One of the truths of this kind of life, where you pack before fully understanding what you’ll be dealing with, and you have to carry everything on your bike, is that you start improvising as needs arise. For example, thanks to a tip we got on a bike trip long ago, we always keep shower caps on hand. These can be taken from most of the hotels, and they’re very handy when it starts to rain. Just slip a shower cap over your helmet and your head stays much drier. Much less trickling into the face, too.
Another recent discovery: when your gloves are still soaked from yesterday’s ride, and you need something warm on your hands for the walk to breakfast: socks. Preferably clean socks, if you still have any. (If you do, then you overpacked, incidentally.) Best of all would be clean, black socks, which recede from looking sock like and bring to mind black gloves. Sort of.
Plastic bags over the feet are supposed to help keep feet dry in the rain, though I’ve yet to remember to try this on mornings when that might be useful. Seems like a good idea, but plastic bags are at a premium, needed as they are to cover the small canvas bag at the front of my bike and the larger canvas bag above my panniers in back.
You can probably tell we’ve been riding in some rain. My sister Maura mentions during a phone call that the we’re starting to sound a little glum on the blog. I hope not. But if that’s coming through at all, it’s probably just because of the rainy rides, which can be a little debilitating. Riding in the rain and wind and cold both strengthens and depletes. Letting go of the discomfort and just riding is sometimes the best thing to do, but that can be difficult. I’ve found Lamaze breathing helpful in the worst of these moments. But that’s me.
Jerry’s epiphany comes as a truck drives by, splashing him “full puddle,” and he realizes it doesn’t matter in the least. We’re already soaked and more water can’t possibly worsen things. I think this is around the same time I start entertaining myself by squeezing my toes around in my shoes, just for the squelchy feeling. Which is to say, before I lose my sense of humor.
We have rain the morning we start out from Woodbridge, VA, for Washington, D.C., but it stops by the time we actually ride into the city, which is great. I love coming across the bridge (not actually the bridge we’d been aiming for – another example of improv), and riding bike paths past so many extraordinary landmarks: the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the Washington Monument. At one point, I realize we are riding past Reagan International Airport, and it occurs to me that this was where we had our layover on the way to Key West, oh-so-many weeks ago. Feels like a year in some ways (and that’s not me being glum).
The Washington Monument looked so much bigger in person, as these planes were landing at Reagan! Now just a hint of a shadow of a distant background structure.
The scariest thing to happen that day is the driver who runs a stop sign and basically drives straight at Jerry, who’s able to duck out of the way. At the next stop sign, the guy does a 180 and starts back again. Not, it will turn out, to harm us, but just to go the other way. Jerry, who has cycled up to where he is (“Danger, Will Robinson,” I’m thinking), shouts at the guy, “You just ran that stop sign and practically hit me back there!” The guy stops, rolls down his window, and apologizes. Well, first he starts to deny it, then apologizes, “if that’s really what I did.” Jerry thanks him and the guy drives away. Jerry and I ride along quietly for a few minutes. Then we talk about how it ended up being a positive interaction, more or less. I decide not to chastize Jerry for getting in the face of some big-city stranger who drives aggressively, possibly with violent tendencies. I likewise decide not to remind him that he is wearing a helmet and a shower cap, and does not look particularly scary, himself.