is pouring down. I’m immediately soaked – quite thoroughly and very completely. I can’t help but think that had it not been for the bridge out, I would have arrived fifteen minutes earlier and I’d be dry and chatting with strangers under the roof of a shelter house.
But not now. Without thinking, I fly up hills and around corners to the spot where my wife and I agreed to meet. There it is, immediately ahead, but I don’t see her car anywhere.
She’s not arrived yet. She’s not here.
My bags are soaked and I’m wondering if there is standing water in the bottom of the bags… you know: where my camera and cell phone are currently placed. I notice that the shelter house is filled with people and as I pull up – is it my imagination? Or are they moving about to make it look like there’s no more room for anyone else?
What the hell. I go stand under a tree instead.
Rain pours downs, a stream flows off my helmet and my glasses are fogged. In my bag the cell phone chirps.
“Hello?” I say.
My wife says she got a late start on the drive north. “How’s the weather?” she asks me.
“Just peachy” I say, rivulets of rain water washing salt from my nose and across my lips.