Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Wet Day in 2009

I had one more day to tip the scales of total bicycling kilometers for the 2009 year. One day off and the last day of the year. So on the eve of the new year, I set off for one last 200k ride. With thanks to Josh, Olympia had a new unexplored Route 750. I set off on a warm (40 deg) and dry! morning riding down familiar roads out of town. It felt incredible to comfortably cruise along after a few weeks off for Christmas holidays in the midwest. The perfect day of riding quickly disappeared as the sun crested the horizon and was quickly swallowed by rain clouds. The drops started falling before I reached Shelton and had no intentions of stopping. I grabbed some hot liquids, a sandwich and took advantage of the hand dryer in the bathroom to warm up dry out my wet clothes. Even though I knew they were going to get soaked the moment I stepped outside again, the dry seemed to provide lots of relief.

The drizzle that chased me into Shelton had turned into a full-on winter rain on the way to Union. The last time I had been in Union, the sun was shining and there were fresh sandwiches at the general store. Today, I could hardly make out the shore on the other side of Hood Canal. I put on another layer of gloves and pushed on in search of the next dry spot. On this rainy day, I broke my rule of not stopping except at controls and found myself at a McDonalds in Belfair. The idea of hot food was too tempting and I wasn't sure what services were going to be available until Gig Harbor. I ordered up lunch and hot chocolate and took advantage of another hand dryer. As I left, I noticed a growing puddle under my seat and realized why I was getting some odd looks from other people in the area. Warm and less wet (not dry) again, I set out with fresh energy.

Many times the winter rains in Washington will come in waves and have some moments that are wet and then a few hours break and then more rain. This was not one of those days. After a few minutes of riding, a steady stream of water was running off my helmet, on my face and dripping down my jacket. Before I reached Port Orchard, I had the strange sensation of water sloshing around in my waterproof mittens. It took me a few minutes, but I realized that I hadn't tucked all of my mitten under my jacket sleeve and water was running down my jacket and filling my mitten. I switched to warmer dry gloves and continued on completely tucked this time.

The afternoon miles pass uneventfully until I reached an area that I recognized from the spring 600k. In the back of my head I remembered going over some steep hills during this section. All I could focus on was the hot coffee that awaited me in Gig Harbor. I appreciated my low gears (30/32) and ground my way up the steep pitches. I pedaled into town and stopped at a city park for a bathroom and water break (and another meeting with a hand dryer!) and then searched for coffee. I got to the first store just as they were closing early for New Year but found another just a block away. Late on a rainy day, it's easy to waste time in a dry area. I had spent around 3 hours drying off today. I ate some more food and dressed for night riding.

A few turns later found me riding over the immense Narrows Bridge and into Tacoma, only 30 miles away from home. Riding at night in the rain isn't easy for a few reasons: it's difficult to see the road, and to read street signs, and light refracts into star patterns on the drops on my glasses. Navigating the many turns through Tacoma took over an hour. I felt completely turned around, but managed to stay on course. Soon, the street lights disappeared and I reached Fort Lewis on the other side of the city. The base was dark and mostly quiet. The Nisqually River valley was filled with patches of fog, making it even harder to see where I was going. I missed the last turn but soon found myself on familiar roads and quickly got back on track and home at last. One last adventure for 2009. The year wasn't going to let me go easily, but I managed to hit my 8,000km goal for the year, just at the buzzer.

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