11 August 2016

The Heat Wave I Escaped; What I Couldn't

The day I got to Paris, it was hot and humid.  At least, it was hot by Paris standards--or it seemed so because I wasn't expecting it.  But for the rest of my trip, the weather was mild to pleasantly warm.  The rain waited until I wasn't riding because, well, I made it wait.  (You didn't know I had such powers, did you?  I can do all sorts of things just by twitching my nose! ;-)) Thus, I had lots of nice weather for cycling, walking and picnicking along the Seine when I wasn't visiting museums and friends.

When I got back, my friend Millie--who takes care of my cats--told me I'd "dodged a bullet", if you will.  "You missed the worst heat wave," she informed me.  So, in addition to reveling in the good time I had during my trip, I counted my blessings:  I was glad not to experience temperatures high enough to melt lycra.  

I got to thinking about the first trip I took across the Atlantic:  the one in which I rode for three months in England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and back into France before deciding to stay there.  I took that trip during the summer of 1980, which was said to be the coolest and rainiest for at least a generation in most of Europe. (The weather aggravated the tendinitis in Bernard Hinault's knee and caused him to withdraw from that year's Tour de France after the twelfth stage.)  I didn't mind:  the cycling was pleasant; so were a lot of other things.  On the other hand, that summer was one of the hottest on record in much of North America, including New York and New Jersey.  And, from what I heard and read, the heat and humidity continued until October that year.

Two decades later, I spent a month cycling in France and Spain.  Once again, I "dodged" an extended heat wave in New York.  To be sure, I experienced a couple of hot days during my trip, but none like the ones that were baking the Big Apple that year.  When I returned, people told me how they sweltered on the city's concrete and asphalt; I have to admit that I felt a kind of guilty pleasure, as if I were a kid who'd just had ice cream when she wasn't supposed to.

When I got home from that tour, about a month of summer remained.  As I recall, we didn't have any really hot weather--or much rain-- for the rest of that year.  I rode a lot, long and fast and often, as far as I could from what I'd escaped--or, perhaps, merely avoided.  I was "safe"-- at least for another year, until my next trip, which would be the last I'd take in the life I'd led up to that time.  Of course, I didn't know--couldn't have known--that.

Cycling Great Allegheny Passage, here entering the 3,294 foot Big Savage Tunnel. Liked how cool it was on a very hot day and also it is lit.:

This year, going away allowed me to "dodge" one "bullet", if you will. But not another:  today the temperature reached 33C (92F) and, according to weather forecasts, will increase by a degree or two every day until Sunday.  And, as the temperature is rising, so is the humidity.

I have to admit:  I punked out today.  I didn't go for a ride, except to the college where I teach, about 10 kilometers from my apartment.  OK, I got on my bike and pedaled, but it doesn't count as a real ride, does it?  

Was my old self asking that question?  Who says every ride has to be an escape or a dodge--or that it has to be ridden at the speed, or with the intensity, of one that will never be done again?

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