The rain, absent for weeks, began slowly. Forecasts seemed unreal; the wishful thinking of bored meteorologists. Heat can be somewhat managed on a bicycle, but the rain is much trickier. I thought I could beat it before it began, but I couldn’t, so I joined it. With shoe covers, bib shorts, white t-shirt, dayglo orange safety vest I found under a cheap yellow poncho, my cell phone in a plastic bag ensconced in my hip pouch, and the willingness to get wet, I set out on my trusty Fairdale Weekender Archer. Just a short bike ride in the rain, not my first rodeo, y’all.
A normal Monday mail run to my downtown Austin, Texas post office box it was, except on a Tuesday. I skipped a day because I’d had my fill of the central city, having just spent four days in a row at the Moontower Comedy Festival (read my last post about it). “Tuesday has no feel” per Newman the postman on Seinfeld, so I can be excused for confusing the day. As the sky water began to sting yet also cool my face, arms, and legs, and seep into my lycra bib shorts, the temperature dipped. The wind blew harder. Lightning flashes lit up the dark canvas above. Thunder struck, (AC/DC’s song by that name didn’t play in my head until later), but it was many seconds later, so getting zapped was not a concern. The novelty of rain riding quickly wore off. I grew a bit irritable, but realized there was no point to that. Just grin and bear it. “Lean into it,” my dad once said.
So I pedaled onward. The ride was short and uneventful. Rain ebbed and flowed, but forced me to concentrate; it put me into a pensive, almost trance-like state of mind. There was no hurry; I carefully held to a cautionary pace, steered in a straight line, and unclipped from my pedals where the water was a bit deep. If I were walking in good rainboots, I would have done some puddle stomping. Despite the precipitation I was thirsty, so I chugged water from my bottle (“I need some new ones,” a note to myself).
As they often do, a porta-potty appeared at the moment I needed to relieve myself. Later, as I returned from my rounds, my bladder refilled. (“Postal carriers deliver in all conditions, so why shouldn’t I bike in the same?”, I thought.) Stopping at a convenience store, I requested use of the facilities and was obliged. It didn’t hurt that I’d bought a lottery ticket from the same clerk just a few days before. Familiar faces are a rarity in these pandemic times, and welcome. As I made my way behind boxes and a broken, dirty white ice cooler, I noted he had the mein of a smiling Buddha. That helped my ponderous but mostly good mood.
After completing my business, the clerk said, with a little embarrassment in hi thick accent — Nepalese, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi perhaps — “The scanner won’t read it.” I would have to check the ticket once home. He went back to his overseas phone call. A few customers nodded at me on my way out as if to say, “You’re out biking in the rain. You must be pretty hard core. That’s pretty cool, dude.”
Or so I imagined. Maybe they thought I was stupid, or homeless. In my mind, I nodded back, thinking, “You’re right: I AM hard core, and it IS pretty cool! Actually, I’m freakin’ amazeballs, covered in awesome sauce, and feelin’ groovy all at once!” OK, maybe that didn’t happen, but it could have. You weren’t there, so shut up. (Insert a Napoleon Dynamite “Gaaaah.”)
Finally approaching home, I noticed my headlight piercing the slackening but still steady rain. It illuminated the drops and created a mesmerizing light show that looked like I was in a roller rink under a disco ball. But it felt more like gazing into deep space far out into the galaxy. I was so transfixed that I nearly hit a parked truck, but looked up just in time to swerve around it. How had I never noticed such a dazzling display of light right in front of me on previous rainy rides? I didn’t know, but it was like watching a gentle snowfall, or a laser show, and it took me further into my moving meditation. For a few moments I didn’t know where I was, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t tell where the rain ended and I began, nor did I care.
Arriving at home, with its promise of safe shelter, a warm shower, and dry clothes, I was somewhat jolted out of this blissful state. Water dripped from the trees, the lights were on, but no one was out and about. The sky crackled with thunder again, cackling at me as if to say, “We didn’t get you this time, maybe the next one, my pretty.” A welcome home, but also a warning. Mother Nature, the beautiful and the terrible.
Legs asked, petulantly, “What’s happening? That was only 11 miles! It’s not very raining much anymore and we’re already wet, so let’s keep going!” Brain’s silent reply came quickly, echoing that solid but crazy retired German pro cyclist, Jens Voight: “Shut up, Legs! We have to practice our flute, do our yoga, meditate briefly, use the foam roller, then write and read. It’s very late as usual, and Belly says he is very hungry! Everyone must listen to Belly!!!”
Silly imagined conversation over and reverie fading, I dismounted. I took Sophie the Fairdale upstairs and dried her off, then I got that warm shower to wash off the road debris and relax the muscles. Toweling off, I remembered to check my lottery ticket. I scanned it and was informed that regarding my chances of winning — at least this particular $14,820,000 — I was NOT A WINNER. But I didn’t care. I’d just ridden my bike in the rain, didn’t crash, and it was delicious. Just then, I felt something slowly creep across my face. A spider? No. A mosquito? Also no. I believe they call it a “smile.” Raining, riding, and ruminating will do that to you.
Now, that’s what I call #winning.
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