During the months of daylight savings I ride my bicycle 30 miles on Tuesday, 30 miles on Thursday, 50 to 60 miles on Saturday and either hike on Sunday or ride my bicycle 40 miles. So on a good week I may ride 160 miles.
I am fortunate that I live in an area that offers two types of terrain, flat to rolling hills east and south of me and hilly to mountainous west and north. Each type of topography requires a different skill set, pedaling style, time commitment and preparation.
I have a horrible sense of direction, so on longer, unfamiliar trips I use a GPS mounted on my handlebars that displays the route I have preplanned and loaded. If I make a wrong turn the GPS beeps an alert that informs me of my errant move.
A 60 mile Saturday ride in the mountains may take five to six hours to complete. If we have a flat tire or a mechanical issue it can take longer. We carry most of what we need with us, water, food, tubes, patches, air, tools, planning for the worse and hoping for the best miles from our car or home.
The hardest thing to plan is where to find water. I try to create routes where I think a convenience store might be around the 30 mile mark but that is not always possible. The roads we ride are pretty deserted but the one saving grace about the South is that we have a lot of little churches in the country with spigots. Well water may not always be clearest or taste that great but it is wet and it is water.
The second factor we deal with particularly in the summer time is the weather, last night was one of those fun nights. A friend and I decided to venture out even though the sky was cloudy and dark. We started pedaling east at about six o’clock, planning to ride a 30 mile loop back to our cars. I felt good. My legs were strong, the wind was light and we were averaging 18 mph. At this rate, I thought, we will be done by 7:30.
If anything can go wrong, it will followed by Mother nature is a bitch
I know the roads on this route like the back of my hand. I know the shortcuts, I know the long cuts, I know where the dogs live, I know where the water is. At the 15 mile mark we were at the point furthest from our cars, on a road with few houses and lots of pastures. Truly, without warning the sky turned pitch black, the wind began blowing in our face at 20 mph and all hail broke loose, get it, hail.
I have been caught in hail storms before, but this was a hell of a hail storm not in the size of the ice chunks but in ferocity of the product being dumped from the sky, it was raining hail sideways. We were miles from a porch, church or any other cover. My friend and I dismounted our bikes and ran into the woods hiding under the canopy of a large oak tree to wait the storm out. Thankfully there was no thunder or lightning just pellets of ice banging on our helmets.
Now picture this, two grown men in Lycra shorts and DayGlo jerseys huddled behind a massive oak tree to block the wind as a flurry of hail weaved its way through the branches. I should have taken a selfie. I am confident the squirrels above us were laughing at this spectacle.
And just as quickly as it came it blew away. The pavement looked like someone had spilled a giant margarita for a moment until the sun reclaimed its rightful place in the sky above. My friend and I both agreed that we had enough excitement for one day and short cutted our way back to the cars.
It’s a conversation we will have again, a story we will retell maybe in rocking chairs many years from now. The hail will have grown to the size of bricks, the wind blowing at hurricane force and the squirrels falling to their death laughing uncontrollably. But the one memory that will be clear is the day that mother nature made us her bitch.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru