Sunday, May 03, 2009

That was the wettest I've ever been

I have never enjoyed riding my bike in the rain. I ride all summer long, but if I wake up for a ride and it's raining, I go to the gym instead. However, if I'm already riding and the rain starts, I can cope with it. There's nothing like a warm summer shower to cool you off on a hot day.

I'd been checking the weather reports all week for Sunday and Bike New York (AKA the 5 Boro Bike Tour) and they went from sunny to cloudy to a little afternoon rain. When I woke up this morning, I dressed as if it was going to rain in the afternoon, hopefully when I was riding home from the Staten Island Ferry. I wore my usual bike jersey and shorts and put on a water-resistant jacket. I stowed a pair of pants in my Camelbak but I didn't plan to wear them unless it got colder. I left the apartment at 7:30 under cloudy skies and a light rain. I wasn't happy but I'd been in this situation before. It's rained on the ride in years past but the sun always comes out by the afternoon. I wasn't so optimistic today but I hoped that the rain would pass and the streets would be dry.

Well, that's not how things went. By the time I got to Greenwich Village, the light rain had not subsided. I pulled onto Sixth Avenue as soon as the first wave of riders went by, and didn't notice until we neared Central Park that in my haste to get the ride behind me I'd gotten onto the route in front of the pace car. My butt was wet from the spray coming off my rear tire, and as the rain picked up, it was difficult to tell whether my face was getting wet from the rain or from the spray from other bikes.

The rain eased off a bit when I got to the Astoria Park rest stop. For some reason, they crammed all the riders into a parking lot instead of using a grassy hill as in past years. Having all the riders in a smaller space led to long lines (but luckily not a long wait) for the port-a-potties. After we left the rest stop, the light rain became a steady shower that didn't let up for the rest of the day. I considered bailing out of the ride at the Brooklyn Bridge and going home. But then an odd thing happened. The wetter I got, the less I cared about being wet. I reached a saturation point where I couldn't get any wetter. My rain jacket was soaked, my shoes and socks were squishing, and I got "prune hands." When I pulled over at the Commodore Barry rest stop in Brooklyn, I was singing along with the Motown songs spun by the radio DJ and looking forward to the BQE and the rest of the ride.

The worst thing about stopping every 45 minutes was the cooling-off. Even with being drenched, I didn't notice the cool air while I was riding. But as soon as I stopped, I started shivering. I usually like to take some time at each rest stop to eat something, walk a bit, and stretch my legs. On this ride, though, I only stopped long enough to use the bathroom, eat something quickly, and stretch in a hurry. At the end of the ride, I spent about 10 minutes at the festival on Staten Island, then I got back on the road to the ferry. The DJ at the festival played light rock hits, and one of the songs was Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up The Sun." Um, not today, buddy. And I didn't appreciate the reminder of the current state of affairs.

There was no wait for the ferry as in past years, but once again they put all of the cyclists in the "car" section of the boat. I suppose they do it that way to fit more riders on each boat, but I don't like it. There's no place to sit down, and there's no respite from the wind that cuts through the boat. And if you're a visitor to NY for the ride, you can't see the Statue of Liberty or the Manhattan skyline from that part of the boat. I turned my back to the wind and tucked my hands in my armpits to try to keep from shivering.

My teeth were chattering as I got off the ferry. The steady rain continued as I rode up through the South Street Seaport to the Manhattan Bridge. I had thought about taking the subway home, but I figured I had come this far, so I should finish the trip on the bike. I returned home to my warm, dry apartment at 2:15 PM, peeled off everything I was wearing, and took the longest, hottest, most luxurious shower I can remember. Afterward, I unpacked my Camelbak and found that everything in it got wet: my wallet, my camera, two bike maps, and even the pants I had stowed at the bottom. I'm surprised that my Blackberry still works after I got it wet. Apparently it takes far more punishment than I am capable of in order to destroy a 7290.

Now I am dry, and my hands are soft and supple after absorbing all that rainwater. I've found a cure for my perpetually dry hands, but at what cost?


Anonymous said...

I was much further behind the pack than you. If you think you got wet... well it got even wetter later.

I got to SI around 2:00 and everything was wet.

The worst part was the very long wait for the Ferry. I saw people's lips turning blue. We waited close to 20 minutes in wet clothes.

Still, this was my first ride, and I'd do it again.

Mike said...

Great post. I bailed out in Fort Greene (near home -- I couldn't stand the thought of doing another 20 miles when I was already soaking wet and less than a mile from home). No regrets.