Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 9- Singing, I mean Riding, in the Rain

If the word of the day yesterday was wow, today it was crap. Or more specifically, oh crap, or even holy crap! It was one of the craziest, most intense, adventurous moment yet on the road.
The day began like most before, a crisp, clear, morning in the mountains. We rode out at 8:30 and headed towards Jasper National Park. About 20 minutes into our ride, in the distance I saw some large, dark clouds over to our left. It was not a good sign. Shortly thereafter the air around us changed, and I could smell the rain, and moments later the first drops began to fall.
We pulled over to the side of the road, and got into our rain suits as fast as we could. It was quite a challenge, and by the time we were all done, the rain was coming down hard, and cold too. We were in the middle of nowhere, there was nothing we could do, so we rode.
It is only the second time I have ever had to ride in the rain, and it was a challenge to say the least. It was the one and only time I have ever wished I was in a car instead of a motorcycle, and that means a lot. We pushed on through the rain for another 20 minutes or so, until we saw the lightening. A motorcycle, in the rain, in a lightening storm is not a good place to be, so we pulled over at the nearest rest stop to wait it out a bit. We weren't the only ones. Three other motorcycle riders had pulled in as well, and we were all huddled under a tiny little rest-stop bathroom awning, in the middle of Northwestern Canada. It was wild. I took the opportunity to use the hand dryer in the bathroom to dry my gloves out a bit. At this point, they and my boots were already soaked through, and we still had 100 or so miles left to go.
After about 15 minutes, the lightening had subsided and we hopped back on the bikes. Cold, and wet, we rode until we reached a town called Clearwater. We stopped at a little pastry shop that had been recommended to us by the manager at our hotel the night before. We pulled in, happy to be getting out of the rain, and even happier to be getting something warm. We mowed through samosas, beef rolls, and a variety of other delicious pastries. Hot coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea, happy people.
But it's not over yet. Of the more than 200 miles we did today, maybe 60 of them were without rain. Thanks to my rain suit, most of my body was dry. My feet, however, and my hands were cold to the bone as my boots and gloves were both soaked through. It made working the controls on the bike all the more difficult, and with the lack of visibility due to the rain, it made for some concentration heavy, heart pounding riding. Looking back now, I realize what an incredible experience it was, but a the time I can honestly say it was a very unpleasant experience. I would like to tell you about how amazing the road was, or how incredible the view was, but the truth is I just didn't see it. All I saw were the raindrops on my glasses and the road in front of me, my concentration set and fully aware and alert.
It was not all bad though, as there was a moment of sublime beauty that made the entire battle through the rain worth it. We rounded a corner, and in front of us, bathed in sunlight, was the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. It stood as a giant among giants. All around us large green mountains, and in the middle of them, a massive white mountain, covered in thick snow, its peaks hidden in the clouds. For those few moments that we rode up to and around the mountain, the sun was shining and life was golden.
We passed the mountain, and with it the sunlight. Back into the darkness we rode. It was the worst weather yet, but we rode on, determined to get we we were going. We stopped for gas about an hour or so outside of Jasper, and even found waterproof rubber gloves to replace the wet ones we were wearing. After some hot chocolate, and with dry hands, we rode the rest of the way into Jasper. When we finally pulled into the driveway of our hotel for the night, I had never been so glad to be off the road. It truly had been a grueling day, and one that I won't soon forget.
And so it goes on every journey. There are moment of darkness, and moments of light. Moments of weakness and moments of fright, but also of greatness and ecstatic delight. And without the dark, we can't appreciate the light. And without today, we can't appreciate tomorrow, so goodnight.

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