dawdling.

Dawdle.

What a great word! And it is, as I think about it, precisely how most of my bike rides tend to go. Take one’s time, be slow, waste time. Describes many of my rides to a “t,” as it were.

Especially on days like today.

Especially on days when I’m carrying a kit of watercolors and the forecast calls for 0% chance of rain…yet I’m riding along, pleasantly enough, in a shower.

Especially when I pass a donut shop on my way out of town and the sign reads “no donuts. No Baker showed up. Would you like to be our Baker?”

Especially when the bite in the air reminds me so much of Ireland, and there is a faint glimmer of a rainbow peeking out of a stormy and darkened western morning sky.

Especially when as I prepare to cross the Missouri River I notice off to my right a freshly combined field with a flock of 50 or so wild turkeys strutting about, picking over the chaff.

Especially when it’s harvest time and the crops are morphing into fields of gold and brown and orange.

Especially when, despite the intense greenery of the foliage, the morning feels like the first legitimate day of autumn.

Excuse me now. I’m pretty busy.

Dawdling.

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Terminus

The chorus of a million frogs, crickets, insects engulf me as I coast down the hill at 4.30 am. Behind me lightning flashes on the western horizon, its telltale reflection in my mirror followed by the rumble of thunder. A cool, persistent breeze: But it’s difficult to say, really, from what direction it hails. Fallen leaves – a premonition of Autumn, that beacon of days to come as arrived earlier than I would have imagined; they swirl at the edge of the road, spinning and dancing a wild dervish. Rain drops fall, eerily ghostlike, briefly tracing glowing white trails across the beam of my lamp, coating my arms with moisture. The road is still mostly dry but the canopy above me betrays Mother Nature and a staccato beat of falling rain slowly grows more insistent. A jogger comes into sight, raises a hand of greeting, then disappears, engulfed by night. Summer ends.

The sky threatened…

…but the rain never came. It was cool – unseasonably so for late August in Missouri – and breezy, and a nearly perfect morning to cycle aimlessly. Even more so when the clouds burned off completely a few hours later…

Eventually, morning comes to an end. I break for lunch, after which we plan to go back out again. Listen – we don’t get too many days like this, so you gotta take ’em when you can get ’em.

Rain

I’m usually not a big baby about rain – really, I’m not.

Waking early this morning to the rumble of thunder, I tried to peer out into the darkness and get some idea just how wet the world had become overnight. No lightning, which was positive. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but I was enjoying listening to the patter of rain against the window immediately above my head. I lay like that for another half hour and then realizing I was wide awake and probably staying that way, I gave up, crawled out of bed and wandered out to the kitchen. Still too dark to get any sense of things, I opened the outside door.

Whoooom! The dense humidity and latent heat shocked my system and immediately fogged my glasses. Only a few droplets fell from above, but I couldn’t see anything else to give me any sense whether this was a brief respite or the end of things. Dawn would arrive in about forty minutes, so I headed back indoors, figuring I’d use that time productively. I’ve a commission I needed to begin, and forty minutes later I’d made a good start on the sketch. Glancing out the window the world was beginning to brighten, but it was still very gray. Time to ride.

A few drops here and there don’t faze me one little bit. As I pedaled down the street, the rain was light but steady. Interesting, the rain was almost comforting. No wind, just the steady fall of warm water. Within a mile I was thoroughly soaked, but feeling not at all like turning back. It’s Saturday, and the vendors arrive early to set up the local Farmer’s Market. I had shopping to do and headed for the square.

It was surprising to see so much hustle and bustle so early. Normally at this time of morning, the square is very quiet with perhaps a solitary runner or walker in view. Today, folks were up and about and wandering around from stall to stall, carrying armloads of melons and corn and bread and beans.

I wheeled my bike from stall to stall, studying the produce, pondering what I might cook for dinner tonight. Stowing my purchases carefully in the front bag, I felt a change in the air. Suddenly, the wind began to pick up. Farmers grabbed and held onto the poles of their tents. Rain began in ernest, coming down in sheets. The world was immediately wet – really, really damn wet. Taking shelter under a tree next to one of the Amish stalls, I decided to wait things out for a few minutes. Clearly, Mother Nature had more rain than I did patience. So with a wave to the Amish, I mounted up and headed out.

Rain blew directly at me, a wall of water for a few more minutes. My clothes were drenched. My cycling cap was a sponge. Water poured down my face and I could taste salt as it ran across my lips. Puddles were broad lakes and I dodged them when I could, thankful – not for the first time, and certainly not for the last! – for full coverage fenders. I turned on my front light, “just in case.”

Then just as suddenly as it had begun, the world of water went slack. Once again, it was just a steady, light rain. As I said before, I’m usually not a big baby when it comes to rain. And I certainly wasn’t going to start being a baby today.

How high’s the water, Mama?

I sat here a couple days ago, miserable and bemoaning the fact that it was noon and yet too dark outside to even read by. As it is again this morning, dense cloud cover and pouring rain blacken the sky to the extent that it actually seems as though night never really ended. Our one constant, it seems, has been rain, and many of us miss seeing the sun.

I don’t mind riding in the rain, but I have to draw the line at deluge. Over the last few weeks, Mother Nature has blessed us with nearly sixteen inches of precipitation, often coming to us via crashing thunderstorms. Flash flooding has caused the evacuation of nearby Mosby not just once, but twice in this time. I frequently ride through that small rural community, but for the moment a visit is not possible unless I pull along a canoe.

Other of my favorite routes are cut off as well. I am so grateful for full coverage fenders at the moment; when the infrequent opportunities to hit the road between cloud bursts occur, I am finding every ride is an adventure, but at least my feet and bottom bracket remain mostly dry.

My iPhone sports a handy weather app that I find myself consulting with far too much frequency these past days. And to what end? Really, this is an act of utter frustration – one minute the forecast calls for clear weather and then – literally – only minutes later the hourly prognostication shows it’s all gone to hell in a handcart. A glance out the window only serves to confirm this. There’s a new route I have been wanting to explore for a while. I thought to do so this morning, but even as I pick up my iPhone a slow rumble of thunder growls in the distance and the patter of rain begins anew, tapping out a soft staccato cadence upon the fat Cottonwood leaves outside my window. The app informs me that the rain should clear out within two hours, but my window of opportunity is both narrow and fleeting: by mid-afternoon it will return, yet again overstaying its welcome throughout the remainder of the weekend.

Trees, foliage, flowers – they are all loving it. My yard is lush. I leave for France in a couple of days and worry the weather and yard won’t dry enough for me to cut the grass before it’s time to depart. I don’t want to return to a jungle, but that is seemingly the most likely scenario.

As I type this, the room grows progressively darker. Thunder rumbles. The cat is making odd noises and pacing along the window sill, the dog is cowering in the guest room. Yet birds throughout the neighborhood are singing loudly. Even though the shower has evolved into a volley, their clamor and din can be still be heard between bursts. I think that’s a sign of some sort.

I think I’ll go check my tire pressure, you know, just in case.