Live and learn.
After cycling all day on the C&O Canal Towpath last week, it turns out that the last thing I needed to worry about was my fitness level.
Rather, I should have paid more attention to the weather.
It rained all day.
It began coming down from the moment we left our starting point, the building where I work in downtown Washington, D.C.
It rained as we cycled through Georgetown, where we got a little lost trying to pick-up the towpath and I almost got mowed down by a big delivery truck.
And, it rained long past the time we shivered ourselves to sleep at the lockhouse we rented some 50 butt-busting miles later.
Sometimes it came down as a bearable drizzle. At other times, it splashed down on our heads in big pregnant drops.
It rained despite assurances from one of my cronies when we were in the planning stages that the day we settled on is always “a beautiful day.”
Except, apparently, when you go on a cycling trip.
It was not only wet but all that rain made it seem that much colder. So cold, that when we stopped from time to time, my teeth started to chatter. One fellow who briefly rode along with us suggested he just might spend the night in one of the Jiffy Johns that are stationed every so often along the towpath.
“It’s the warmest place, right now,” he joked as he emerged from one after changing into a dry shirt. From then on, every time we passed a Jiffy John, I seriously considered curling up in it. I never did, but only because I couldn’t get past the heat source.
Despite feeling like we should have worn parkas and rowed a boat up the towpath instead of pedaling bicycles, we never really lost our good humor. Not even when a 20-something kid out for a jog on the towpath stormed passed us as we neared our accommodations for the night.
He was running so fast he was kicking up mud in his wake, making me feel like the 97-pound weakling in the back of old comic books. He’s the one who gets sand kicked in his face.
“That’s … not … good,” one of my cronies deadpanned as we slogged along on our bicycles. It was even more embarrassing when you consider the kid caught up with us after having greeted us 20 minutes or so before going in the opposite direction.
The constant rain should have made my first overnight cycling trip miserable. But, in fact, the adversity made it memorable.
I would only change one thing.
It’s an ointment cyclists use to help make a long day of straddling a slim bicycle saddle more bearable. If I had to do our ride again, I would remember to bring some along.
Ask my towpath cronies. I lamented our lack of butt butter for most of the 50 miles we rode on the first day. It was even more urgent when we got up the next morning. My butt really had been rode hard and put up wet and I still had some 25 miles more to ride to reach my goal at Shepherdstown.
Needless to say, those were some ginger miles. My backside was so tender, I pedaled standing up a lot. At least our second day on the towpath brought out some sunshine.
More serious cyclists may scoff, but all told, I rode some 77 miles, the longest distance this out-of-shape, middle-aged dad has ever ridden on a bike.
However, we left more than one-hundred miles undone. I’m hoping to tackle the Shepherdstown to Cumberland stretch later this summer.
Once plans come together, I’ll be keeping an eye on the weather. While a little rain won’t scare me, you can bet I won’t forget the butt butter, again.