Friday, February 18, 2011

Change in Weather/Bikes

I'm just about recovered from riding all the way to work on Monday morning, so that must mean it's almost Friday.

That was written before I passed out last night. Sweet dreams ensued, but morning still brought the realization of the previous night's weather forecast. Rain, starting late, with strong winds out of the south. "Strong winds out of the south" is a very good forecast to me for riding home, but "rain, starting late" could mean anything. I rode the short ride to my Sprinter station, prepared for multiple combinations of return trip variants (all the way home was the preferred variant), looking to the eastern sky whenever I could. I thought of the old Fixx song, "Red Skies", but these were the sailor's warning--red skies in the morning. Are they also a cyclist's warning?

Previously, on Monday--the first of the bookend days--I again rode all the way from home to work. I left a couple of minutes earlier, felt a little better, and had better riding conditions...and still managed to ride slower. It could be because I switched bikes. Instead of the 700c wheeled Heron, I rode the 26" wheeled XO-2.

It's a 1993 Bridgestone XO-2, and, as you can see, it's been highly personalized over the years. That is a cellulose-based composite storage unit mounted on the rear. Lightweight, versatile, and sustainable. This bike has been through a lot, and been ridden to and from a lot of places, but its main use has been to transport me from home to work and back (or at least some portion of that trek). Over the years, it's done a more than adequate job.

It's also my best bike for when the weather turns nasty, and that it did this week. Yep, the spotless, kick-ass, winter weather we'd had since the new year turned, and I had to start thinking about alternatives to cycling. A storm blew in Wednesday, and rained strictly during the commute hours. I was out and about at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and snapped the incoming afternoon storm.

A typical San Diego day looks like this:

I took pride in my maturity because I didn't ride that day, and since it rained during both my morning and evening commute, my pride was reinforced. The storm blew out that evening, and a usual commute ensued on Thursday, and then was watched constantly. A storm was due to blow in Friday evening, but when? It forecast for noon in the early morning, but as the morning wore on, it was pushed back, back, back, until it was not forecast to rain until 7pm. I started on my campus rounds at 1pm, knowing I could leave when I finished, and the wind was howling out of the south. I was licking my chops! School of Medicine, School of Engineering, then S.I.O., the wind kept up, but odd sprinkles emerged, off and on. I got back to the store, wrapped things up, and at 2:40, headed north.

Things went great. A 15-20mph tailwind wisked me across campus, across the Torrey Pines Mesa, down the Torrey Pines grade, past Torrey Pines beach, to the climb into Del Mar. No problems, a couple of sprinkles in town, but still that tailwind was driving me on. It continued through Solana Beach, and into Encinitas. I was delighted that there were no surfers parked at Cardiff Reef, and thus, no opening doors and no surfboards being moved around in the bike lane like a bad Laurel and Hardy routine. However, there were also no bikini sightings (sigh).

In Encinitas proper, things started to change. The rain became steadier, but I pressed on, thinking that it was maybe a fluke. I plowed on into Leucadia, and past Leucadia Blvd, the coast route floods. While negotiating the pools of standing water in the bike lane, I noticed three 1960's era Volkswagen microbuses passing me. Whose idea was that? One was totally early 60's with the Quarter-sized taillights that were barely visible 50 yards away. At least they were dry inside; I was getting drenched. I passed La Costa Blvd and into Carlsbad, then rode around the construction at the Bataquitos Lagoon, and I made it into the new neighborhoods by the state beach. Still, the rain that wasn't supposed to start until 7pm was pouring on me before 4pm.

I took a break under the Palomar Airport Rd overpass to make sure my phone was okay, then pushed on into Carlsbad proper. Right when I got to Tamarack, I thought: if I'm going to have a puncture, this would be the best place.

I had a puncture.

I limped into the Carlsbad Village Station, because they have bicycle lockers that I can use. I pulled all my stuff out of the cellulose-based composite storage unit, and stuffed my bike in the locker. I walked into the station where I could shelter and change into dry clothes. There is, how shall I say, an on-going gentleman's club that meets there, and the gentlemen have varying control over their faculties. I was offered dry clothes, but I carried a dry wool sweater and that, along with wringing out my wool socks, gave me more than enough sartorial warmth to carry on.

The Coaster would take me to Oceanside, but I'd have to wait a while for the next Sprinter. However, a very late 101 bus showed up, and I got on. In soaking wet cycling gear, holding a helmet with a light attached, I fit right in on that bus! I realized that this bus also wouldn't catch the Sprinter in Oceanside, but then I realized I could get off at Oceanside Blvd and catch the Sprinter there! I watched the bus driver come back during a long traffic light and make sure that a certain veteran was aware of where he was at. His care for this passenger really made me feel good on a stormy, dangerous day. I got off at Oceanside Blvd, and waved at the driver as he went by, then crossed to the Sprinter station. As it worked out, I only waited about a minute for the train.

As usual, the Sprinter sped me across north county with only minimal singing by my fellow passengers. I got to my stop, and pulled the Heron out from the locker where I'd left it on that red sky morning, and rode it home. Getting home after a commute like that feels mighty good, and the beers one has at home taste unbelievably good!

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