Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Just a kid on a bike

I glance behind to see a tractor trailer pushing a wave of water along the swamped highway. One, two, three, I count traffic cones until I make my move between four and five to the outer edge of the shoulder.

Storms have been pushing through this skinny valley all day. I rode the twenty miles here to flyfish a local stream, and I'd been rewarded all day with beautiful skies as I hiked and fished. When I returned to my bike around 8:00, another band of clouds had moved overhead and promised to do more than pretty up the sky. A strong tailwind pushed me out ahead for a mile or two, and then a drenching rain caught me.

The shoulder on this highway is only about 3 feet wide, but that's usually adequate given the sparse traffic. Just to prove that bureaucracies have a sense of humor, though, MDOT had chosen today as a fine day to restripe the road. To cover their handiwork, the crews placed traffic cones at regular intervals to encourage drivers to keep off the paint. The wind and some accuracy issues left most of these cones well off the line and onto the shoulder, which meant I had to pick the inside or outside. When the road was clear behind, I stuck to the inside, avoiding the cones and the occasional crumbled shoulder edge. When traffic came behind, I would time a gap where most cones were out of the way and dodge to the shoulder. The simple maneuver was made less simple by the fact that any steering movement set off a mighty shimmy in my load. You see, using my tried and true put off testing things and then go ride forty miles, in a storm, on the highway, with traffic cones, technique had revealed a minor problem. In fact, overloaded Rubbermaid totes with gear lashed on top make tall road bikes handle funny. Who knew?

Something about flailing around on a bike where I shouldn't really be while sopping wet brought back the most vivid memory. I remembered a similar day growing up in East Tennessee. I had ridden my little red BMX bike a couple of miles from home with my mini garden tools to mine quartz in the woods. A storm hit and I got mud and clay soaked. I had to ride the bike home holding these muddy garden tools because I didn't want my backpack to get dirty, and it turned out BMX bikes don't handle so well with garden tools on the handlebars. I don't really rememeber the rest, but I must have made it home, and I seem to recall having some fun on the way.

So, remember the truck closing in behind me? Well, I made it safely onto the far edge of the shoulder well before it passed. A head-high wave of water completely drenched me and the bike and all my stuff. And, you know what? I sort of hoped another one would come and do it again. I was just a kid on a bike.

[First photo: looking downstream after a wave of clouds passes; Second photo: a Westslope Cutthroat trout from the stream; No photos of the road home because the little pencam refused to work after getting wet but is fine now]



Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks for the view of a Montana summer sky. I don't want to forget them--take more!

love you

11:07 AM  
Blogger Keasty said...

We're in Olympia WA and heading to Eugene and Corvallis OR. They tell me that's really strong cycling country so hopefully bike paths will mean I don't have to battle the trucks like you did! But today, we could do with a drenching out there too! Damn hot today...90s.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

(Just found your blog from a link on

I got soaked by a sudden downpour while riding home from work yesterday. I had no waterproof with me, so I was literally soaked to the skin. I grinned like a loon most of the way home :)

4:26 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home