This summer may set a Washington, DC, record for misery.  So far we’ve had 55 days at or above 90°.  the record is 67, set in 1980, which I still remember as particularly insufferable.  It’s the summer, as I recall, that finally forced us to get air conditioners for the living room and the upstairs bedrooms of our little house in Falls Church.  The trees and our above-ground pool did not make the house or us cool enough.  I was a vegetable gardener then, and that summer I felt like I was in wet clothing continually from June until mid-September.

This year has featured the kind of midsummer rain I remember from the vegetable gardening era.  On hot, humid days “thermals” of hot air pockets start bubbling up, like bubbles in hot water on the stove.  Because warm air rises, they rise through the cooler air above ground level.   On the way up, they rub against the cool air and accumulate a static electricity charge.  As they cool off at higher altitude, these hot air bubbles can hold less and less water as vapor.  The water condenses into droplets, and rain clouds form; then they start raining as the drops get too big to float in the air.  The static electricity creates lightning, as positive charges of electricity seek more negatively charged objects.  Lines of thunderstorms sweep through from the Blue Ridge to the Bay.  Not an act of God; just an act of natural physics.  But insurance companies aren’t responsible, no matter if a deity or mere matter is acting in destructive ways.

In the few days between my mid-August trips I’ve found fewer days suitable for riding my bike.  Monday was OK.  And I rode, though in dripping, suffocating humidity.  On Tuesday it was 78° by 7:30 am.  Later I rode a few miles on errands in 92° heat, and in fact my triumph was finding a good bike route to Tyson-Pimmit Regional Library.  There I got a W. S. Merwin book to read on the plane to Eugene.  We all owe it to the new national Poet Laureate to be a bit more familiar with his works, after all.  But it wasn’t the workout ride I needed.  I thought, “as long as I ride tomorrow between the rain showers, I’ll be OK.”

This morning is “tomorrow.”  We got two inches of rain between midnight and sunrise.  It could not have been more humid when the rain stopped.  This afternoon we got more rain.  Tonight more rain is predicted.  All right, I know when I’m licked.  I will just have to start rebuilding my conditioning on August 25, and hope that the weather will permit more riding, that the debilitating heat will diminish, that I can be in condition to do a couple of legitimate long rides in late September.  At least we do not have a drought any longer.  The widespread flash floods and water rescues of clueless drivers indicate that rain rules.  More power to it.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.

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