The ride home was everything I hoped for and, as they used to say in those Miller Lite ads of so long ago, less.
My boss, a bike commuter himself who decided not to ride in during today’s winter storm, came around to my desk at 3:30 and told me that if I saw a break in the weather to head for home. I immediately checked weather.com and saw that they were predicting clear sailing to Mount Vernon at around 4:45. This happens to be almost my normal quitting time so my boss’s largess went in the meteorlogical round file.
At around 4:30 I changed into my bike clothes and decided to head out. I was stunned to see daylight as I left the garage. Commuting home in daylight, even gray, fading daylight, made me a happy guy. Off I rode on Little Nellie, now freed from it’s iced over brakes. I made it through Rosslyn without encountering the slightest trouble from the automotive crowd, mostly because the streets were nearly empty.
I headed down the hill to the Mount Vernon Trail. My first sign of trouble was the enormous puddle just before the bridge that would take me from the Rosslyn side of the GW Parkway to the Potomac River side. I rode right through it but it was brown water. I couldn’t see how deep it was. I got lucky. It was only a few inches. The boardwalk under the Roosevelt Bridge was covered in a thin layer of snowy slush. I navigated the mess without difficulty and hoped that the remaining boardwalks on my commute would not be frozen over. (They weren’t, thank god.)
From the boardwalk to the Memorial Bridge underpass was a mile of huge puddles. Despite having fenders on my bike, my feet were soaked, and there were 12 miles left to ride. These puddles were actually small scale flooding. The grass couldn’t hold all the water that had accumulated throughout the day. The spill over left the trail with some long stretches of deep puddles, impossible to ride around.
For the first couple of miles the rain was very light. Once I cleared the 14 Street Bridge it began to pick up. I had a very welcome tailwind and the few planes taking off from National Airport were heading my way. I could barely make them out in the spray and the gloom. It reminded me of the Air Florida crash in 1981 which took place right next to the trail next to the 14th Street Bridge.
My feet stayed warm despite the wetness. I attribute this to the tailwind and the 40-ish temperatures. I slogged along, having increasing difficulty seeing through my glasses. This became a serious problem once the trail took me close to the GW Parkway and I had to deal with the headlights of the cars. Shading my eyes with one hand meant that I had to take a hand off the handlebars, not the safest thing to do in these conditions. Fortunately NOBODY else was on the trail. No ninjas tonight!
The more I rode the more the weather.com forecast proved wrong. Instead of a gap in the storm, the rain intensified. The streets of Old Town, like the MVT were deserted. I intended to take the shortest route home but by Old Town I was on autopilot. I followed my normal fair-weather route.
South of the beltway the rain kept a comin’. To kill the tedium I started thinking of songs with rain in them. Rain, Rain on the Roof, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, Let It Rain, and, the one I really needed, Who’ll Stop the Rain. Mind games can get you only so far. Soon I was south of the beltway slogging through puddle after puddle. Some of the trail was just flat out submerged. My feet felt like saturated sponges.
By the time I reached the stone bridge, back on suburban streets, I decided to finish the commute just as I normally do, rather than taking a short cut home. I arrived completely drenched and proceeded to walk Little Nellie to the backyard shed. The lawn in the back yard was saturated with cold water. Once in the shed, I dried my steed off as best I could. Then it was into the house. Off came my soaked shoes, socks and gloves. The rest of me was surprisingly dry.
So bike commute 161 is in the books. Tomorrow, high winds are expected. If it is below freezing, I’ll probably drive. All that standing water on the MVT will be a skating rink. I do rain, I do sleet, I even do thunder but I don’t do deep snow, ice or lightning. You think I’m crazy?