Monday, February 28. Most solo rides start the same way with the decision on how to ride made a day or two earlier and this one is no different as I'd done three and a half hours the day before. Today is supposed to be easy with a threat of hard rain but I need the miles and I need the rejuvenation. Sometimes you "come upon a which way sign and all good truants must decide…" and invariably I decide to ride, so out I go.
A light easy cadence to start with and even though the wind is surprisingly crisp, I move through it ok. The clouds are blowing hard from right to left as I head towards a bright patch of sky, almost blue but not quite, and soon I am among the twisty hilly roads around Walnut Grove still on cruise control with the music playing in my mind helping me along at an easy pace. "Love is Strong" by the Stones comes to mind with a crisp solid drumbeat and I'm in another world enjoying the miles with a smile on my face knowing the fun of it finally after a few months of anxiety. Jagger's voice in a lower octave seems to keep me slow on purpose. My knee feels really good and it makes me relish the thought of riding hard again but that will be tomorrow after a long day yesterday and an easy one today.
The only traffic is a herd of cows and a flock of crows. The cows stare numbly and the crows startle the air with bursts of angry complaining, a cawing harmonica much like the one in the song in my head. Crows never seem to be happy from the sound of them and they seem to fit right in with the brooding music.
I glance over my shoulder and the sky warrants a second, longer look. Some god-sized spider spun a solid wall of black clouds behind me while I wasn't looking. There is no tree line or horizon. The dark tarmac merges with the sky in one bruised smooth stroke, double yellow lines a curving arrow pointing the way to an inferno of rain. There is no way around this one as I didn't bring a head light and it will be dark soon. The strong cross tail wind has me doing 26 miles an hour and my smile is bigger so I discard the plan and roll with the good feelings I have and a hard effort has me doing 30. The rain seems to retreat from me and I think I might be able to make it until the temperature plummets and I know it's going to be bad. Pulling on my vest at the light at Hwy 221 against the chill rain, I have some trepidation about what's to come.
The rain is steady as the light turns green and my trepidation begins to march along with the first strains of "Voodoo Chile" as Jimi lays the ground work for his epic and here words fail. The intro is over and the rain comes in with the thunder of the drums and the rest of the band and my skin cries with the howl of the guitar as I'm blasted by it in sheets and sheets my wheels are like a boat keel in the water every pedal stroke has my feet submerged and the tail wind is now a swirling blast of crowd noise buffeting me and welcoming me to it's breast or it's teeth I can't tell which but either is a comfort of force I haven't felt in a long time and never at this magnitude and I ride as hard as I can into the solid phase of it realizing how bad I missed the rain and the songs it sings.