“You are my hero” said the cop

So I’ve got Battenkill in a week, and I have very few miles in my legs. Getting out today was imperative. The problem was the crazy huge rain storm we’ve been experiencing. High winds, pouring rain, lightning, thunder, flooding from both the rain on top of the snow melt and saturated ground. It’s quite biblical overall.

But there’s gonna be a lot of riding to do next week and taking two weeks off seemed like the wrong approach. I prepped last night, getting crud catcher and fender in place. I made sure there was a rear light and that headlamps were charged. I found clothes that seemed like they’d keep me warm and somewhat dry.

In what appeared to be a break in the weather I set out on the Moots. The break lasted about five minutes. But no matter, I was prepared (Ha! That was my attempt at foreshadowing). I headed off toward Harriman for the some climbing, and things were going well until the road turns toward the foothills. There’s a car parked on the side of the road, and someone standing in the middle of the road taking pictures. And the road was a mess of gravel based “sand bars” left from the flooding. I slowed and picked and my way through. And just when I thought things were cool I see the “river” that now has reclaimed the road. I looked for a shallow spot, and didn’t find much. I dismounted, found the best section I could and stepped. I got only half a boot full of water. I was thinking that I was under prepped for today’s ride at that point…

At least it wasn’t freezing out, so I shook it off and pedaled off to start the climbing. Things were good for a while and I enjoyed the lower gearing this bike provides. Some of the tributaries were class five rapids but they’re well drained and the mountain side is steep, so all was well with the roads at this point. I climbed up and over the hill, and felt like absolute crud. After cresting, things loosened up a tad, but not a lot. I start making my way around to turn for home and I’m heading down the first prolonged down grade. There’s a hiker or runner on the side of the road sittin’ on the guard rail talking to someone in a car. The car was naturally stopped in the middle of the road, and I soft pedaled to see whether this party was breaking up anytime soon. Naturally a second after I commit to going around the car they decide to move along. I grabbed two hands full of brake briefly forgetting that I have discs on the Moots. It kindly reminded me by locking up the rear wheel until I eased off… in the meantime my flashing and very bright headlamps caught the eye of the driver in his rear view, and he eased up before any real damage was done.

Out on Route 17 things were progressing apace, and I was trying to decide how hard The Transition would be. The Transition is where the cars peel off Route 17 onto I287. It’s often annoying and sometimes dangerous to continue going straight, when so many cars want to pass you on the left and then head off to the right.

Even as I was considering all this I see two marked cars with lights going. Uh oh. Sure ’nuff the road is closed. Folks are turning around or being shunted off into New Jersey. I pedaled up to the first cop, and asked “Wires down?” “Nah, road flooded, but you can ride through if you want. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll get wet?” Which was somewhat ironic considering how wet I already was, never mind the damp right foot from the river crossing. So on I pedaled hoping it wouldn’t be too bad, and enjoying the rare opportunity to ride Route 17 free of cars.

It was bad. All four lanes covered in water. I tried to sneak through near the Jersey barriers, and when the water got high enough sort of pushed my way through with the pedals evened out, still both feet and the bike got a pretty good soaking. Further up the road I see the other closure, and another swimming pool. But this time the other side was clear. I lifted the bike over the Jersey Barrier and then vaulted over (Cross skills? Who knew). Back on the bike I ride the last closed section, chatting briefly with some folks who were looking for some fishing supplies from Davis Sports. They were walking up the road in the opposite direction. Sportsmen are an interesting breed, no matter the sport. (It occurs to me that I was kinda thinking, “These crazy guys are walking half a mile up the road in order to get some stuff, and then walk back here, get in their car and go fishing somewhere in this weather? Crazy” Of course, the irony that I was out riding 30 miles on a bike never crossed my mind. Such compartmentalization keeps me chugging in the right direction…)

As I wove my way past the road flare and cars blocking the road, the cop opens his window, leans out and exclaims “You are my hero!” with a big grin on his face. I smiled, accepted the “chapeau”, and pedaled off with a wave.

Other than a few more minor river crossings, where I got more wet from the cars who couldn’t manage not to splash me, by, oh, I dunno, waiting a second for me to pass, than the water I was passing through, the rest of the trip was uneventful. By now the common mix of rain, thunder, lightning and junk in the roads caused me no concern. The headwinds were as usual, annoying, and not helping me feel any better about my riding. But you can get used to anything it seems. Alas, I had nothing but heavy legs anyway… it is what it is.

But the ride was worth it. I feel like I worked out some of the kinks. I feel a bit more mentally prepped for next week. And there’s nothing like “suffering” for one’s art. I don’t recommend it, but there’s nothing like it.

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