The other day I was cycling with a friend when it began to rain fiercely. An admitted fair weather cyclist, he suggested we stop and shelter under a canopy of trees until the downpour's intensity lessened. I explained that I thought this a bad idea. Stopping on the side of the road in chilly weather when already soaked and sweaty, we would only grow colder and more uncomfortable. Rather than shiver under those dubious trees, why not continue pedaling - say, to the nearest shop or cafe, if he really wanted out of the rain. Luckily we were close to a village, and soon enough we were enjoying the cozy interior of a filling station shop, watching the rain taper off over vending machine coffee. My companion seemed happy enough that we'd gone with my suggestion.
"Not bad," he said biting into a gooey bun. "But where do you shelter when you're out in the middle of nowhere?"
"Shelter?" It was the third time he used the word and I realised that this notion, so apparently normal to him, was not something I'd ever given much thought to. "I don't shelter from rain; I just go on with the ride!"
Fast forward to this morning, and I was ready to eat my words. Cycling alone and yes, in the middle of nowhere, I got caught in one of those flash floods - a wall of rain so dense the visibility was next to nothing; water on the road so deep I could dip my toe in on the downstroke. God knows how, but this water carried with it a rather strong current, pushing my bike in its desired direction - which was off the side of the road - as I strove to progress forward. In this manner we battled, until finally I was forced to admit defeat when a tractor came close to crossing paths with me under this waterfall, careening wildly around the bend through deep water. Cycling in these conditions wasn't safe; I had to stop until this blew over. But where?!
One interesting feature of the Irish landscape is the abundance of derelict buildings in various states of dilapidation. Like a scattered flock of unkempt, emaciated sheep, these structures pepper the landscape with an air of resignation, gray crumpling stonework peeking out of green weedy chokeholds. Their presence, while sad under ordinary circumstances, becomes a happy occasion for a cyclist in need of a bathroom stop. And so it was now that I needed shelter from the storm. Stepping over a thicket of nettles, I dragged my bike and myself through the doorless entryway and stood in the dank interior watching the road outside turn into a river. I do not have a plan for sheltering from bad weather, rarely finding myself in situations so bad I can't pedal through. But as life likes to remind us from time to time, anything can happen. Should cyclists have a strategy for this sort of thing?
Twenty minutes later it was over, and, in the feeble sunshine, I was back on my bike, contemplating this quick burst of celestial violence as I cycled home. Sticking out from under my helmet, my two soggy braids made a "thwack" sound as they hit my shoulders every time I shook my head in disbelief.