too much rain for roadside tea
We had high hopes for today's ride. Ainsley's email set the stage nicely - he was bringing his Sierra stove, fuel, a mess kit and a folding camp stool. He offered to make some tea sandwiches "and really freak out anyone that rides with us."
I agreed it was a good plan, and packed some Earl Grey Creme loose tea - none of those sissified tea bags for the roadside brewup, thank you very much - and laid out some wool for the ride.
The sky was grey and cold-looking, but the temperature was somewhere in the 40s and the forecast called for a warmer world, followed by rain in the afternoon. At ten past nine, I rolled up in front of the fountain. Ainsley's car radio was playing Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild," and we took it as a sign.
Time was not on our side. Ainsley's front tire had blown, probably while sitting in the back of his car in the sun yesterday. The small drizzle that had started falling about the time I arrived stepped up to a light rain as he replaced the inner tube. I pulled on my rain cape and found the perfect angle to loll at, shielding the bars and the saddle while sitting on the top tube.
After making repairs, Ainsley showed me the cooking kit, and the bag he planned to carry everything in. "It's as ugly as home-made sin," he said, "but since it is
home-made, that's to be expected."
"Actually, it looks a lot like my Carradice," I said. It did, too - until he wrapped it in a white plastic trash bag.
"Didn't get around to water-proofing it," he said. "If it don't do this, it'll get soaking wet and pick up another 20 pounds."
We set off - only to stop to readjust some handlebars. Then it occurred to us to double-check Ainsley's car door locks. It was 10:00 by the time we hit the rail-trail conversion. The rain picked up. We rode down the trail side-by-side, talking easily. There were no pedestrians.
I couldn't see it for the rain cape, but I could feel my feet were dryer for the mudflap I'd rescued from a broken old Bluemels fender and ziptied into place. By the time we turned off of Florida Avenue, I had warmed up enough to be comfortable again.
There were no dogs out on Briarwood - they had enough sense to come in out of the rain. We turned left onto Whitehall Road, and I thought again about how it was one of the older roads in the county - it's on the 1825 Robert Mill map, from back before there was a Greenwood, or a Greenwood County.
"Up on the left is Greenwood Mills Farm Road," I said. "It's a dirt road that'll dump us out onto 221."
"Well, if you go maybe half a mile down 221, it connects with Cowhead Creek Road, which takes you to Rock House," I said. "I've looked at it on maps, but haven't done it yet. It may be too damp to do it today."
We slowed as we approached the road and looked down it. There was a lot of standing water. Not today. We pushed on.
Straight across 221 and down the hill to the bridge we went. My hands were feeling a bit numb now from riding on bu
mpy roads with my hands pretty much in one position. Every so often I'd slip a hand out of the thumb loop and wipe my nose, then fish around under the cape for the loop again. My gloves felt soaked through from the water seeping through the thoroughly saturated canvas.
"It's really too wet and messy to do tea today," Ainsley said.
"Yeah, but at least we know how to carry the equipment."
"True," he said. "And so far, it seems to be working pretty well."
We were at least prepared for doing without roadside food, though. We had the verbal exchange in a bad Scots brogue that accompanies all of our fixed-gear rides in the winter, which runs something like -
"Didja eat yeer oatmeal, lad?"
"Aye, that I did, lad. And yerself?"
Do this on enough rides and you'll agree with Ainsley that we should call these our "Oatmeal Rides."
We turned onto Rock House Road. Despite the leaves having fallen, we still managed to ride right past the famous house without seeing it. We did spot some daffodils, and Ainsley decided to break out the camera. We snapped shots of each other and headed on.
"It feels like the temperature is dropping," Ainsley said.
He was right. I zipped my jacket back up and closed up the neck of the rain cape again to conserve heat. My feet were wet, my socks soaked clean through. My gloves felt like they squished when I moved my hands.
We were climbing one of the brisk little rollers when the subject of motivation came up again.
"You know, we're nuts to be doing this," Ainsley said.
"I've been thinking about that," I said. "The late Ken Henderson is my model here. I am convinced that, whenever confronted with the choice of either taking an action or not taking an action, he would choose to do something purely because if he didn't, he couldn't tell the story later."
Ainsley thought about it for a minute. "I can see that. My usual first question about those things is, 'will I get killed or serious injured?' If not, it's a lot more tempting," he said.
We passed McFerrin Road, then Cowhead Creek. At the intersection with Stillwell, the pavement became dramatically smoother. We made a quick detour onto Feed Mill Road and stopped for the last nature break of the day, then took a right onto Scotch Cross (another really old road) and headed back towards town.
I finally figured out I could hook the thumb loops over my brake levers, freeing my hands to move around to different positions on the bars. Almost immediately my hands felt better. Stray thoughts crossed my mind about the danger of getting tangled up somehow in the fabric. Then I thought, what isn't dangerous? If you're that scared, why are you riding a fixed-gear bike in the rain?
Ainsley looked over at me and said, "I'm glad we're almost done here. Another ten miles and I would have started whining."
I nodded. It was getting colder, and the rain was coming down harder. Weather like this makes you appreciate the old British cycling gear and traditions. Fenders make s
ense, mudflaps and rain capes and waxed cotton rule, and a nice hot cuppa would have been very nice.
When we reached the fountain, I said goodbye and headed on home. Only when I got home and had the bike up on its pegs did I get a chance to check the cyclo-computer. I felt manly - I had gotten 31.5 miles in, at a leisurely pace, in bad weather and on a day when lots of our associates chose to stay indoors. It was a good ride, and next time we would
make tea, dang it.