I know that the weather is a major determining factor for many when riding a bicycle. Maybe you peer outside, see the hint of rain clouds, and start battling your bicycle riding spirit with indecision. Or maybe when the sky has opened up and is dumping rain, you don’t even consider the bicycle.
So why do I enjoy riding in the rain? Am I dedicated or just a bit nutty? While riding in a recent deluge, I had a flashback to my childhood. I grew up on ‘Smart’s Mountain’ about a 30 minute drive from Ukiah of which 7 miles were a bumpy dirt road (muddy and slippery in the winter). This is the kind of road that requires 4-wheel drive vehicles if you’re going to make it home after a day of pelting rain. It is a wild place, and with that wild comes the frontier-like, backwoods life. You’ve got to be tough to survive in the mountains, ready and willing to face every challenge sent your way.
My dad was a teacher at Ukiah High School which meant that we made the trek into town everyday. And I mean everyday. I had perfect attendance year after year. And it was more than just some extreme dedication to school, it was that mountain spirit. The spirit that nothing is going to stop you today. If it had been down pouring rain all night, we would have shovels in the truck. If it had been rather windy, we would have the chain saw and axes in the truck. If it had been snowing, we would have chains. And did we use these tools? We most certainly did! On those days, when we went up against Mother Nature’s power, it was an adventure. It was fun. It was the way.
Living in town now, rarely replicates those adventure-filled days of my youth. Except of course when we are graced with a most excellent down pour. If it hadn’t been raining cats and dogs the other morning, it would have been just your usual bike ride to work where you pedal along enjoying the changing light of the morning, birds singing, blooms springing, and dodging the occasional uneducated motorist. What I hear most from folks is their concern about me staying dry in the rain. And as I arrived in a UHS classroom that morning, I noticed I was dryer than most of the students seated before me. They of course had parked their cars in the parking lot and then walked the short distance to class. They were soaked! And I was dry! I of course outfit myself for the adventure with waterproof pants, jacket, boots and panniers which reminds me of the quote: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Thanks to my trusty clothing, my adventure riding was fun and I got the chance to feel that mountain spirit once again.
We all have the mountain spirit in us somewhere. It is only a matter of reminding yourself. Long ago, this mountain spirit was the way of all. And once again, it will be the mountain spirit that prevails. It will be this spirit that mobilizes communities to prepare for the transition of peak oil and to ride their bikes in the rain! You have this spirit in you and when you join me on a rainy morning ride, you will realize that you had it all along.