I have ridden in bad weather before, but never like yesterday.
The forecast called for solid rain beginning at 5:00 AM, coinciding perfectly with our planned roll-out time for the 170-mile odyssey from PV to Ventura and back. I’d prepared thoroughly. Thick undershirt. Arm warmers. Tights. Jersey. Long-sleeved jersey. Booties. Raincoat. Rubber dish gloves to keep my hands dry.
“There is no such thing as bad weather,” I repeated to myself bravely, “only poor clothing choices.”
Armed with exactly the right clothes I was ready, except that I wasn’t.
By the time I’d descended to PV Drive North I was soaked. The rainproof raincoat was neither, and ice water penetrated into my feet. It was 50 degrees, minus ten for wind chill and wet chill.
Baby Seal and Foxy were waiting for me, similarly drenched. We didn’t say anything, and miserably set off. The plan was to do a three-person rotation, each rider taking five-minute pulls. There were hardly any cars and zero cyclists. The rain pounded.
Soon, which is to say not soon enough, we reached Santa Monica and ran into Arkansas Traveler. He had on a light vest and a shower cap, shorts, and booties. The shower cap was a precious touch but he was still completely wet. He smiled sourly through the paste of his hangover and hopped on behind.
We passed Topanga Canyon on PCH, the road empty, and that’s when the rain really began to come down. All the SoCal riders tucked safely in bed or enjoying Zwift were #winning, and we were #losing. Each of us considered how lame it is to ride in the teeth of a bad weather forecast, when with a bit of common sense you could be warm and dry.
A couple of miles later we passed a guy named Greg. He hopped on. He was shivering from the cold and wet, and we worried whether we’d need to call his wife or EMS or Uber or all three.
After a little more than four hours of rotating we reached Ventura. Greg had stopped at an iHOP to call home for a lift, and Arkansas Traveler was no longer talking. I tried to revive everyone’s spirits by reciting Chaucer, but the only one I know is the Miller’s Tale, which is all about a giant flood. No one listened to anything except the spatter of rooster tails.
In Ventura we got some coffee and watched while the rain made everything that had happened up til then look like a mere drizzle. Sheet rain was slanting sideways, so hard they had canceled the Mountains to Coast Ventura Marathon. Runners stood huddled under eaves as the streets turned into rivers. The lonely chairs outside the coffee shop were barely visible through the raging rain.
We got back on our bikes and began the long rotation home. On PCH huge mudslides were sending banks of earth cascading onto the shoulder, and one large boulder the size of a small house had blocked three of the four lanes by Las Posas.
“This is so stupid,” said Baby Seal. “We should have stayed home.”
Arkansas Traveler crashed in a stream of debris by Neptune’s Net, so we carried him to the porch of the restaurant and left him there. Visibility had plunged to about ten feet and in places the water came up to our hubs. People say that SoCal riders are weak and afraid of riding in bad weather, but this was the day that proved how sometimes it’s better to be cautious than foolhardy.
Baby Seal’s eTap short-circuited while he was stuck in the big chain ring, and Foxy bent her rear derailleur when a stone got caught in her chain and was jerked through the pulley wheel housing. We knew we would never defy the weather forecast again.
A long time later we reached Manhattan Beach, which was inundated. CotKU had flooded and sandbag crews were working feverishly to keep the south blocks of Manhattan Ave. from washing off into the ocean. We stopped at Becker’s Bakery for a sandwich and coffee, but the rain was coming down so hard, and the skies were so black, that we decided to continue on.
After forever we got back to PV Drive North. Baby Seal loaded his bike and Foxy’s into the car and I tried to ride up Silver Spur, but the fire department had closed it off due to a giant mudslide that had washed an entire house onto the street.
I went back to Baby Seal’s car and bummed a ride home.
“Never doing this again,” we agreed.
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