Rides We Like: Feeling the Effects of a Hurricane
(2016) In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a World War III air battle occurs over the island of stranded school children. Unbeknownst to the children, the battle has a casualty, and he floats down still in his pilot attire. The deceased pilot lands amongst a fragile situation where children keep asking what the adults would do in the same situation but cannot recognize the whole world is fighting, including them.
The volatile air above the island was much like the ride today. Two air masses, the northern arm of Hurricane Matthew, and a high pressure were colliding over the mid Atlantic region creating remarkable heavy winds. The route was one of the old standby routes. I certainly prepared myself for the southern to northern portion with a potential thirty mile per hour headwind.
The morning was full of rain. The hurricane’s front tried to push inland at an altitude thousands of feet overhead. It appeared the Sunday ride would be written off. Another pot of coffee would be put, and the books would come out. Yet the rain turned to clouds. The clouds turned to wind. The wind moved the clouds out, and the sun began to win out as the air battle went to a beautiful fall afternoon.
The battle would turn inward as the opening miles were clipped away rather comfortably. Must’ve been a tailwind. However, the dreaded turn north created a rumble in the ears. The sounds of the bike were whisked away by the headwind. Trees, not yet discolored by fall, were bending to the lift of thousands of leaves still in full flag. There were twigs in the road, a branch here and there, and some oak or walnut tree leaves that had started their circadian rhythm as early as they normally do.
Lately it seems this area depends on an autumn tropical storm. We’ve had dry summers that feature little rain. There are heavy storms that move through the area with fury and downpours only to leave a calm wake. The rain amounts to nothing. The trees, desperate for a drink, begin to turn their leaves brown. Weatherman will say, “Prepare for a blunted fall, with only the hope of intense precipitation to facilitate color.” For our unique placement on the globe, we make an industry out of fall. Woolie caterpillars even made their hurried rush across the roads giving a hint to what winter has in store for us.
Each turn saw varied conditions. The wind swirled creating moments of every direction of wind. It was fascinating to watch. Tree-lined areas and buildings were troughs that couldn’t be trusted. Flags adorned in these areas looked as if they were indecisive as to the wind’s direction. But I knew what was to come.
The next turn came with a major headwind and little protection. The road split a cornfield. There was nowhere to go with such remarkable resistance. The sunlight made a false sense of security. Looking out a window would make anyone think it was just a lovely fall day. Being in the wind by bike meant it was a lovely fall day with a temporary headwind. The exciting part of the ride slowly revealed itself: the turn into the tailwind.
It’s the reason to go out in these conditions. The rider can hear himself humming in tailwinds. All those bike sounds came back. The advanced sound of a rare car was perceived soon than usual. There’s always the super human feeling of rolling along with a tailwind. “This is more like my normal riding style,” or, “It’s like my race season legs have joined the ride,” or, “I am killing it up this hill!” It’s a brief study of what we’d all like our better days to average.
The return back to the house showed a slower-than-average ride. All that headwind and crosswind took its toll. The battle overhead, thousands of feet above moved eastward. Those same plotlines were now taking place over northern New Jersey and Manhattan. The Beast From the Air never actually landed around here. The sun won out to set the tone for the quintessential fall ride.
And I didn’t even need to break down crying in the presence of a Naval officer.