Great Explorations

“Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”

                                        – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

The rain battered my face and obstructed my vision.  The cold, wet, headwind mocked me and seemed to spit in my face.  Blood pumped through my legs, burning like battery acid, but I just pedaled faster – daring mother nature to try to control me.  I laughed, spat back, and pedaled harder.  Today I would defeat mother nature.  Today, I would be a god!


One hour earlier…

I’d woken up to the cool, comforting sound of rain pounding on the gutters and bathroom skylight.  There’s something so pleasant and delightful about that sound in the morning.  I think, perhaps, it’s the reminder of shelter, that man was able to combat mother nature with the use of stone and wood and glass.  Man had outsmarted nature by using nature itself – what a clever bunch we are.

After a warm shower I broke my fast with some steel cut oats as I considered my options.  Would I man up, put on my rain jacket, and hop on my bike for my daily commute to work?  Or would I wimp out and work from home?  Or would I just ask my wife for a ride in her safe, dry, comfortable automobile? As I thought about it, I pictured a memory of my son, 3 years old at the time, begging me to let him take off his shoes and shirt and go running in the rare Texas rain last Spring.  And then I remembered my childhood, when heavy rains meant barefoot tackle football after school in the large open field near my house.  And then I wondered, when does it change?  Was there something about college graduation that does this?  Is the more than a diploma that you receive at commencement, but also some sort of undefined physiological metamorphosis that weakens your immune system, rendering the exposure to rain a potentially fatal affair?

Based solely on observational evidence, I could only conclude that rain must be dangerous to adults.  With rain comes adults with umbrellas running from their car to the building doors as though hydrochloric acid fell from the skies.  With rain I see a woman running with a book held above her head to protect her face and hair, and a man parking illegally immediately adjacent to the grocery store door – just to limit his exposure.  But why is this so?  Is the water from the skies different than the water we bathe in, or that we drink?

I had to find out.  I had to know the effects of large quantities of rain on the body for an extended period of time.  It would be dangerous, I knew, but no more dangerous than Amerigo Vespucci’s first trip to the New World.  And no more dangerous than Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.  And so my mind was made up, I would be an explorer like the other brave souls before me.

I put on my favorite waterproof jacket, packed extra pants and shoes into my backpack, and set out on my way.

Exiting my garage, the immediate freezing rain and wind shocked me.  Only 100 feet from my driveway, the first doubts crept in as fast as the rain soaked through my pants and shoes.  But along with the deep chill came adrenaline and, perhaps, youth.  No, not perhaps.  I felt young!  I was a 3 year old dancing in the rain, a 12 year playing barefoot tackle football!  And so my feet began to spin faster and faster, even as the rain pounded my face harder and harder.

The rain battered my face and obstructed my vision.  The cold, wet, headwind mocked me and seemed to spit in my face.  Blood pumped through my legs, burning like battery acid, but I just pedaled faster – daring mother nature to try to control me.  I laughed, spat back, and pedaled harder.  Today I would defeat mother nature.  Today, I would be a god!

As I came upon the underside of the Woodman bridge, I eagerly envisioned a short reprieve of the rain – if for only a few seconds.  But that was not to be, because just as I entered the sheltered area, a truck whizzed by and splashed up a face-full of puddled rain.  But it didn’t matter, I again laughed, again spat back, and continued on.  Soon, my journey would be over and I realized nothing could stop me now.

10 minutes later, I pulled underneath the small shelter that housed the bike rack, locked my bike, and strolled proudly into the building.  I had done it!

Quickly, I entered the bathroom, removed my rain coat, changed my pants, socks and shoes, dried my face with a paper towel, and the journey was done.  I climbed two flights of stairs to my office, and walked in as dry as all the rest.

Only my bike and I knew the morning’s truth.

25 Responses to Great Explorations

  1. Ashley says:

    I loved reading every word, including the quote choice. It was an interesting break from your usual, educational, material.

    This passage helped remind me why I’m working towards FI and, more importantly, that the journey need not be devoid of pleasure.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

    • “more importantly, that the journey need not be devoid of pleasure.”

      More like redefining pleasure. Rather than viewing rain as a displeasure, it’s about realizing that in our youth (when we thought naturally, interdependently, and freely!) that things like rain and nature and minor discomforts were the essence of pleasure!

      And thanks for your feedback. I was beginning to think that the lack of comments was my big, public stumble into storytelling. :)

  2. Very well written. It makes me wish it were raining here (but wishing that is foolish since it’ll come true eventually!).

  3. Shawn says:

    When I left for work this morning it was dry. As I left this afternoon, I saw that it was pouring. I had already figured this out with radar on my phone and even knew it was coming late last night. As I walked into the locker room I heard several comments…..You riding that thing TODAY?? Don’t you know its RAINING? Your gonna get SOAKED! Why do you ride that thing even if its DRY? Im not as brave as you, but today that thing was my 132 MPG scooter.

