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.

Tasty rainbow

August 17, 2010

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I’m not going to go all unicorns and glitter on you, but Friday I was treated to the best rainbow I’ve ever seen. Not because it was double—I’ve seen triple—but because of its altitude and degrees.

My office suite is on an eleventh storey corner. We have pretty good sightlines. From my desk I look to the northwest which is now right across the bow of the Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. I can see the left field upper deck from where I sit. With every day game, it is rubbed in my face that I’m stuck at work and 44,000 other people aren’t.

Probably two or three times a day otherwise, I find myself standing at the kitchen window with looks northish over the fairly new Minneapolis Public Library Central Branch (which sports a green roof and is LEED certified), and toward the Mississippi River and iconic Grain Belt Brewery sign. Minneapolis’ Federal Reserve Bank is also in view. There is some interesting public art on its grounds.

But last Friday, it was Mother Nature who was in the spotlight. This has been a pretty hot, humid summer, and the latest stretch was approaching the end of its second week when the second of three quick-succession fronts rolled through.

Being downtown, we quite often don’t get the severe aspect of weather, but this summer we’ve definitely been getting the downpours. Friday we got another one. At one point in college I was a meteorology major. The weather still fascinates me. I look out five windows that look westish while sitting at my desk slaving away. I pay attention.

The cats and dogs had been falling for a good ten or fifteen minutes, but as with many summertime thunderstorms, the sun was poised to quickly follow on the heels of the line of clouds. I knew what was coming.

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I stationed myself at the kitchen window and waited. The colored arc began to appear. I had my iPhone at the ready. I was rewarded. 

People know I’m excitable anyway. So when I started shrieking “Rainbow! Rainbow!” they didn’t pay too much attention. When I modified it to, “Freaky rainbow! Come look at this! You won’t be sorry!” I got some results.

I figure there were two things at work. First as I said, we’re on the eleventh floor, higher up than my usual rainbow viewing vantage point. And second, I was watching the rain finishing, with the trailing 99% humidity. I was on the front line of rainbow formation, and I was expecting it.

But I wasn’t expecting what I was presented with.

What I first noticed was that the rainbow was low and close. So low and close that while the zenith of the arc was above the library, the ends went behind the corners of the library (look closely at the left-jutting cantilever). And when I followed the left end of the arc, it came around to the street in front of the building kitty corner to mine. It was a 135° degree rainbow. I wasn’t quite coordinated enough to get a photo of that. But other people saw it, too.

I completely understand that some of you looking at this photo are scoffing to yourself that this is just some Photoshop trickery. If I hadn’t witnessed it myself, I’d be skeptical of its authenticity, too.

I have witnesses. Also, take time to notice and appreciate the small things.

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