Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Racing tug

Date: Jan. 15
Mileage: 21.5
January mileage: 364.4
Temperature upon departure: 38

The wind advisory was extended to 3 p.m. Gusts to 50 mph, it warned. Warned of wind - but it but it felt more like taking a blunt hit to the chest. It's headwind like this that forces me to duck as low as I can on the handlebars, let my helmet take the brunt of the blast, and hope against hope that I'm still moving forward.

The highway south snakes along the narrow passage between the mountains and the channel. In high-wind high tides, the waves practically crash up on the road. Seagulls drift in with the surf. I watch them jump and flutter erratically over surging whitecaps. That's when I notice - churning several hundred yards distant over a parallel path - a barge-towing tug boat.

I mash the front shock over loose blocks of ice and notice that tug is moving the same, nodding through a surge of waves. As we heave forward, tug stays right with me, practically mimicking my every movement as we struggle together for distance. I am not about to be beaten by a ploddy tug boat. So I mash harder.

Tug falls slowly behind as I swerve around waterfall-gushing cliffs and set into a series of short climbs. As I round one bend, another unexpected gust blasts me backward. I squint into the pounding rain and hold my breath against the oxygen vacuum. And as I tilt my head against my shoulder, I see tug is right back with me again, bouncing indifferently across our parallel line.

I surge down the hill and emerge in an open river crossing. It's here that I'm exposed entirely to the full blast of wind. Through eyelids clamped shut and gasps of shortened breath, I begin to appreciate exactly what tug is fighting. Side by side we move south, buffeted by waves and wind. I no longer feel like racing ahead of tug. I take comfort in the fact tug's there.

The miles plod by as only miles can plod by. We both take a wind beating and get soaked in the process. In the end, a long downhill forces my breakaway from tug. I stop at the dead end of the road and wait on a snow berm for tug to float by. I watch it churn south, toward places I've never been; toward places I'd love to go. Someday. But right now, I have a 50 mph tailwind to race me home.


  1. And I thought that 25mph winds were bad on my way into work this morning....

  2. With your amazing determination, I'm sure you'll make it those places.


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