Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Weather and Bikes

This piece may be chosen for an anthology of cycling called BESPOKE to be published soon

In my mid twenties I was sent to southern Alberta to work for a couple of days outdoors.  New to the west, it was a surprise to me that the province had a desert like area.  Dry sand, cactus and no trees.  Being outside in the full sun with no water, no hat and no sunscreen, it was no wonder that I suffered a sunstroke - mind you, I didn't know what was wrong with me at the time.

Southern Alberta

Driving back to Edmonton, my vision was blurred.  In fact I was seeing double.  Frequently I had to pull off the highway, lurch out of the vehicle and vomit on the side of the road then stagger back to the car and continue driving.  A sharp, pounding headache made concentrating on the road difficult.  Getting home, my girlfriend made me say in bed for a couple of days when she say how terrible I looked.

39 degrees in the sun

Years later, on a bikepacking trip with my friend Roy in south eastern British Columbia, we were cycling in 39 degree temperatures with no opportunity for shade.  I began to feel woozy.  Recognizing the symptoms I told my friend that I'd have to cool off or we'd have to stop for the night right here. Our water had almost run out and we still had 10 kilometers of trail to negotiate to the next town.  One saving grace was that the route to the town meant riding off the trail and down a steep, paved road where without any trouble, you could hit 50+ kilometers and hour.  The airflow created by such speed would help to cool me off.

Once in town we pulled into an air conditioned grocery store where I grabbed a tall can of beer which I began to rub all over myself during the hour we wandered the aisles of the store. Taking my helmet off, I stroked the cold can across my damp head.  Then my arms, my shouders and my torso.  When it came time to pay at the till, I discovered that my cold beer was now a warm beer.  I debated what to do.  Should I shove the beer back into the cooler and grab a cold one off the shelf?  Who's going to know that this can had been all over my body?  (Other than the odd strand of hair caught in the pull tab).
Hand held A/C

Quick thinking pointed out to me that ethically, I had used the beer so I should pay for it.  Besides, after three more hours of climbing to our campsite, any kind of beer, warm or not was going to be welcome!

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