Weather without you

July 14, 2012

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With all of the bike riding I do (by which I mean my eighteen-year span of bike-commuting to work), you’d think that I’d have had some bad luck with the weather at some point but I haven’t. I ride during the not-cold season, which for my personal tolerance of conditions here in Minnesota means when the temperature is above freezing and below 95F/35C. I used to bike through the winter down to about 15F/-10C but I’ve gotten soft in my old age. For eleven years, my commute distance was 2.75 miles. For the last seven years it has been a mere 1.75, a paltry twelve minutes of my time.

One thing that has never put me off from biking to work is rain in the forecast. As long as it’s dry in the morning, I don’t care what’s going on for the ride home. My general guide as to whether it’s raining too hard to embark on my homeward journey is car windshield wipers. If they’re only on intermittent then I’m good to go. In addition, my office windows look out to the direction from which the weather approaches. And thanks to iPhone and the WeatherBug Elite app I can zoom in on the radar, practically down to my block. Plus, I was a meteorology major for a term in college. These are all fine qualifications, right?

What I’m sort of trying to say is that there aren’t usually too many surprises. That’s not to say that I’ve never gotten wet because I have; sometimes I make an informed choice to set off even though I know it’s likely that the approaching stormfront will have its way with me. Such was the case this afternoon.

I’ve gone both ways. Sometimes I’ll hang out at the office (or a nearby bar, ahem) for an extra while to wait things out. But other times—especially if it’s after 4:30pm aka close enough to quitting time—I’ll boldly inform my boss that I’m leaving NOW.

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Today it could easily have gone either way. For most of the time it was pretty clear and sunny (and hot). We were dedicatedly working away on a Friday afternoon when we noticed—at exactly the aforementioned 4:30 no less—that there was doom and gloom on the near-horizon where previously there had been none. Three of us were on bikes. We lost all ability to focus on work and instead obsessed with looking out the windows and snapping photos to post on Instagram.

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Initially, I assessed that the rain was moving in quickly and that the line would pass quickly. I resolved to stay at the office for what I figured would be about an extra half hour. But then it got to be 5:00 and nothing had happened yet. That’s really close enough to bail out on the situation, especially on a Friday!

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It was like the storm decided to play chicken with me as soon as it realized I had decided to leave that instant. In the time it took me to stuff my things into my backpack I could see that the line of rain had barreled up to within about a half mile (a perk of being on the 11th floor). I should have sat back down but it was 5:00 on Friday. I would be traveling in same direction as the storm. The strong tailwind would help me ride fast. I took the gamble.

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It was already spitting when I exited the building. A block into the ride while I waited for a red light, it started raining in earnest. There was a building with a lovely, wide overhang across the street and I briefly made a move in that direction. Then I decided that it was hot enough, that the rain actually felt refreshing and wasn’t too annoying thanks to the visor on my bike helmet, and that it was only for ten minutes. I pedaled on, lightning be damned.

By the next stoplight the rain had let up already and I was glad I hadn’t wimped out. But by the next light it was raining hard again and I got to experience something I never have in all my years of bike-commuting—I got hailed on.

Luckily the hail was only pea-sized and the rain never went all the way to torrential. That’s not to say that a few of the hailstones didn’t sting when they hit my hands and legs, or that I didn’t get soaked. They did and I did. But after I got home and changed into dry clothes, I took comfort in engaging in two things that I love to do—sitting outside on my steps (or in my doorway alcove in this case because it was still sprinkling) and writing a blog entry, both made better with a refreshing beer in hand (Stone IPA in this case)!

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Aside #1: If it’s not lime green I don’t use it. You think I’m joking.

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Aside #2: I was visited by Molly the neighbor cat. She is a gorgeous and friendly beast.

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