And fall it did.
Last night I fall asleep to the crashing sound of the rain. The tin roof of this motel is a loudspeaker blasting the sound of rain drops all over. Is it tin? It can't be. Whatever it is it does nothing to muzzle the sound of the rain. I sleep well though, I have clear conscience: 105 miles among the hills and under the rain comes with a reward. I wake up late because with the storm there is no point in rushing out of the door to leave Oakland. I don't move the curtains to see what the weather is like, the sound, the very same sound that lulled me to sleep last night, is still on, again, still, on, again. It is pissing down, there is no other way to put it. Stay in bed, stay still, stay warm. Forget about it. I fall further behind schedule and I don't care. I am not going to get soaked again if I can help it. I am not worried about me, I am worried about the gear and the bike. When they get wet they malfunction. That's right, don't ride in the rain today. Let's think this through. For a restless soul like me thinking doesn't come easy and waiting does not come at all. I prepare myself, even put sunscreen on, yeah right? who am I kidding? The socks are dry and...what now? There is a break in the sky. It doesn't really matter because the road looks like it's flooded, a rapid stream rolls down the hills, the hillsides are so heavy with water that the place looks like it has been injected with steroids. Oakland is busy with cars and the usual fast food chains lit up. People are alive, me too, then let's get out of here. I'm going for it. I make 10 miles west and the rain intensifies. Wait, what? It is absolutely pelting down. The earth takes a beating, I am in trouble. I find a shelter in the middle of a field but my shoes, socks and feet are totally soaked. Feet usually go first, they get wet from the rain stream that comes off my front wheel. Even if it's sunny but the road is wet my feet get soaked. Then my ass goes too. The water coming off the back wheel lashes relentlessly on my back. I am soaked and dirty, watery mud is on my skin, in my mouth, under my nails. I look around and I am in awe of the scenery. This would be beautiful in sunny weather I'm thinking. I sit on a bench under a wooden roof for at least an hour. I am tired of waiting and I ride the 4 miles to the tiny town of Terra Alta in the rain. The cars that pass me take pity on me and slow down at the moment of overtaking me to avoid creating a total shower of water and debris. The trucks don't give a damn. Am I upset? No, I am laughing. This is crazy, the rolling hills all around are covered in mist, rain and mud; the air is heavy and damp, nature is so lush that it resembles a tropical forest, temperature drops down to 61 F. I am not upset but I am cold and I am concerned about the vehicles that blast by me. Visibility is reduced and this could be dangerous, and stupid. Wait for the rain to stop for God's sake! but it won't stop, the sky is uniformly grey and when it is not, it is black. The rain won't stop. At Terra Alta I gulp down a hot vanilla latte so sweet that in a normal situation it would have given a heartburn; the warm sensation radiates from my mouth into my bloodstream and my hands and feet come alive again. I hear rumbling in the distance and the storm is raging outside. I say to myself a couple of "let's do it" and here I am on my bike in forbidding conditions. I make it to Kingwood negotiating an exhilarating descent which shoots me down the mountain for 3 unforgettable miles. When your back is against the wall, your worse fears become your strongest assets. Totally against my usual penchant, this time I love the descent; I hit 39 mph blasting my way into a wall of water which opens before me like the Red Sea bowing in front of Moses. Rain drops hit my sunglasses and bounce off in an instant before disintegrating in the cold air. My hands are ready to tap the breaks at every blind curve or unwelcoming site. My arms tense up and by the end of the hill my underdeveloped triceps are sore. By the time I reach the bottom of the hill I am completely drenched but I am in an insanely happy mood. It was just amazing, let's do it again? No way. I still have a mile up before I reach the soulless town of Kingwood where I take shelter under a roof in a parking lot of a shopping mall, which is totally empty. I sit for 2 hours waiting for the rain to let up. The sky is low and dark. How long since I last saw the sun? I can't even remember. I wait and wait and finally the rain stops for just a few minutes. I have 20 miles to go before I hit Morgantown. That's where I'll stay tonight, no discussion about it. I will take the bike to the shop and dry off in a hotel. That's the plan. I take off again in a drizzle which obscures my visibility and I see about 40 feet ahead and then I have no idea where the road is going. Good enough for me. The cars and the trucks will adjust. Will they? I need to get out of this mountain. I took more rain in the last 24 hours than I did on my previous two cross-country rides combined. From Kingwood it is tough going again. However, as I approach the last real steep climb the rain stops completely and some of the dark clouds begin to disperse. I even see a faint sunlight penetrating through the clouds. The steep, rocky, coal-filled mountainsides so typical of this part of the country begin to give way to more gentle hills, rolling terrain and thick woods. The colors of the grass glow in the timid light, the rain has definitely stopped, this is good. I look west and I realize that the grind might be over. A delightful 8-mile descent spits me out of the bad weather and into the Monongahela Valley. I finally see a proper blue patch in the sky which portends sunny days. OK, let's not get carried away. I blast down the mountain again singing loudly a Murder of One by Counting Crows. Trucks speed by spitting debris all over me but it doesn't hurt. After the morning rain and yesterday's heroics I fell pretty strong now. Nothing hurts.
When I finally enter Morgantown I pump my fist because I know I have seen the back of the mountains. In town I head straight for the bike shop where the guy finds a crack in my front derailleur. Great! And the shop does not carry the part to replace it. What now? The guy is confident that it will hold. With pliers he proceeds to compress the loose ends. Some fix! We'll see, the worst that can happen is that I won't be able to shift in the small ring. I just hope the hills aren't too steep from here on out so I won;t need the low gear. Rick says they shouldn't be. I trust him.
Morgantown is a pretty university town built on the shores of the Monongahela river. The town has a funny shape as has sprung up over time along the windy river course. It is the seat of the West Virginia University and has a quite unique transport system: they call it the people mover transit system. Over narrow bridges that clasp the whole university area these cars that look like space pods speed by from building to building, connecting major university spots. These tiny cars cram in a few people, mainly students, and seem very functional. Check out Wikipedia.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is pretty good. Could it be? I am one full day behind schedule. Despite all the bad weather, I still managed to put the worst of the mountains behind. Now I am looking at 150 miles of hilly terrain before it flattens out. Long climbs are a thing of the past. If tomorrow brings sunshine I could hope for a long day. I am going for it. My alarm goes off at 5:30.
At about 9:30 AM the rain stops and I leave Oakland, this is 2nd st
Highway 7 takes me right into the rain
The rain-soaked hillsides along highway 7
Sunglasses? What for? I wonder!
Pelting down, just east of Terra Alta
I stay out of the rain for at least 20 minutes, drinking a hot vanilla latte at Terra Alta
The road to Kingwood, it takes right into another rainfall
The road to...nowhere
The hills around highway 7
At Kingwood the rain forces me to stop again
All my clothes are soaked again and watching the rain ain't no fun
After 2 hours of waiting around the rain stops and I even see a patch of blue sky, this is the valley looking west toward Morgantown
Past Reedsville highway 7 drops me down to the Monongahela Valley
A coal mine along highway 7
The rain again and I take cover wherever I can
A very kind man lets me take shelter in his garage. He even gives me a clean towel to dry off. The hospitality of the locals here is amazing
This is the University of West Virginia Police bld
The WVU campus is as big as a small town, this is the Science bld
The El of the transit system through the WVU campus
What's next? the Midwest..