Friday, September 30, 2005

Biking While Drowning

The first rain of the fall, and where was I at 7 in the morning? Biking to my secret hideout five miles from my house. And was it a soft drizzle to remind us gently to drag out our rain wear? No it was not. It was an unremitting deluge. But at least it had the kindness to be a warm deluge. The untimely balminess of our overcast yesterday lingered overnight, warming the rain so that it felt like the wet season downpours of the tropics, and riding through it felt more like going for a swim. More accurately, given the amount of equipment involved, it reminded me of scuba diving.

As I was crossing the Broadway Bridge I came upon a cluster of bicyclists loitering under the support beams against the guardrail between the bike lane and the cars. While the task-oriented lobe of my brain told me to keep going and not get all distracted and start dithering around, the fun, serendipidous lobe of my brain disagreed completely. In response to their friendly greetings I stopped, and was offered coffee and donuts. They were decked out in bike clothing, and had a couple of those Burly bike carts with which they’d transported a narrow little table, several boxes of donuts, thermoses of coffee, paper cups, and a couple of toddlers.

My fist thought was, “Uh-oh. These people are way too friendly. If I take one of these donuts, I’m signing up for an earload of Jesus.” But no, they only talked bicycles. One of these happy donut-dolers was named Timo. I told him this was my first water ride as a commuter. He strongly recommended rain booties, a little spendy but they make all the difference. “Our feet are the part of us closest to the ground,” he reasoned. My curiosity overcame me and I asked who they were representing. A group called Shift, he said, they do this donut thing once a month. He squirreled around in a pouch and handed me a slip of paper, limp with moisture, which I tucked into a random fold.

I continued on my merry way, rivers streaming into the airholes of my helmet, fat raindrops pelting my face, and several times I had to wipe the lenses of my glasses with my finger to clear my vision. I arrived with many body parts soaked to the bone. Had I not had the foresight to store an extra few items of clothing at my hideout, I’d be spending a damp day indeed. Timo is probably right about the booties. My biking shoes of thick suede offered no protection at all -- I had to wring out my socks! It was a tenacious rain, determined to find its way into any crevice or fold not sealed up in plastic.

The Salomon snow pants my friend Dana passed on to me a few years ago kept my thighs dry, but strangely, not my underwear. The only real surprise, though, was the failure of my new jacket to keep me dry. I purchased it recently as a combination visual aid and rain shield. It’s that fluorescent lime green that cities are starting to use for caution signs like at school crossings -- a color that only a truly blind person could miss. A sales clerk in a shop complained it was giving her a headache. “No one’s gonna hit you in that,” she conceded. I’ve been wearing it for about a month, and drivers appreciate it. I can tell because they’re extra polite, signaling me to go ahead and not getting as close to me as cars usually do.

But I was hoping it would serve for rain protection as well. The label says water resistant, and I did try it out once during that one flukey rain we had three weeks ago and it worked then. True, it didn’t rain for as long or as hard that time, and I wore a fleece jacket under it which may have absorbed some of the moisture. This time I wore it over only a thin knit shirt. I love that it doesn’t make me all hot and sweaty from the inside; but if I get just as wet from the outside? Hmm. I’ll have to think about this. I invite readers to post any fabulous product findings on this blog site.

Once inside my hideout, after unloading my bike and then peeling off my wet clothes I found the soggy slip of paper. “Official Breakfast on the Bridges Tardy Slip,” it said. “Dear [blank: ‘name of authority’], Please excuse [blank: ‘name of hungry biker’] for being late to [check one]: Work; School; Band Practice; Court Appointment;. ..”
I plan to view their website momentaritly:


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