Hit or Miss Forecasting

Before going on a bike ride, experienced bike riders always check the weather report. When I woke up this morning the reports called for heavy rain all day. Then, just a little before I left on my ride I saw this report from the @capitalweathergang on Twitter:

DC area forecast update, 10a: Radar shows very little rain in the region and the forecast for today has improved. We no longer expect widespread heavy downpours. Just hit or miss showers. Some could be heavy later on but dry more often than not.

I left the house into the slightest of sprinkles. No problem. Within 2 miles of home the rain started falling more heavily. No problem. A raindrop managed to make it into my right eye. Sting. Can’t see. Problem.

The rain intensified. Now I am riding in a downpour with raindrops all over my glasses and one eye pretty much out of commission. Just before descending a half mile hill on Fort Hunt Road, I pulled over to get the sting out of my eye. I realized that the best way to keep this problem from recurring was to lower my forehead to keep my eyes under my helmet’s visor. It worked but I had to keep my speed down below 10 miles per hour. At this speed I look over the top of my glasses and see about thirty yards ahead, enough to avoid crashing into the construction worker’s pick up truck parked on the shoulder in the middle of the hill.

This was the hardest rain I’ve ridden in since Iowa on my 2018 bike tour across the country. I was riding downhill at over 30 miles per hour. My old cantilever brakes were utterly useless. It was terrifying. Last year I replaced them with mini-V brakes at the suggestion of a mechanic at my local bike store. As it happens, I did some maintenance on them before yesterday’s ride so they were ready for today’s challenge.

Speaking of local bike stores, mine caught fire last year and has been closed ever since. I turned off Fort Hunt Road to check out progress on its re-construction. I am happy to report that there is now a roof on the place and some framing for walls inside. Yay, progress.

I’d have taken a picture but the rain was coming down in sheets. Ugh.

I continued northward along Fort Hunt Road and took a trail over to South Washington Street in Alexandria. At South Washington Street I pressed the beg button to cross the street. I rested over my handlebars while waiting for the light to change. My back felt like I was in the shower at home. The rain was just pelting down even harder.

After a short descent I stopped underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I was a tad moist.

Here’s a shot of the playing fields to my immediate right in Jones Point Park. The Potomac River is just beyond those trees.

I continued into Old Town Alexandria down Union Street. At King Street things look a tad damp.

Flooding here is pretty common. What’s not clear from the picture is how fast the water is running toward me on the left side of the road. No sooner had I taken this picture than the rain intensified again.

I escaped uphill via an alley and re-connected with the Mount Vernon Trail on the north side of Old Town. I continued on the trail to the Four Mile Run Trail near National Airport. I turned off at Four Mile Run and made my way to the chicane that connects to the Potomac Yards Trail. The adjacent staircase was a waterfall.

I followed this trail back south. When I came to the trail head at Braddock Road I could see water gushing off the adjacent playing fields rail. The water cut right across the trail and down the curb cut into Braddock Road. (In the photo below, this is at the yellow sign on the right beyond the bridge.) I rode into this water and quickly realized that it was over a foot deep. Dang. Not wanting to pedal into a submerged obstruction I dismounted and started to walk up Braddock. The water was running fast and within two steps it was up to the top of my knees. (If the components on The Mule could talk they’d be pretty pissed off at me right about now.) After about 50 yards I reached dry-ish ground. The rain had abated. I stopped to take a picture of some pedestrians trying to get down the street I had just walked up.

Thankfully, the rain lightened. I headed back home. I swung by River Farm, the home of the National Horticultural Society. I turned in to ride the half mile loop and was rewarded with a close encounter with three turkeys. I decided to call them the Capital Weather Gang. They were spreading their wings to warn me off so I kept my distance.

A mile from home I could see a large dark cloud forming over my neighborhood. I called it a day after 28 miles. Apparently the cloud moved away. It hasn’t rained since I put my bike away.

For what it’s worth the area I was riding in had two to three inches of rain. Hyattsville, Maryland about 25 miles to the north had six inches!

4 thoughts on “Hit or Miss Forecasting

  1. I recently wrote my local TV station to suggest they get rid of the meteorologist who has been there for like 30 years. Twice in the last couple weeks he indicated the expected rain the next day ( 12 hours later) would by no means be a washout. As I wrote the email, it was pouring outside and did so for the majority of the day. The same was true the week before. The day the rain fell the same guy did not mention how far off he was the night before. Another blown 3 foot putt I guess. Dime a dozen.

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