It’s mid-summer and a gelatinous atmosphere blocks my progress as I wheel my bike out to the street. Looking upward, a clear sky greets me, marred only by a smattering of puffy white wisps of cotton. Through torrid heat, I’ll ride before the rain comes.
Streams of sweat run down my back, a soggy shirt clings to my torso, and matted hair grows viscid and itchy. Spandex’s compression and heat retained in flexile fabric makes my lower body feel like a pressure cooker.
As I ride along, more slowly than usual, lungs thick and sluggish from wet air, I feel the first glimmer of an impending storm in the form of a gust out of nowhere. Before long, swirling wind encases my arms in a shivery soft shroud, mildly melting beads of sweat and cooling parched skin.
Growing gusts ventilate my path, taking the edge off of an otherwise grueling ride. Lost in thought, I’m startled to attention by the sight of a gray mass floating in the distant sky. It is too dark for a fair weather cloud, instinct tells me.
Senses on high alert, I smell the presence of not-yet-fallen rain. Somewhere, sometime soon, a tempest will blow through.
I haven’t ridden far enough yet, so I scan the horizon searching for moving murkiness giving direction to the storm. I will chart my course away from welling clouds into the clear, where the sky will allow riding with full vision and solid brakes.
Aimed towards the blue, I spot impressionistic pink patches scattered across one edge of the sky, with hollow white pockets planted within a swathe of amorphous darkness on the other.
Before my eyes, mounds of dank clouds begin building vertically. With each successive story, the ill-defined tower eliminates another ray of light. Riding through premature dusk, I recall today’s forecast, foretelling of a storm at midnight. But the five o’clock sky tells a different story.
Just one more mile, I estimate, I can ride before cutting it too close. Despite the risk, it’s too early to stop. Any less of a ride will leave me half spent and half full of unspent energy.
Too soon, the sky fills with a foreboding mass of fury. Angry clouds mean nothing other than thunder and lightning and no place to hide.
On a hill, with an open field beside me, I’ll be a prime target for nature’s wrath. Without hesitation, I head back along that timeworn path I can ride in my sleep.
Standing on my pedals, I crank it up a notch, needing luck to beat this storm. I can’t tell which is pumping more furiously, legs or lungs, still, I will not be stopped.
When winds whip up, an inkling of panic appears. Nearly struck by lightning once, I can’t forget the tingling electricity crawling up my legs, sending prickly shocks through my body.
This thought in mind, I increase my speed. Though hurried, I’m surprised by precise shifting, given panic’s predictable descent into disorder. Perfect orchestration, I know, will beat gloomy clouds to my home.
Storm clouds mockingly lick at my back, but defiantly I ride with the wind.
Only a mile to go, light flecks of weightless wetness, visible only in the beam of a headlight, tease me. I am so close. Yet, I could be too far. A droplet strikes fading sunglasses, leaving a blurry streak to blind one eye.
Defeat will not come easily. I dig in, applying such force to the pedals as they have never seen before, in one last effort to cross the finish line first.
An unleashed cloud sends driving drops of mammoth rain to beat on my back. None too soon, I come to a screeching halt, dismount while leaping onto the porch in one fell swoop, just as the first rumble of thunder shakes the sky – and without missing a beat – shoot through the back door to safety. Victory is mine.