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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Rain, The Park, and Other Things

It has been a summer of rain, excluding June, that is, if you happen to count June as a "summer month," which we never do because it can still snow here in Lovely Ouray, in June... and technically, most of June falls in spring anyway (Ok smarty pants English Majors, try to diagram that sentence).

I went for a bike ride from Lovely Ouray to Ridgway yesterday... on a narrow, unpaved county backroad that was originally the Narrow Gauge rail line into town. I got a late start because I was on "deadline" to finish my monthly column for the Ouray Plaindealer (why do I always put that off till the last minute, sigh). But the sun was out, with only a few scattered clouds to worry about when I departed the driveway at 12:26 PM. 

Twenty eight minutes later I was sitting at a picnic table in Ridgway's Town Park, sipping Gatorade and watching skies blacken over Mount Abrams, Ouray's sentinel mountain. I thought I'd wait it out... kill some time... so I called my nephew in Pennsylvania and chatted a while. Then I saw Marathon Man Leonard, slowly strolling across the park's rain-lush lawn. I say "slowly" because he is a tad sore from just having finished 2nd in his class (tenth overall) in the Mount Sneffels Marathon... a footrace from Ridgway to Ouray, and back. I hollered him over and we chatted, watching stormy blackness swallow everything south of our perfectly sunny whereabouts.

"I gotta go." I finally said, "It's getting worse by the minute." Leonard questioned my riding into blackness, and thunder, and offered a lift in his Jeep. It had a bike rack that beckoned my Gary Fischer 29'er. But no, I wasn't going to let a little storm stop me from finishing my ride. Besides, I just retrieved my bike from the shop and it pedaled and shifted smooth as new. So Leonard volunteered to ride "clean up" back to Lovely Ouray, "In a few minutes," just in case things got dicey and I changed my mind. Off I went, into night black skies... adrenalin IV beginning to drip, drip, drip. 

It sure didn't take long. Ten minutes out of Ridgway I was sopping wet, pedaling through a blinding downpour and looking over my shoulder for a silver and black Jeep. Lightning was popping everywhere with nearly simultaneous booms of thunder. Leonard. Where the fuck are you!!!! I put my pedals to the metal, more in an effort to stay warm than anything else. God. I grabbed a Mo Jo bar from my pocket, ripped off the packaging with my teeth and wolfed it down. Calories equals warmth. Still cold. Freezing cold. 

It's pouring rain. The only things dry are my hip pockets, so I put my iPhone in the one opposite my wallet. I found out the hard way, after wading into a hot tub at Zion River RV Resort last November, Apple doesn't cover "water damage" to iPhones.

I regretted my impatience. I should have waited the storm out. Leonard! I thought about hiding under big rows of Cottonwoods that line the irrigation ditches of hay fields... maybe call Bobbie, who was home finishing up a couple of watercolor masterpieces. I came upon an old beater pickup, stopped on the opposite side of the road. Wipers must not work. The driver flashed me a peace sign and a big smile as I flew by. I took it as encouragement and pedaled on into rain-smacks that stung. A shiver of cold (or was it pride) ran up my spine. Forearms broke out with the most humungous set of goose pimples ever. This is crazy, I thought, but strangely fun.

Leonard never showed. Probably got caught up in conversation over a beer at the Colorado Boy. But that's ok. The storm finally outran me. I finished the ride in sun... steaming, sopping wet, mud splattered... thrilled to the bone to have escaped Thor's bolts, and the easy way out. 

Now here's a little treatise on Summer Rain around our town.  

Our summer rain is not like your summer rain if you are reading this from somewhere east, or even west, of Lovely Ouray. Here's the difference.

Our summer rain does not come from clouds that spout funnels... at least not the sort that touch ground and suck trailer parks into to the next county. If you see something that looks like a tornado here it's likely a "dust devil," and the only damage it will do is mess your hair or lift your toupee.

Our sumer rain has a built in clock. It rarely starts before 2:15... so you can get your daily hike in, mow the grass, maybe even paint an exterior door if you use fast a drying latex/enamel. However, you should keep in mind that Lightning generally precedes our summer rain... a "warning shot," like, "Hey Shit-for-brains, it's after noon, you're near the Continental Divide, it's about to rain! If you want to live to see it rain, watch it trail off your Goretexed body, feel it wash your face and hands, and smell the damp forest it wetted for your arousal, I suggest you get your ass off this mountain ASAP!"

Our summer rain is spotty... a six inch cloudburst on 1st Street, dry as a bone and full sun on 9th. However, you can get soaked in full sun from a little insignificant cloud way over yonder... which is totally unfair and seems damn near impossible. 

Our summer rain does not read, nor pay attention to, weather forecasts. Forecasts are for losers who really don't want to go hiking in the first place. "Oh darn, 50% chance of thunderstorms today dear... guess we better stay home and watch the game." Here's a handy rule of thumb: If the forecast says 20 percent chance of rain, Lookout! If it says 50 percent, don't worry about it. The difference between a 20 percent chance of rain and 50 percent? About an hour and 45 minutes. It's going to rain in the afternoons in summertime somewhere, just like it's always "five o'clock somewhere." Wandrin Lloyd wouldn't never let four o'clock stand in the way of his "medicinal" scotch; so don't let a forecast keep you indoors.

