File this one under “riding mistakes”
The recent Rasputitsa event in Vermont’s northeast Kingdom might have been the most miserable I’ve ever been on a bike (more on this in my next blog). But it served to bring back a seemingly lost memory of one of my earliest cycling blunders. Yeah, we’ve all had those… like the time you went out in July for 7 hours, with no sunscreen and burned every part of your body not covered in lycra.
Time warp back to the late 1980s in North Jersey- I had finished grad school and was doing a post-doc at Roche in Nutley. At this point in my life I hadn’t discovered racing yet (although I had heard of Greg LeMond) and wasn’t necessarily well-versed in the best cycling clothing and gear. As a recreational cyclist, I joined BTCNJ (bicycle touring club of North Jersey) and ventured outside the industrial area of Essex county as far as say Basking Ridge, which back then to most people was “the country.”
After a good staple of BCTNJ 50-7- mile rides, I felt ready to tackle a 2-day ride, which I believe was an American Cancer Society event. I remember registering for the event along with a coworker, Tom Watson, but as the weekend grew closer Tom became concerned with the weather and got cold feet.
“It’s going to rain, Doug”
“So, what’s a little rain?”
“It’s going to rain A LOT. It’s a major storm system”
“No big deal, it’s only water. So, we will get wet, we will dry out.”
But no amount of cajoling was going to convince Tom to ride. On Friday morning he bailed out. Determined to ride, I got my Fuji ready on Friday night and showed up at the start on Saturday. The ride started dry, in fact it was kind of warmer humid weather. I started the ride in short sleeves and shorts. As we moved up through Sussex county though the weather deteriorated quickly. A driving rain, followed by a North wind and a temperature drop of 15-20 degrees. This is what happens when a cold front slams into a warm humid air mass. I cannot remember if there were thunderstorms (maybe) but those of us out on the road got quickly soaked. My shoes filled up with water, the roads were flooding. Cars had their headlights on and probably were in disbelief of the crazy cyclists out there.
I cannot remember if I had a rain jacket, maybe, although It was not waterproof. Other riders who didn’t have any protection were given garbage bags with holes cut into the sides for their arms. Growing colder, I pushed my bike ahead as that was the only way I could generate body heat. Fortunately I had the fitness to do so. After 2+ hours of riding in cold rain and wind, we arrived at a Boy Scout camp in Port Jervis, where we were to have hot showers, dry clothes and then sleep overnight for day 2.
The first thing we discovered was that there was no hot water, because due to the large number of freezing cold people the hot water got quickly used up. Secondly the truck that was going to deliver our bags was late, because it had to stop to pickup riders that had abandoned. It was close to chaos at the overnight stop. There were large tents set up, but no heat, and we waited around in wet clothing, shivering. A bunch of us discussed the weather for day 2 of the ride. While it was supposed to be dry, it was also going to be clear and relative cold, with morning temperature of 40 degrees, and not much above 55. Knowing that I didn’t have warmer clothing (such as tights or a long sleeve jersey) for day 2, I found a pay phone and called my brother, who kindly drove a long way to get me. Because there was no way I was going out on a bike the next morning without warmer clothing. I remember cranking up the heat in the car, and how good it felt being warm and dry.
When I got back to the office on Monday, the first thing Tom said was “So, how was the ride??”