The LA weatherperson forecast rain tomorrow and this weekend. This generally means it won’t rain, but people have already canceled Friday coffee cruises, Saturday races, and Sunday group rides.
If it does rain, people from other parts of the country will probably not call it “rain.” Rather, it will be a few concentrated drops of water more commonly recognized as drizzle. But it will keep cyclists home in droves.
Not me. I hope it rains. It’s not that I like the rain or that I’m one of those tough guys who licks his chops when it starts raining in sheets and the wind starts howling and the temperature drops to freezing. But every once in a while I really enjoy going out and getting soaked on my bike.
It’s because when I started junior high my dad drove me to school on the first day. Then on the second day I got my things ready and told him I was ready to go. “Okay,” he said. “Have a great day.”
I looked at him for a minute because he was still drinking coffee and reading the paper. “I’ll wait in the car.”
“You might have a long wait.”
I tried to divine the Oracle of Dad, but either I hadn’t proffered the right goats and virgins and incense or he was done talking. So I stood there for a minute. “Aren’t we gonna drive?” I asked.
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
I did some quick mental math, which for me took a while. “So I’m gonna walk?” It was a solid three miles.
“You can if you want to,” he said without looking up.
I fidgeted and squeaked this out, something that might have almost been rebellious. “What if I don’t want to?”
The Oracle of Dad read a few more paragraphs about David Berkowitz a/k/a Son of Sam, who had been all the rage for a couple of weeks. “Then you should ride your bike.” The audience with the Oracle of Dad was now over and my three-year sentence of daily commuting in the humid, hot, wet, miserable hell hole of Houston began.
The worst days were rain days. It would come down in blinding sheets, cars spraying walls of water as they passed within inches, and I’d arrive at school as wet as if I’d just stepped out of the swimming pool, or something really nasty, like the Gulf of Mexico. I remember clenching my teeth as filthy road water soaked my face, and I remember spitting out the bitter, brown, grit-filled sludge. On the worst rain days, which was all of them, I remember seething with rage at being forced to swim to class, arriving sopping wet and hunched over as I tried to lock my bike up in the bike cage, never a problem finding a good spot because on those days my bike was the only one there.
It took an average of two class periods to fully dry out, and my shoes generally squished until the end of the day. If I was lucky the rain would pick up again around three and I’d get to do it all over again.
Those rain days left some kind of stamp on me, something written in a secret invisible ink that has to be treated with a special potion to come to the fore again and be visible. Nowadays, when it’s not raining too hard and it’s not too cold and I’m not too lazy, I love to get out in it and pedal around, hoping that maybe the stamp of youth and struggle will become visible again.
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