Sunday, April 19, 2009

Singing in the rain: memories of Gaspé 2003

(The Big Wild is hosting a contest 'Singing in the Rain' contest to celebrate outdoor activities enhanced (?) by rain. This recalled one of my wet cycling adventures.)

I was worried when I signed up for an August 2003 week-long trip of cycling 700km over the hilly terrain of the Gaspésie, along with 2000 other cyclists. It was going to be my first time cycling this much distance day after day, so I trained very hard in the prior months. Almost as anxiety-provoking, it would also be my first time camping.

Everything went well - beyond my wildest expectations. My legs were well prepared and I enjoyed pedalling through the beautiful, though sometimes challenging, terrain. Camping - with a borrowed tent and borrowed camping mattress - was fine too, and I slept well each night. The biggest surprise was getting used to showering in ice-cold water every day; our campsites weren't up to the task of providing hot water to 2000 people.

About half way through the week, though, it started to rain; and then it rained for about 30 hours non-stop, with the only variations being how heavy it might rain and how hard the wind might blow. So after cycling that first day of rain, I arrived at our schoolground campsite, body soaked and spirits chilled. I struggled to put up my tent in the heavy rain; the strong wind was loud enough to mask the chattering of my teeth; but eventually I got the tent up. Cold, gritty, and in a foul mood, I sought warmth and dry refuge inside the school, but I was too distracted by my anger even to want to take advantage of the hot water that, at the point, was still flowing in the shower stalls. I hung out for a while, warmed up a bit, pretended to be dry, regained my presence of mind, and noticed the organisers were converting rooms inside the school into emergency dormitories. The spaces were being claimed quickly by dispirited cyclists. I planned to transfer to the dormitory, so I returned to my tent to take it down, expecting to find a soaking mess.

But something wonderful happened. My tent was dry in mid-afternoon, it was still dry after supper, and it stayed dry all night. Some other tents blew down in the wind in the middle of the night. Some other tents leaked. Some others spent the night inside shared close quarters with hundreds of snorers. It would be another day before I saw blue sky even intermittently, but that night in my tent, I was dry and cozy as a symphony of wind, rain, and flapping nylon sang me to sleep.

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