Another Road Trip 13: riding in the rain


On these you surely can bet

You’ll change the course that you set

From grapes come the wine

After 8 will come 9

If you ride in the rain you get wet.

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record System (EMR) I can get along with. I spent the winter in Nome, Alaska, and I just finished assignments in rural Iowa and suburban Pennsylvania. After my brother-in-law’s funeral, my wife and I are doing a bicycle tour of northern Michigan.

Travel opportunities cross my electronic desktop by the dozen, and most get deleted without opening.  But several months ago, while I was in Nome, I noticed a bicycle trip for Michigan State Alumni.  I emailed a copy to Bethany, asking, “Is this something we should get more details on?”  Ignoring my bad grammar she answered in the affirmative.

Thus yesterday we rented a tandem in Traverse City, Michigan and gathered for breakfast with other Spartans to discuss the ride up and down the Old Mission Peninsula.

I started my association with bicycles as an undergraduate.  The summer after my first degree I rode my Armstrong 10-speed from Connecticut to Colorado.  I knew little about cycle repair when I started and a great deal when I finished, and in my pre-med years I helped make ends meet by fixing bikes in my mother’s basement.  The summer before med school I built up a decent machine on a Schwinn Paramount frame with the best components I scavenged in the previous 2 years.  In the days before the Internet, I taught myself how to build, dish, and true wheels, rebuild hubs, and fix and adjust derailleurs and brakes.

At that time, I found riding 100 miles a day (“cranking a century”), even through the Rockies, difficult but possible and I did it 11 days in a row.  Camping and cooking, I would have said, constitute the hard part.

Bethany toured England, Wales, and Ireland in 1978.  When we got together, we bought a tandem bicycle instead of engagement rings, and have continued riding together, off and on, since.  Tandem riding, like many other aspects of human relationships, requires good communications, clear expectations, and well-defined roles.  But it also demands good equipment.

A dozen of us milled about the parking lot at 9:00 in blazing bright sunlight, pumping tires and reviewing the map, getting corrections to the web-generated directions.

We left town in a mob, and strung out after starting on the road that parallels the coast.  Clear sunshine came through the trees that shaded the road.

In my 4 Michigan State years and Bethany’s 2 University of Michigan years  we had never seen weather this nice: perfect temperatures, sunshine, and clear air.

We turned inland, passing vineyards, cherry orchards, and hops vines.  We stopped at a winery for a tasting.  While we lunched at a general store deli the sky clouded over and the other riders looked at a massive approaching storm on their cell phones.

Going south on the peninsula’s west side, the wind picked up.  The road traced the shore, with beautiful houses on the left, and boats and docks on the right.  The rain set in gradually.  By the time we got back to Traverse City limits it fell in sheets.

I didn’t like riding through hurricane Agnes in 1972. The brakes didn’t work, the water on my glasses stole my vision, and I feared for the water damage to the machine.  Now, even with disc brakes, a helmet visor keeping the rain off my face, and a rental bike I have no emotional attachment for, I still don’t like it.

We pulled into a park and stood in the shelter of tall pines to rest, then rode through the city streets back to the hotel, among the last to arrive.

We shared the manic morale of those who have overcome adversity, talking about where the route directions had failed, counting the thunderclaps, and detailing hills and winds.

After the bonding, we indulged in hot showers and naps and a large restaurant supper.

No camp stoves nor tents nor sleeping bag nor dishes to wash.

Same activity, different context.

Contrast is the essence of meaning.

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2 Responses to “Another Road Trip 13: riding in the rain”

  1. Tim Potter Says:

    Great recount of that first day’s adventure. What diversity in conditions of all sorts! Sounds like you both got hit with worse rain than I did bringing up the rear. My Spartan baseball cap under my helmet really helped a lot w/ keeping the rain out of my eyes so I could continue riding. A golf visor would probably be a lot better especially in summer temperatures to keep ones head from overheating.

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