Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dry socks

Not to be outdone by the near cataclysmic storms in southwestern Wisconsin, Illinois put in a strong bid for "worst weather of the trip" during Ollie's and my passage to Davenport, IA: cold, rainy, and with a headwind that had me pedaling like mad even on the downhill stretches. (And, yes, there were hills.) I found myself tacking back and forth along the road shoulder, trying to stay off the rumble strips as I simultaneously attempted to counteract the gusts from 18-wheelers flying past like bats out of hell.

About 5 miles into the planned 45 mile trek from Clinton, IA to the next farm in Coal Valley, IL, on Thursday my shoes were soaked and I couldn't feel my toes. (Frostbite, anyone? No? Is hypothermia more your cup of tea, perhaps?) The rain jacket, 2 shirts, and 2 wool sweaters I had piled on to combat the chilly air were all at various degrees of damp disgustingness. And pants? Blech. Spandex and water are not friends. (I believe this was established earlier on in the trip.) Shoes? Socks? Forget about it. If I were a bit further south on the Mississippi, they would call it frog strangling weather. Even the ducks stayed indoors. True story.

As I pedaled, white-knuckled, along the highway, I found myself contemplating something Paige's dad told me at dinner one night when I was visiting Carlisle, PA a few months back. He was regaling me with tales of his time in the service and spoke about how in the midst of the horrible conditions that he and fellow soldiers had to endure -- I think it was in Vietnam, but I'd had a bit of wine by this point in the story, so the details are a little hazy -- he was comforted by the knowledge that at all times he retained a pair of clean, dry socks in his pack. No matter how cold, wet, or miserable things got, there was always that pair of socks to look forward to. ("Clearly this is a metaphor, ladies and gentlemen," I would point out to my students, were I still in the classroom.) It was crucial that they were there at the ready, Don confided, but if he were to wear that last pair, he wouldn't have a backup pair. (Socks as hope. Got it.) I was daydreaming about dry socks and flannel pants -- on both the literal and figurative levels -- for hours on end through the bone-chilling rain last week.

Near the end of the 5-day trek from Madison, WI, after I'd almost been run over approximately 3 times near the Quad Cities airport and had pulled over to call Hannah for alternate directions (VZ Navigator's "bicycle" setting is not to be trusted), a friendly woman with a truck offered to give me a lift the last 5 miles. An angel in a (heated) truck, to be sure. As Ian and Hannah helped me drag my sopping gear into the house, all I could think of was my dry socks. And wouldn't you know it, I found after I'd soaked in a hot bath for a spell, I had two pairs left in my pack: one to wear and one for backup. Nice. (And people think I overpack. Psh.)

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

1 comment:

  1. i'm laughing about the dry socks story. how many times did i hear that growing up? my dad would insist on NOT wearing all the layers he'd brought somewhere -- even if he was freezing -- just so he could say he had an extra layer "if he needed it." brain is a powerful thing, eh? :)


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