Nathan's column: Taking shelter from the storm
The popular saying about weather in Minnesota is that if you don't like what you've got, you just have to wait 15 minutes for something different to come along.
I suspect this is actually a saying most places, weather being what it is. You're no more likely to get a sudden rainstorm in Stillwater, Minn. than you are in Stillwater, Okla. There probably will just be more antiques to get wet.
It's the simple reality of living on a planet with an atmosphere, but it can be an issue when you're on a bicycle. I had that fact driven home in hard, pelting, partially blinding form on my ride home a few of weeks ago.
I had checked the weather before I left. It wasn't supposed to rain until the next night. And when I started riding home it was great. The wind was at my back most of the way, which certainly helps. I was making good time and feeling happy.
Then I saw the clouds. They hung low and dark somewhere over Mendota Heights. I thought I could see the haze of rain. I started to ride a little faster, hoping I could cut the angle and beat the rain home.
Appar-ently I couldn't.
I was about 10 miles from home when the first raindrops started to hit me, but even then it wasn't so bad. A bit of drizzle. A cooling mist. Like one of those foggers NFL teams use to keep cool in the middle of August, only supersized and with less chance an overweight dude with some weird toe fungus will set next to you. Then it started to rain harder, and it was less like a fogger than a garden hose. Then a pressure washer. And then I was pretty much just hoping I could keep my bike moving in a straight line while tracking the curves of the road as best I could through squinted eyes. The wind that had been so helpful just a few minutes before seemed determined to blow me into the ditch, or into the middle of the road, or just over onto my side. I worried briefly about the possibility of a car coming up behind me, dealing with its own visibility issues. If there were any other drivers on the road, though, they were apparently smart enough to pull off and wait for the storm to clear.
Eventually, I had to take shelter under a bridge, along with a few other bikers and a couple of rollerbladers who appeared just as surprised as I was. Also, wet. They were all pretty wet.
It didn't last long. It probably took less than five minutes for the storm to pass. The sun came back out. The breeze calmed itself back down to gentle gusts and I finished my ride. Between the bridge and home I was treated to a brilliant rainbow, no doubt the subject of 47,000 lousy Instagram photos that night.
In the end, it wasn't a bad experience. It was exhilarating riding through a nearly zero-visibility downpour, knowing there was shelter ahead, such as it was, and as eager for it to show up as a Mad Men character is for a glass of Scotch.
And, of course, the bad weather passed.
I didn't even have to wait 15 minutes.