Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back to the Rainy Mainland

As I had expected, I really wasn’t making much time in the morning. The wind was pushing against me with some force. As I rode along I just looked at the beach houses as I was passing by. Within 15 minutes of leaving my hotel the rain began. It started slowly and quickly picked up. I pulled in a gas station to get out of the rain for a bit and hoped it might pass. It didn’t. While it was cold, it wasn’t as cold as I thought it might be, so I put on a vest I had made out of a garbage bag and pedaled on.

I had a route planned out that would take me over the northern bridge back to the mainland. As sometimes happens though, a sign crops up for a bicycle route and I decide to head in that direction instead. I took the bike path and got completely lost. I should have stayed straight on the road I knew, but I took the bike route. I had no idea where the route was taking me, but it was through a nice wooded area and got me out of the wind. So it wasn’t a total loss. While it generally is not the case, this bike route spat me out exactly where I had hoped, at the foot of the bridge back to the mainland. About half the cars that passed from behind coming from the beach were laden with fishing poles, surfboards, bicycles, beach chairs or some combination thereof.

By midmorning I stopped at a rest stop. Due to the steady rain that was soaking me through, the day was on the verge of being miserable. I was just hoping the rain would stop. In the past I mentioned that the waiting to go out and ride in the cold rain was worse than the actual riding. Not in this case. I was seriously cold and wet, even while being adorned with plastic bags. I had two Subway sandwich bags on my feet, plastic bags on my hands and my white garbage bag vest. I looked like a Halloween costume gone wrong.

Shortly after setting out in the rain again I was thinking that perhaps I should have stayed another day in Kill Devil Hills. It wasn’t the most fun I had ever had on a bike, but still wasn’t worse than that day out of Phoenix, AZ. I would find myself stopping every five or ten miles to use the hand dryers in a fast food restaurant. It would dry off my gloves and try and warm my hands. It wasn’t ideal, but every little bit helped. The plastic bags on the feet worked well for a while, but would then start to collect water. At first it had the insulating properties of a wet suit, but then it was more like sticking my foot in a water balloon.

Shortly after crossing the Virginia State line I encountered what was probably the hardest rain in which I have ever ridden. I was squinting to keep the rain out of my eyes, yet trying to catch a glimpse of the road. I was just getting colder and colder as I rode along. I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to endure. In the afternoon, after 80 difficult miles I chanced across a hotel. I went to the hotel and instead of calling it a day, I went in and used their dryer, so that I could dry my stuff and get back out in the rain and ride a bit more. It was one of those days where people would say that I have to be absolutely crazy. In a way, I agree. Perhaps it was my less than lucid state of mind having ridden in the chilly rain all day. I was just glad that no one had walked in on me in the laundry room. They would have seen a guy in a pair of bike shorts typing away at his laptop. An odd sight for sure.

I had considered ending the day at the hotel as the following day was supposed to be 10 degrees warmer with a chance of rain. Today was cold and 100% raining. For the past couple of days though I had been speaking to Don, a local guy who owns a couple bike shops in the area. While his shop was closed on Sunday, he said he would meet me there to give me some directions to get further north. I met up with Don, who could not have been more hospitable. I was armed with a solid bike route up to Washington DC.

I ended up tacking on another 20 miles for the day. I spent over an hour getting the filth off my bike. Ideally, not how I like to spend my evening after riding in the rain all day.

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