Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shedding layers

My riding clothes feel good today, which is no small thing. I brought two sets but everything got wet and dirty through a few holes in the panniers. Normally, expecting rain you'd line the pannier with plastic bags, which solves the problem.

This assumes packing before 9am the day you are leaving (from work). It further assumes the National Weather Service employs someone more experienced than an intern to write the forecast.

The stuff from yesterday was amazingly wet and dirty. Disgusting is really the word. You can't keep those clothes on your body. Lacking a laundromat, I hung up everything in the motel room, cranked the heat, and went to dinner. I pretended everyone at Scopa was slightly moist and that was normal. Sometimes it's good to ignore problems. It's good to ignore them when there is no better solution, no matter what you do.

The Waterford is filthy. I cleaned it off a little at the motel, but not too much because they were keeping an eye on me. That lady with the huge spray of dirt up her back. Which the red Italian jacket could neither hide, nor make stylish. The owner gave me a special towel and said keep the bike outside (translation: NOT IN THE ROOM), saying "it's safe here". My ass, it's safe. My $3500 bike is not spending the freaking night outside a motel room. But it did drip for a few hours outside, before I sneaked it in.

That was good thinking, bringing along a bottle of Tri-Flow for the chain. Just in case. I picked the lightest one in our garage; actually, it's empty. A few drops go on the rusty, needy chain. This is a bit of a crisis. Much more serious than damp leg warmers. The chain must be tended. So after the Internet finds breakfast in Healdsburg, I trundle off to the bike shop in town. There is a bike shop! And it is open!

The guy there is quite helpful. He is also curious, with my route questions and my RUSA vest. We chat for a while, and eventually figure out that he knows Donn King. Donn and I were in touch briefly last August, as I stood on a ferry loading dock in Denmark during SBS, taking a photo of his Dutch buddy Hermann.

The guy (Doug Mackenzie) recommends Highway 128 to Mountain House, then Orr Springs Road from Ukiah. It's prettier, he says. It's also shorter. Before committing, he checks my tires to make sure they're wide enough, and my gearing to make sure there's a triple. I lube the chain and set off at the crack of 11.

You might think this has nothing to do with glamour, how could it? But glamour and confidence and well-being does not happen until everything mechanical is running smoothly. Stripey SmartWool arm warmers, green wool jersey, black wool hat. Reflective RUSA vest, blocking the wind. And wool leg warmers, which function well even when not totally dry. Just warm enough.

In yesterday's clothes, it's not entirely clear that I'd be appreciating the views. They are world-class: the Dry Creek Valley in all its winter finery.

West Dry Creek Road, shouldering the wide rows of Zinfandel, worthy of France. Smooth, new pavement. Dry Creek itself, full and muddy. Maybe the Coho salmon will have a chance this year. All yesterday and today, the noise of water in creeks and rivers. That soundtrack has not played for a long time. A drought is eerily quiet.

The smell of rampant fungi along the side of the road. Every so often - unpredictable, unmistakeable. Earthy. Truffle-y.

Dutcher Creek goes easier than on any brevet. Even with saddlebags! Donn and I have climbed it together and a certain memory of his calm demeanor, his patience, comes without effort.

On the other side in Cloverdale, lunch at the tacqueria in the gas station. Randonneur-tested, and a life-saver. In the wee hours when the tacqueria is closed, the mini-mart stays open. You can fuel up for the climb.

Highway 128 is shorter than I recall, to the Mendocino line, only four miles. A scatter of other cyclists are coming down. They're on a day ride, taking advantage of the break in the rain. My heart skips - they are cheering, congratulating me on making it to the top, saying kind things. They see the panniers, which can make the climbs a lot  harder. They're the first and only cyclists I've seen today.

It might be the stress of work, or the holidays, or the lawyer wanting to 'talk about my case', or the hardships of yesterday. Everything is a struggle lately. Everything is a fight. I hadn't realized how good it might feel to be cheered on. Recognized. On a road I've climbed a dozen times. By strangers. They don't know me, where I'm going, or what lies ahead. Which is not minor.


I'll take it.

1 comment :

  1. Pfft. She didn't mean safe. She meant 'clean'. You were more patient than I would have been! I'm glad for your cheering squad, and for the ease of the climb. :)

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