Friday, May 26, 2017

Upon a bright and breezy day
When May was young, ah pleasant May! (Christina Rossetti)

This was Tuesday -- a perfect "bright and breezy" May day. The flowers along the shared pathway on 100 Avenue not only look, but smell, heavenly. It was 28 degrees, with not a cloud in the sky.

And then it was Wednesday. Of course the forecast had been posted a couple of days in advance: heavy rain and strong winds. And this time, the forecast was spot-on. The day began with rain and a brisk northerly wind. I drove into the city, to my usual parking spot, and after I'd parked the car, I briefly wondered if I should have driven a bit further in and parked, say, in Crestwood, or even Glenora. But I had already taken the keys out of the ignition and I didn't feel like starting the car again and re-entering the stream of traffic, so I stayed where I was.

My ride downtown actually wasn't too bad until I hit the second shared pathway  -- the new one on 102 Avenue that the city is so proud of. At this point I usually just ride on the road. It is faster and I don't have to worry about those little yield signs and the bumping that occurs at each intersection. But because of the wind and occasional large puddles, I decided to use the pathway. That was a mistake. At each intersection, not only did I have to endure those bumps where the sidewalk meets the pavement, but I also had to ride through big deep puddles. Result: my shoes got wet. Even that might have been okay, however; but when I was crossing the bridge (yes, the one where cyclists are told to dismount) a car passed and splashed me royally. Now my shoes were not wet; they were sodden. I gave up trying to avoid puddles and simply tried to ride as fast as I could the rest of the way. (Fortunately I keep a pair of dry shoes at work.)

After work, I was offered a ride. "No, thanks," I said. "I don't mind riding in the rain."  Ah yes, but what about 100 km/hour winds?

I set off, wearing my still-soaking shoes from the morning. Again, I didn't worry about pointless things like avoiding puddles; I just pedaled like mad, trying to make the best time possible riding into the wind. When I saw the first downed branch, the thought crossed my mind -- I sure hope one of those doesn't come down on me. But by that time I was committed, so I kept going. 

When I reached 102 Avenue, I briefly considered taking a bus. But then I remembered the reaction of Edmonton bus drivers to the sight of a bicycle, and I decided I would rather bear the wrath of the storm than the wrath of a bus driver. I once again opted for the shared pathway and persevered, sparing but quick glances for an uprooted tree or two and multitudinous branches. 

As I approached the point where 102 Avenue meets Stony Plain Road, I saw the most disturbing sight yet -- a felled 4-meter tall evergreen, completely covering the sidewalk and lying on top of a power line. There was even a little box with some wires and stuff hanging out. I steered clear of that and continued on my way, fighting the crosswinds which were threatening to cast me into the traffic lanes. Fortunately, traffic was light, so I was able to make my way unhindered to the bridge that leads to 148 Street. From there, it is about 2.5 km to my parking spot, mostly on the flower-lined shared pathway, so I felt safe enough and finally arrived at my van, drenched but otherwise unharmed. 

A 7.8 km bike ride in a once-every-decade storm!

Incidentally, this time as I rode past the flowering trees, the line of poetry that came to mind was from a Shakespearean sonnet: "Rough winds doth shake the darling buds of May..."  Those buds were shaking big time!

I'm not sure that riding in that type of a storm was the smartest thing to do, but I don't regret it. My only regret is that I didn't have my GoPro operating.

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