Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Rain is Opaque

Today was a day for a nice, mellow, flat ride in the sunshine, and for the first 15 miles, things went pretty much as planned. The sky was blue, I took a nice route along the bike path out to Shoreline and Palo Alto Baylands to ride along the edge of the bay, and everything was good. I started feeling like yesterday's cold descent down Montebello Road was just a dim memory of some other season. Silly me.

Since I was feeling pretty good, and it was still awfully nice out, I decided to loop back toward the foothills and do a little climbing on the way back home. This led me right past Old La Honda Road -- that infamous hill that always inspires an internal time-trial -- and of course, since things still seemed good, I decided to climb it. Silly me.

Not that I knew it at that point. The sun still shone. The legs were still strong. I was not exactly fast, but was not as embarrassingly slow as I was a couple of weeks ago. There was an amazing variety of little green plants sprouting on the side of the road to admire. Ah, springtime. There were no cars to intrude in my happy place. At the top, it seemed like the thing to do was to turn left and follow the top of the ridge back in the general direction of home, as the alternative was turning around and going back down into stoplight- and traffic-infested territory. Those little sprinkles? Nothing to worry about...

Silly me.

The next route down off the ridge was about 6 miles up, and by the time I got there, it was pouring, and puddles had formed everywhere. Somewhere in there, I noted that the rain looked a bit solid, and felt like I was being pelted with small needles sweeping in from the west, but I figured it surely couldn't have been quite that cold. At any rate, by then, the pavement was very slick. This opportunity to descend -- Page Mill Road -- has some steep sections and I know too many other cyclists who've crashed and damaged themselves descending it when it's wet. No way I was going down there (not that silly), so the only thing to do was to continue along the ridge another 6 or 7 miles to where Route 9 comes down (a much gentler and safer descent).

Dogged Ma continued along the rolling ups and downs along the ridge. I felt pretty good when climbing, but started to shiver every time the road headed down. Frozen fingers, frozen feet, and I started to smell wet wool, which meant the rain had penetrated through my jacket and the fleece layer down to the wool jersey underneath it all. Argh. I tried really hard not to think about my legs, which were only protected by a pair of bike shorts and a decomposing pair of spiderweb-like tights that are suffering the last stages of lycra death. Surely if I only thought hard enough about riding in the Arizona heat, I'd start to feel warm, right? Ha. As I noticed that my socks had started to get that nasty soggy feeling they get when they reach full saturation and that both pairs of gloves were soaked through too, I saw big white icy chunks of precipitation starting to land on my gloves, thus destroying any illusion I had that it couldn't really be that cold. That darned preciptation really was full of sharp, opaque, freezy bits of misery-inducing slush-snow.

ARGHHHHHH! Didn't I swear to not do this to myself again the last time it happened?

Silly me.

A few more frozen miles, and then the cold really began, as I proceeded to descend a couple thousand frigid feet back down to civilization. Even through I wasn't going that fast (wet pavement), the windchill was still quite apparent. I stopped once to beat the circulation back into my hands after they started to feel like claws on the brakes. Thankfully, near the bottom, the air started to feel a lot warmer and I made it home without further incident, aside from having a hard time unzipping my pocket to get the house key out. Oh, and it took me a few minutes to get my helmet unclipped too, as my hands were too cold to squeeze it. Pathetic.

It's still winter, folks.

(54 miles and 3400 feet of climbing)

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