100 degrees(f). Say it out loud with me.
"One Hundred degrees!"
This was the last temperature announced on the radio. I am contemplative as I stand in the parking lot. It is time to go. 90 miles. Freeway. Commuter fishes with the perils and delays inherent in the species. I know it will get hotter. It is not yet time for the hottest part of the day. That will come an hour or so later. The National Weather Service recap the next day will prove me right. Official high at Portland Airport: 102. 106 at Tigard. 103 at Salem. I must pass through all of them on my route.
A breeze blows past me as I stand and ponder. I am wrong to call it a breeze. It is a hot and angry wind. As the air moves it picks up heat from things roasting in the harsh sun. Black asphalt has been storing fire all day. Cars baking in the sun give off heat visible as waves in the air. The wind gleefully picks these up like little torches and uses them as weapons. It wants to burn my skin and suck precious moisture out of my material body.
I shrug off the wind and consider my options. My gaze goes to Sophie and then to the little car. Soon my eyes are dragged back to the bike. Air-conditioned comfort or a hot ride? Of course, if given the choice I will ride. It is what I am, it is what I do. It is not Sophie I am worried about. I would be concerned about leaving her alone overnight. There is no secure place for her. Sophie looks willing to venture out into the heat. The burning wind and hot pavement will not bother her.
The opposite, actually. Warm pavement means warm tires. Traction will be increased. It is a shame that our straight-line ride will not require the extra stickiness in the tires. The wind that burns my face is still cooler than the hot fluids that will circulate through Sophie's core. It will be up to me to keep plentiful volume flowing through Sophie's radiator. I do consider the possibility of one of the frequent traffic jams. Will the little fan be enough to get her through? I have great faith in Honda's engineers. It will be ok.
It is me that I am most concerned about. I have been here before. Riding in temperatures over a hundred degrees is not a new experience. It is precisely this fact that makes me hesitate. Why am I showing this weakness? I have battled the Weather Gods in the worst winter conditions they can provide. This should be no different. I am still a warrior. Perhaps the difference is in the sunshine versus the cold. When it is cold and bleak one's mind immediately begins to prepare for battle. These sunny days are the ultimate diversion tactic.
Warm days start out promising. It is so refreshing to ride in the crisp, clean air of the mornings. One's mind embraces this type of day as perfect for riding. When the rider spends the day in a cool office there is no trigger for a battle alarm. The mind continues to regard this day as one very fit for riding. It is only upon emerging from the cave that the mind is confronted by the harshness of the adversary. There is little time to mentally prepare for the battle. This sudden confrontation can make a rider consider retreat. It is like being rushed by the enemy.
My gear feels so heavy and hot already as I pull it on. When I don the full face helmet and pull the visor down I feel like I will suffocate. Jacket and riding pants block the burning of the direct sun. There is a price to be paid in return. My own body heat now has nowhere to go. I am hot-blooded to begin with. Why am I doing this? It is so tempting to ride in pants and short sleeved shirt. Why should I suffer the heat to wear the gear? Why is it so important to me to do what I consider to be the "right thing"?
I know the arguments for wearing the gear. Riders can crash anytime in any weather. That's why things are called "accidents" isn't it? Whatever you brought to the party is what you dance with. There is no chance to hit the "pause" button so we can suit up and try it again. Cold or hot, crashes do damage to the body. Good gear can prevent or minimize these injuries. Heat dehydration can affect one's ability to make good decisions and remain smooth. My ride will be long enough and the weather hot enough that this could well be a factor. This would not be a good mix in heavy freeway traffic. Still, it is SO hot!
Why do I know the arguments so well? 25 to 30 times a year I present these arguments to my classes. Most classes have 24 students. If I teach 25 classes I have presented these arguments to 600 students. I am becoming well known in the community of riders in the areas I frequent. The answer to the question of "why?" is personal credibility and integrity. How would I answer a student who wanted to know why I said one thing and was doing another? There might be answers I could stammer out. I am afraid that if a student started questioning the validity of one thing I taught them they would question others. The carefully built foundation could begin to crumble with bad results. I am compelled to "walk the talk".
Besides, I personally believe in gear. All the gear, all the time. It is a very hot ride. Roadcrafter jackets and pants are built wonderfully for venting. No matter how much fiery air passes through, no cooling happens. My misery is somewhat compounded by the fact that every rider I see is in jeans and a T-shirt. The only exceptions are a kid on a Katana who is in shorts and an older man who has a leather jacket on. I feel like a man who wears a fur coat to the beach. Everyone else is in light swim wear. Only he understands why he wears the coat.
We arrive home safely. Sophie appears none the worse for wear. I am soaked under my 'Stich. It was worth it. Addictions require frequent fixes. True, there was suffering. I take comfort, no, I savor the victory. Seeing all the commuters stuffed in their boxes with the windows rolled up reminds me of why I do this in the first place. I chose to suffer discomfort as the price of maintaining my independence. Wearing all the gear probably made the other riders shake their heads at me. It does not matter. My choices stated who I was and what I believe in. I am still a Road Warrior.
Miles and smiles