Why go out on the W&OD on a day like this? A conglomeration of mixed motives and emotions, I guess. The little weather logo on my WeatherBug® forecast page reflects the prediction of near-100° weather by showing a glowing sun, radiating heat, over barren sand and a cactus. The cactus appears to be a Giant Saguaro, so I assume the reference is to the Sonoran Desert and maybe Tuscon, places that God clearly did not intend to be inhabited by large numbers of persons dependent on cool water and air conditioning. My usual response to such an image is to reflect that I am not cut out to cycle in Sonoran conditions. And that’s based solely on weather factors, never mind the scorpions and Brown Recluse Spiders.
But today my legs were aching for a ride, the morning air seemed drier and even cooler than the 78° reading at 8:15 promised, I was oddly hankering to see how bad it would really be out there. So I suited up, threw a few extra ice cubes in my hydration pack, and went. I promised myself I would turn around if the heat got out of hand or my body responded negatively. Along the way I was even tempted to climb Hunter Station Road, the hill that had given me such problems last year that I decided to ride it rarely this summer. I was oddly attracted to climb it yesterday but resisted. Today I went for it. I tried deliberately not to push myself, to let what felt right happen, and all was well. Though all was also slow; on the steepest section I was cranking all of 5.1 mph. But of course, that’s just a number. the experience was great. It was almost as if I feared truly diabolical heat, and got nothing more that a bit of southern summer.
Summer’s hottest day
Tempts me to know sweat; I climb
Hunter Station Road.
As the ride went on I noticed that the air was not as “close” as I’d have expected. Obviously there was more sheer heat and less humidity. And when I turned around in Herndon, what little breeze there was blew from behind. I didn’t do my usual rest stop because I wanted to take full advantage of the shade. On these near-solstice summer mornings the sun rises so far to the north that there is lots of shade covering the Trail, which essentially runs southeast to northwest, well into the morning. Parts of the downhill inbound section between Sunset Valley and Hunter Mill are true “bowers,” shady almost all the time because the trees form a tunnel. (Don’t tell Dominion Power, or they’ll cut them down out of an “abundance of caution.”) More importantly, the false-flat inbound stretch from Hunter Mill to Vienna is also very shady in the early morning. Even at 10:15, between the bridge near Hunter Mill and the one near Vienna it’s covered maybe 75%-80% in the right lane, and a rider who cheats to the left gets almost 90%. But by 11:00 most of that’s gone and you’re lugging it home in full sun.
So I relished the shade, the belated onset of humidity and high heat, and got in an old favorite climb as well. Great ride!
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.