The promise was an overcast morning commute followed by a dry evening commute. I left Casa de Evo in total darkness a bit before six in the morning and my helmet mounted headlight illuminated the wet, misty fog before I was out of my driveway. I was snuggled in warm clothing that included a neck warmer and beanie under my helmet. The first downhill let me know that not wearing shoe covers was a mistake. I don’t recall if that was a decision or an oversight but soon my ankles and then my feet were cold.
There were patches where there was no fog and those tiny fifty foot windows were anomalies that only served to remind me how depressing it is riding in fog. It wasn’t raining, yet in almost no time water started dripping off my helmet and gloves. I wasn’t wearing glasses but still I kept blinking to try and improve my limited vision.
I focused on my pedal stroke and hummed a song or two as I plodded along my usual route.
After reaching my destination and following a shower and cup of Joe I was social and had a fine day. I felt relieved when the sun emerged and looked forward to my evening commute. All was good.
By mid afternoon the fog had rolled back in and the temperature and my motivation both plummeted. This wasn’t what I had signed up for and I wanted a dry commute. I had ridden over a hundred soggy miles the previous weekend and I was ready to be dry!
When it was time to go I put on an extra layer and braced for the cold. I was wearing the same jacket I had in the morning and I don’t know if it was still damp or what was wrong- but in less than a hundred yards I was cold.
Sends a chill down your spine doesn't it?
I decided to ramp up my cadence to try and warm myself. I caught another bike commuter whom I have chatted with a few times as we rode south. I said hello but was in no mood to make small talk. I finally told him I was cold and needed to spin to try and warm up. I didn’t look back and with my teeth gritted I took off. As it happens I had my third fastest time ever on a STRAVA segment I have ridden over a hundred times in the past four years. THAT is how motivated I was to warm up.
A conference call that refused to end and a distant meeting conspired to force my lunch to be a hastily grabbed cup of soup so in addition to being cold I was bonking as well. Another red-letter day at the Bailey’s!
THIS is how you fuel a cyclist...
I noted Chismus lights blazing despite it being mid January. I even looked up and saw a fully lit Chismus tree in a window. What the heck? Luckily I wasn’t too tired to be judgmental. Getting home was my focus as I zigged and zagged my way home.
At some point along the way the body heat I was generating was enough that I was no longer uncomfortable although my feet were still cold. “You can’t save them all” I told myself.
I arrived home and switched off my headlight and four, count ‘em again…four, flashing red lights. I unlocked the door and put the bike in the garage. I unplugged my battery to bring it upstairs and recharge. I shut off the garage light and paused for a moment.
I closed my eyes, tilted my head back and took a slow breath. Physically I was standing downstairs in a dark hallway clutching a bag of dirty clothes in one hand and a bike bag with my phone and wallet in the other. My mind is not downstairs.
With eyes closed, for just a moment, I am riding under bright blue skies along a winding road in France. My legs are tan and strong from dozens of soggy rides like the one I just finished. The sun warms my shoulders and the cool breeze flows through my helmet.
Although in my mind I'm not riding this French antique..
Although it takes no more than thirty seconds, it is worth it. I smile and head upstairs.
I will always have memories of riding in France. I hope to get back and do it again before I am too old to be able to do any meaningful riding. Until I do return and during these dark winter months I will gladly savor these silent moments.