In Cranbrook, the sun came up at 6 AM. Environment Canada, on TV, confirmed the pre-ride weather report blues. Front coming in, clouds building up, rain predicted for the mountains. Meanwhile, I wandered down to the dining room at our Best Western. Great! They've got oatmeal. I order up a batch, with toast and OJ.
In comes the bowl of boiled oats - topped by ... bananas? Sheesh! The one fruit I'm allergic to. Back it goes, returning with ... ahh, strawberries. That's better. I wolf it down, and head out into town, looking for and ATM (snag some Canadian cash), a liquor store (Steve wants beer), and a battery for my watch (no luck there. Back into the dining room, to meet up with Steve, Fred, and Andy, the intrepid SAG driver. We exchange anxieties ( or at least listen to Steve's) about the upcoming ride, and soon head out towards Brisco. But not without a last minute stop in Radium, for chips, beer, and post cards.
At last, the put-in at Brisco General store. Gear up, gird the loins, fuel with muffins and yogurt, greetings to all the old and new friends, re-pack and prep for rain with a few drops falling down. The fifteen miles to Radium, down the upper Columbia (yes, that Columbia), brings warm fading overcast, and a hint of sun. I drop my rain boots and jacket off with Mike in the Saab convertible.
We grind up the 11% grade to the hot springs, and stop to re-group. Before we get a chance to start up the hill again, HEY, WHAT'S THIS? REAL rain, falling in buckets. Mike's nowhere to be found so I start up the hill. Luckily, he's right behind, and I cover up as best I can. The higher we go, the wetter we get. Never have I ridden in such heavy, searing rain. Near the top, I put on everything I've got, and slowly grind towards the top of the 2000' climb.
Once there, I come upon Pat and Jim. She's found shelter in a spacious outhouse.
"How do you like my warming hut?" She smiles through her shivers.
"Pat, it's an outhouse."
"Shhh ... right now, it's the best thing about this ride."
"Jim's right behind. Just wait in here until it stops raining - you're starting to shiver"
I headed down. With no uphill grind to warm me up, I, too, started to shiver. I had my gore tex pants over my bike shorts and leggings; my sleeves and bike shirt, covered by a gore tex jacket with the hood up; and neoprene booties. Even so, I was drenched to the skin. Funny thing about skin - it's basically waterproof - keeps water in, keeps water out. "Just a free shower" I mumbled to myself.
At the bottom of the hill, I meet up with some other stragglers at a picnic spot. One of the sag drivers heads back up to find Pat and Jim, just as they roll in. Pat's not only shivering, she's got purple lips. "Into the truck until you stop shivering - hypothermia's not a pretty thing." This time, she listens.
From there, it's a six mile ride along the shore of the lazy Kootenay, slowly rising to the next pass - tomorrow's toil. I ride by open mountain parks, and stands of spruce. I imagine the peaks above the valley, hidden now by the super saturated clouds dripping sponge-like over me. Crook Meadows Rd at last.
A fire! While the rain pours down, we huddle in the group camp shelter, devising ever more complex clothes lines and drying our bodies while we grouse about the weather and enjoy the potato soup Louise and Helen have cooked up.
For dinner, we all dress up, and down the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and Joan's birthday cake, all of which magically appear from the stock room behind the shelter.
For the rest of the evening, we marvel at the DRY AIR which has miraculously appeared. I arrange all the shoes under the fire, neatly place the socks on the line above, and try to stay up past the last light, which comes around 11:30 (or is it 10:30) - we're in Canadian mountain time now, and it might as well be past the arctic circle for all I know.
Total miles: 40, 2900 vertical feet, 56f/47f, rain.