Thursday, October 1, 2009

MFM Day 32: Whichever Way the Wind Blows

September 30th, 2009

Motor Free Month Day 32: Whichever Way the Wind Blows

Bob Mould, Whichever Way the Wind Blows

We know that if March comes in like a Lion, it will leave like a Lamb, and vice versa. I postulate that it is also true that September, being March's mirror image, does the same thing. Well not quite exactly the same thing. Since September seems to be in a hurry to get to October, it compresses this proverb into one day. If the final day of September comes in like a lamb, it will leave like a lion. I should have been suspicious when I rode to work on such a fine Fall day that things would turn for the worse.

I work in the middle of a large office building. As such I really can't see what's going on outside with the weather that much. About 2:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday I chanced to look outside and noticed that the trees around our building were being bent violently with the wind, and a little dust storm was raging in the vacant lot just South of our office building. I was just out there for lunch and it was so nice, what happened?

My first instinct was to go to the greatest web site in the world, Weather Underground. The weather map displayed two curious items; we were still enjoying 70-degree temperatures in Fort Collins, but Red Feather Lakes, some 30 miles North-East of us, was down to 35-degrees. Further West, Salt Lake City was down into the 40s. Cold was on it's way! Also the little temperature dots had lots of feathers on them. Indicating a lot of wind. I didn't need a web site to tell me that, but it was frightful to see it so widespread. Yea, Motor Free! Obnoxious, gusting winds are a mortal enemy to cyclists.

Most reasonable people would have just high-tailed it home after work, but I'd made plans to go running with some friends at the West end of town. So I hopped on my bike into the maelstrom of wind and pedaled up to the foothills. It was crazy. I was in the granny-gear for much of the ride, I got a solid workout in even before meeting my friends for the run. The run was just as nuts. We ended up on a trail on pine ridge, trying to keep our feet as the winds pummeled us. I felt like I was getting punched in the shoulders as we tarried forth against the gusts. The end of the run was with the current so that was nice!

Sandro Botticelli, Primevera (detail), c. 1482

By the time we finished it was dark so I had to ride across town without ambient light. The first part of my ride was with the wind at least, but it actually made me pretty nervous. I didn't have to pedal at all, the wind just pushed me along at speeds easily in excess of 20 mph. I was nervous about hitting a downed limb, about running over a pothole, about getting blown sideways into the road, into traffic. Luckily almost no one was out on the streets that time of night. Animals tend to get out of sight when the weather turns nasty, I think people share the same instinct. I even entertained the thought of accepting a ride home myself, but thought that this was exactly the sort of moment I needed to experience during Motor Free Month.

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (detail), c. 1482–1486

After turning North towards home I was no longer riding with the wind, so I now had to pedal. The wind was now mostly hitting me from the side, which was much more chaotic! I had chosen to come home via the Mason Trail, which is a nice new bike trail that parallels the famous train tracks that bisect Fort Collins. I was happy to be off the road, and since the trail was wide I could ride down the middle of it and adjust to the nasty cross-wind gusts that were assailing me. I passed a couple of other riders and one runner on the way home, we acknowledged each other with grim subtle nods. This was no time to be out but there we were. Eventually I made it home, thankful that Motor Free Month was almost over, and happy to be home at last. There was a huge downed tree branch from our tree sitting in our neighbor's yard. Just the sort of thing I was worried about hitting my during my ride. Cars are so much better at protecting one from random flying objects!

J. M. W. Turner, The Slave Ship, 1840

After I got home I literally felt dizzy for a while, as if I had been sleeping on a boat or in a hammock and just got on solid ground. My brain took a while to get used to being steady again! Unfortunately it looks like I'll have to deal with this wind for another day or so. Some finish to Motor Free Month! I was hoping to coast these last few days. I guess I still can, provided I only have to travel East.

PS the Lyrics to the Bob Mould song are difficult to make out the way he sings them (that's an understatement!), but they're pretty appropriate for the nerve-rattling ride I had last night:

"If ever you travel that road
You better keep over your side
And keepin' your hands on the wheel
That road be a long road to ride"

-- Bob Mould, Whichever Way the Wind Blows

1 comment:

  1. So. Last night, I drove to campus to swim laps. I have never done that before. My instincts told me it was waaaaaaay more dangerous riding in the dark yesterday than in the dead of winter. I was seriously afraid of getting hit by a car that was avoiding a limb, or just mesmerized by the weather. I would have rather ridden in -18F than last night. I did bike to and from work in the light, and it was an adventure. But last night the stakes were just too high. Plus, I'm a car magnet :)

    I'm glad you made it home safe and sound.