Our summer rain is not warm. This is not Hawaii; it's Colorado. Take your rain gear with you, even if you are just going for a short walk. People die from hypothermia in our summer rain... unless it changes to hail, in which case they are knocked unconscious from blunt force trauma, then freeze to death. Hardly a day goes by without seeing a hail-dimpled vehicle roll through town. It can happen anywhere, anytime. When our summer rain turns into "golfballs" it hurts. When it turns into "baseballs," you're a "dead man hiking." 

Our summer rain is prone to spawn flash floods... emphasis on "flash," Bozos. Every damn day some pedestrian looks both ways and still gets hit by a car. Same with flash floods. Before you cross a creek when it's black as night above you in the middle of the afternoon, remember this: That trickle of a creek may be the only way out for every drop of rain in a 10,000 acre basin. We have been known to get an inch of summer rain here in as little as 10 minutes. You do the math. If you hear anything resembling a jet, get to high ground... because there is a literal wall of water coming off the mountain. And just because you own an SUV doesn't mean you can Four Wheel your way across little flooded dips in the road. Four Wheel Drive doesn't work on our summer rain... unless you happen to be Jesus or Moses. That's different.

Our summer rain is not soft and drizzly nap time rain. No, it wakes you up... like a jetliner preparing for takeoff on your roof. You can't hear the TV; unpaved drives become a riverbeds; cell signals vanish... along with dish TV signals; mudslides and boulders block roads; raincoats are as useless as a Walmart made-in-China umbrella. Take shelter; it'll all be over in a few minutes and the sun will come right back out.

After the thunderstorm... Back in sun


  1. To smell the scent of the air, just freshened by the rain and purified by lightening... You must be out IN it. If you retreat inside, the the house, the rig, or a car... somehow... you miss it.

    The feel of the rain, the sound of the thunder, the sensation of Living... is somehow sharper and clearer for those who experience it and unexplainable to those who run for cover at every cloud and wisp of wind.

    It's like the 'adults' that can't see "spirits" any more...

    Crazy? nah... just Alive.

  2. I loved YOUR rain for all the reasons you so eloquently explain. I love that you know how lucky you are to be where you are.

  3. Geat post - talk about bringing back memories - I used to ride a lot when I lived in Glenwood. I recall one time being in the exact same type storm and being so nervous about the lightning that I ditched my bike, worrying it might be a lightning rod. This was in thick brush - I couldn't find it after the storm and had to walk home - LOL. Went back and found it later.

  4. What an enjoyable post - except I am so afraid of lightning that I would not have been able to pedal (like I ride a bike anyhow) in the rain. Glad you're safe.

  5. There's a huge black cloud spitting rain as I read this. Monsoons have been a daily part of life this past 7 weeks! Great description of your exhilarating ride. Brought back the memory of our hike in Torres Del Paine in a windy downpour. Wow to feel so alive! Cheers. Scamp

  6. PS Mark, you rode right past the place in my blog header photo. I'm sure you know it well. :)

  7. I learned about "intermittent" rain while living in Colorado and saw lots of dimpled car hoods. Glad you made it home safely, even if wet and cold.

  8. Loved this post. It was a laughing good time. A joke only the outdoorsy will understand.

  9. Parked here beside Blue Mesa Reservoir we are still seeing the same afternoon rains and wind.

    But we enjoy it from the inside of the RV and as you taught us we get our hikes done in the morning.

    Thanks for taking along on your ride. Didn't sound the least bit fun to me. I always hated getting caught in rain on the bike and bitched about it the rest of the way.

    Glad you survived.

    Heading off to Salida today.


  10. While I was Telluride, I was getting grumpy over enduring the daily afternoon rain until I watched a little boy ride his small mountain bike in the rain and splashing through the puddles. He was laughing and just enjoying the wet conditions, sounds like you were doing the same. Don't loose that inner child.

  11. CowBoy Brian,
    I think you are soooo correct. But there is a point when "too dumb to come in out of the rain" kicks in :))

    Hobo Pals,
    Thank you. I do like to remind myself (and readers) of our good fortune to land in Lovely Ouray :))

    Long time no see... and, glad you appreciated the bike ride.

    Spotted Dog,
    That thought crossed my mind, too... will my metal ride attract lightning? I've heard that an "ON" cell phone will. It's funny picturing you ditching your bike and running for cover... laying low in the bushes... and then wondering where in the hell you put it. That must have been a long walk home. Glad you went back and found it :))

    And I see that I did ride past your header photo! Thanks for pointing it out.

    Jim and Sandie,
    Thanks... If Lightning strikes I doubt I'll know it or feel it until I wake up in the hospital... if I wake up :)).

    After a dry as a bone may and june, I'm enjoying the monsoons... tho people in India would likely laugh at our afternoon thunderstorms being called such. 20 hours of rain a day? Now that's a monsoon. Enjoy your wanderings and hope to see you this winter near Madera. We'll go bird watching.

    Thanks, Gaelyn,
    I rode the same route the next day with Bobbie and Leonard... a 50% chance of rain and we never got a drop.

    Thanks... I guess it was funnier in hindsight :))

    JIm and Gayle,
    But the rain in Florida is so warm! Thanks, I'm enjoying your hikes as you travel and taking notes.
    See you down the road.

    John Q,
    Me? Lose my inner child? Not a chance :)) Why do think I took you up Skyrocket? Just to see the expression on your face :)). Thanks for commenting.


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