In an ongoing effort to get my friend Hondo all trained up for the Arrowhead 135, I am sometimes obligated to ride my bicycle in adverse conditions. A past Saturday was one of those days. In an act of full disclosure, I will even add that I left my partner a message on his fancy landline phone requesting that we postpone the effort for the following day's weather appeared to be much more favorable. In reality it was a test of the DBD (Death Before Dishonor) code and Hondo passed. He ignored my message and showed up at the designated meeting place. The morning was dark, cold and a light mist was already laying heavy on our surroundings.
Our initial salutations included stories of Hondo's short commute to the secret location. It seems that in a mere four miles he had one flat and an interview with a Police Officer. I shrugged off his stories as the lies of a simple man. He went on to mock my "rain gear", stating that he didn't need rain gear and that I looked like a highway worker. Humiliated, I suggested we commence with the training.
A volley of insults came from behind us we began to get to the business at hand. Our route had us entering the pristine lands of Wisconsin. Sans raft we were forced to travel across the formidable Bong bridge. A monstrosity of sorts, this engineering feat of mankind sits high above the St. Louis River and receives countless blows from the great Gitchie Gummee. We gave each other concerned glances as we rose from our saddles upon entering the pedestrian passage that would lead to Wisconsin. Soon we were forced into our drops as the hurricane-force winds and sleet battered us, threatening to pick us and our little pedal bikes up and over the side. While not one for heights, I dared to steal a glance to the waters below. Unsettling to say the least. I've looked Mother Nature in the eye before, but never high upon a man-made structure exposed to winds that had hundreds of miles of unimpeded momentum behind them. A knot formed in my bowels.
Snaking our way through the industrial hamlet of Superior, Wisconsin we finally found our gravel. This corridor/snowmobile highway would serve as our "out and back". Immediately, Hondo elected to ride on the hard-packed side of the path forcing me to toil in the loose sand. So go the bonds of friendship formed in the light of the DBD.
The steady drizzle turned to a steady rain, which then evolved into a hard-driving weather "event". It seemed that the rain drops had some weight to them, as if they were turning that corner, wanting to become frozen BB's.
Our return through Superior was concerning as things were now flat out stormy. I noted the performance of my new "mud flap" and how the water was pouring off it. I called out to Hondo, "Check out my mud flap! Do you wish you had fenders right now? Do you wish you had rain gear?". I only heard a faint muttering from behind me. "My God, he's got to be soaked to the bone by now. How is he doing this?", I thought. Passing by a bank, the temperature reading notified us of our current state, 37 degrees. It was at this point that I turned to my training partner and flatly stated, "You're about six degrees away from a really bad day."
We went on to ponder the reality of our existence. six degrees Fahrenheit separated us from a very dangerous situation. Was this "living on the edge"? Was it "adventure"? Some would say it was "stupidity". We called it "fun".
Hondo died a little on this day, but I'm pretty sure he's got enough life left in him for all of us.