March is another story: It comes in with a big fuss to convince all that it is dangerous. But it is the rage of a cranky old man, no longer a tyrant but a nuisance. March knows that in the end it is more likely to be nursing lambs and tulips than freezing off any toes.
When I opened the garage door and stepped out into the darkness I was immediately roughed up by the cold gust coming in off the north pacific, driving needles of rain into my ear. In the time it took me to get the bike locked in the truck bed my fingers were beginning to ache from the cold: good morning February.
The ‘rain’ splattered on the windshield and slush began to pile up at the bottom of the wipers arc, this could be an interesting ride. I know I will do what I must to get this in the books but as mentioned earlier, this won’t be a gimmee. Hopefully the March P12 will be more daffodils and less frostbite, but that’s next month; today’s ride require my immediate attention.It’s fully light out by the time I get parked, get all my layers on, and get my bottles filled at the public fountain in the lot next to the bike shop. The wind seems to have diminished, but the rain still comes in sheets and as I look up the clouds scud by like dirty rags. I elect to sit in the truck and listen to NPR, the news is neither good nor inspiring but I can doze in peace for half an hour where I’d be very self-conscious dozing at the Starbucks.
Later I’m at the coffee shack, still with time to waste, there is no getting a head start on these things. You can start late, but can’t go early. The start time is the start time.I order a double espresso and take a seat at the counter, staring out at my wet bike and the joggers and dog walkers across the street in the park. The double espresso has three purposes and already it is working its magic: I’m feeling warmer inside and my senses are sharpening, I feel more alert and aware. 10 minutes later I down the last of the coffee and head to the restroom for the third purpose, better to take care of this now in the warm comfort of a coffee shop than somewhere out on the roads.
Once done and re-suited up, I roll out headed south into a slight headwind. It’s going to be this way for the next 27 miles. Half way to the next control my rear tire goes soft. Winter is flat tire season, what can I say. I find a decent place to get off the road (but not out of the wind) and get busy with it. This time I don’t mess with looking for the offending splinter/wire/ thorn/glass shard in the tire but replace both tube and tire with spares I carry along. This makes the process go more quickly and in short order I’m once again beating into the wind.At the Convenience store on Highway 12, I waste no time. I am mindful that one flat isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it would be wise to preserve the half hour I have in the bank in case other mishaps come to visit.
Out on the road I am now heading down wind. It feels like all I need to do is set the spinnaker and I’ll be pulled along without an effort. It is a raw wind though, laced with rain and sleet, so there are plenty of reasons to put the power to the pedals: I need to keep working to maintain warmth, and too, I know that this is a circular route and like as not, I may be headed back into this wind at some point so it is wise to make gains when they are easily had. I pedal hard but the wind still whips rain around me. When trucks pass I’m buffeted with swirls of gritty road wash, the vortex both pulling and pushing me.The stretch on Highway 12 is only a few miles and I will be happy to make the turn onto 183rd.
The wind continues to favor me all the way to Rainier. In the last half hour of this stretch it feels like the temperature has dropped dramatically. I have not eaten anything for the last 5 hours so maybe I am using up my energy and on the verge of a bonk. Just as I roll into Rainier, a snow flurry engulfs me, the fierce wind drives clouds of snow pellets around me, the effect is mesmerizing, almost a whiteout but for the snow globe effect.
At Rainier I am tempted to again blow through the control but at this point I have 20 miles to go and three hours to do it in. The snow and sleet are hammering such that the windows of the store are flexing. I decide to take 15 minutes for a cup of bad coffee and a small bowl of convenience store Chow Mein. The food and coffee work wonders but as I sit my legs start to cramp so I know it is time to get pedaling.
Back on the bike it seems my obeisance has pleased Zeus as the snow squall has blown through, but the rest of the way is certainly not a mulligan. I earn the remaining miles fighting my way through capricious winds, rain, and hail.
The finish is sweet, certainly because it’s over and I can get in out of the weather, but there is also the sense of satisfaction that comes with the completion of an endeavor well thought out and executed. This felt good in a ‘type two’ kind of way, but I’m looking forward to those tulips of March.