I hope it rains tomorrow, hard

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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36 thoughts on “I hope it rains tomorrow, hard”

  1. I’m hugely impressed that you’ve somehow found a way to be able to cope with fine weather 99.9% of the time. Must be hard.

  2. Barbara Radnofsky

    This one has the ring of truth. Constant Houston rain in August and September. Kids in the morning classes probably didn’t know what you looked like dry til October. Then cold rain in Jamuary mornings and steamy hot rain starting March afternoons ….

  3. “… raining in sheets and the wind starts howling and the temperature drops to freezing…”
    Add in some wet snow and you have the forecast for many rides & races tomorrow in the mid-Atlantic region. The South Bay sounds like paradise.

    1. Nah. We get light, warm, 30-minute drizzles once every six months. Brutal stuff, dude.

  4. Sounds like Brisbane, but missing the lightning.

    Lightning is the only thing that makes me question riding a steel framed bike for my commute, maybe a carbon bike made of 100% carbon with carbon wheels is the way to go?

    1. Carbon won’t save you, it’s electrically conductive. Try bamboo. Unless you get it wet.

  5. I’m not alone! I as recently reminiscing about cycling to school in the 70s. It seemed like about 10 miles at the time…mostly through a cobweb of neighborhood streets and playing “frogger” across a few treacherous ones. I Mapquested it just yesterday and found it to be only 2.9 mi. Sure seemed like a lot more especially when the weather got interesting (midwest style). Your post likely explains why I like riding in crappy weather on occasion to this day. Thought I was the only one! Good stuff! Can you send of gentle spring showers our way?

  6. Beautifully written… by someone who isn’t likely to be the one that has to take apart and clean his own bike…

  7. I was riding in the NOVA Tour de Cure 4 years ago on a stupidly hot day. At the bottom of a descent in the Blue Ridge, we hit a gentle rain storm that lasted for about 20 minutes. It was heavenly! That was when I began to love a rain ride.

    A couple of years ago, on the Outer Banks of NC, i headed out on a 50 miler going south on the coast road. Hit a storm about halfway to my turnaround and felt like LT Dan in Forrest Gump, yelling at the heavens while getting soaked. At the turnaround, I immediately realized I’d been riding into the wind the whole way down and the trip back was just amazing! It felt as if the rain was blowing all around me but not landing on anything but the road. Made it back in record time with a huge grin when I walked in the door. Everyone thought I’d lost my mind.

    Thanks WM!

  8. strava junior

    You forgot to mention that it was an average incline of 8% on the way to school, and back. And good news for rain-despising cyclists: no chance of rain tonight inside the velodrome at the Friday Night Racing omnium p/b Fast Forward (all carbon) wheels and Beachbody Performance. Racing starts at 730pm, registration at 6pm. Still some spots open in all categories! http://www.lavelodrome.org

  9. Coming from England where it never rains, and currently being between jobs, yesterday’s planned route was to be the 2016 wafer route, on arriving in oceanside there was a mysterious liquid was fall sideways out of the sky, my companion remarked we’re in the eye of the fucking storm, and as our planned route involved dirt which my companion informed me would turn to mud we went home again where it wasn’t raining, so we went out riding our bikes in the rain. To my great surprise even though the sky was literally falling, and the wind was winding, and it was a freezing 59 degrees, and being re-acquainted with the joys of wearing diapers, we both by the grace of dog survived.

  10. Brilliant. Tip of the hat to your dad for being awesome, my gosh wish I gave my chilluns a memory like that.

    1. He also gave me other memories, some of which involved a belt and some solid cussing.

  11. The last paragraph in particular, Seth, is so beautifully written. Thanks for the gifts there; from your dad to you, from you to us.

  12. After reading this gem, I feel kinda special that I spent the morning riding my bike with you in the rain. And that donut did look pretty f-ing awesome.

  13. Considering that Houston humidity, I wonder if instead of drying out by the end of the day you instead just squished out all the butt sweat, acid rain and 10w-40 from your clothes on to any surface with which you came in contact.

    1. Now that you mention, it, no one ever sat down in the same chair after I got up.

  14. It rained Saturday as well, not enough to deter me from Basswood/Shorewood, but I wished it had halfway up, for I had no idea. Good Lord man, what is the reasoning for climbing those things?

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