    Your post is very positive and upbeat. Love it. sorry to be a little negative and rant a bit….. The majority of people I am around at work are not content to become at all uncomfortable. They cant imagine riding 17 miles on a scooter in the morning dark. Riding in the rain? They would call a cab. Far too seldom I pedal in. The comments then are similar but more drastic. Don’t you still live in XX (17 miles away)? How do you climb the hills? Aren’t you afraid of traffic?

    I very much enjoyed your eager description of your ride and can completely identify. Not much can match that feeling of adrenaline on such an adventure!

    • Shawn – If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of scooter do you ride? I’ve been thinking about eventually trading in my motorcycle, which I rarely ride, for a scooter. I’d love to upgrade from 50mpg to 135mpg.

      • Shawn says:

        I have the Yamaha Zuma 50 with fuel injection. No license or registration required in my state. I have not quite achieved the advertised 132 MPG yet but well over 100. This is probably because of the steep hills that I encounter to and from work. It does a nice job of keeping up with side street traffic getting up to 38-40 MPH on flat stretches. The scooter has a very large lockable storage compartment.

      • Vince says:

        I like this thread. It inspired me to run the numbers for regular bike riding. Assuming about 60 calories per mile while riding, you get ~475 MPG comparing the energy in a gallon of gasoline. (Used 33.41kWh * 3600) energy in a gallon of gas as looked up on wikipedia, and 60kcal (food cals) * 4.18Ws/cal.) Not too shabby! Enjoyed the post!

      • I like the Zuma. I looked at the 125cc version before I settled on my motorcycle a few years ago. When I made that decision I really needed to hit at least 60mph or I’d get run over in that Texas traffic, and at those speeds I felt like I needed the lower center of gravity that motorcycles offer over scooters.

        I think next year I’ll look at switching over to a scooter. I mean, if my friends are gonna jokingly call me a hippy anyways, I might as well fit the mold…

  4. Wow! Well written – I was entranced. Now I kind of hope it rains! :)

    A few days ago we walked home in the rain after school with two kids. It was so much fun running around and trying to catch drops on our tongues. It was also fun to get into our warm house and dry off. 😉

    I’ve come to appreciate the rain much more now that I live in Colorado.

  5. Executioner says:

    I’m always physically up for a ride in the rain, but I really dislike putting my bicycle through it. It takes a good solid week for it to get back in top shape after getting drenched. Lots of cleaning and lube required. I think if bicycles were as weatherproof as automobiles, it would be a no-brainer. But lately on rainy days I just work from home.

  6. Jacob says:

    Great story! I’ve been riding my bike to work for a couple of months now, and my one and only day of rain was a lot of fun (though it did prompt the addition of fenders due to the amazing amount of mud the ride left on my backside). Walking and bike-riding in the rain have always been favorite activities of mine, and I will never understand the general aversion to rain. I think adults forget that it’s possible (and useful!) to keep certain aspects of childhood without giving up responsibility and maturity.

    • I think adults forget that it’s possible (and useful!) to keep certain aspects of childhood without giving up responsibility and maturity.

      Very well put. Since my kids were born, I’ve repeatedly been reminded of activities and experiences I once considered fun, but had since forgotten. Playing in the rain, swimming in a natural creek, singing the same cheesy song over and over (and over) again, dancing silly, breaking rules just to see authority’s reaction, laughing until it hurts… You get the idea.

  7. Nico says:

    Very timely article, I have spent the last few weeks turning my old road bike into a commuter (fenders, straight handlebar, lights, etc). The rain hasn’t come yet but it will soon on the Wet Coast. I have been wondering whether I’ll be “man enough” to suck it up and get drenched. Tonight, from the dry warmth of my shelter, I’m super committed :) Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. I invision being on a British Frigate in the British channels during a T’storm, but instead of mandatory duty during war times and possibilities of death if you don’t do your job, you and your friends take turns crewing about to survive the storm with smiles and rain in your faces.

  9. Loved this post BNL! We get typhoons through here quite often and I can’t wait for the next one!

  10. Chris says:

    Booyah! Poetic Badassity.

  11. David W says:

    One of my favorite posts, there’s something exhilarating about biking in the rain (or snow) and you’ve captured it well.

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  13. Wow!!!! This post is really touches my heart. When I am going through the post  I enjoyed a lot. The feeling of rain is well described and it’s each  moment as well. I miss my home town because of rain. All my friends enjoying the rain by wetting under it. Thanks for memorizing those days.

  14. I enjoyed a lot while reading this blog and well written by you. Wetting under the rain is really awesome and after reading your post I memorized my childhood. Still I will enjoy that when it happens. Thanks for sharing.

  15. […] degreaser for one or two days of biking before the weather gets nice again.  The same is true for riding in the rain, although I do enjoy that on […]

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  18. Dorcas says:

    Wow Rain is like hydrochloric acid coming from the skies and is not good for adults. Isn’t it the normal water that we used for bathing or drinking but you find people running away from the rain like it would tear them apart

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