Rain. An all day rain. It started before I even left the motel in Jackson, Minnesota. Gray skies can be trouble on a bike. I put on my mountaineering pants and wrapped my saddlebags and backpack in thick black trash bags. I'd brought a handful of them when I left home last winter, and I'd found more than one occasion to be thankful of this. They were big enough to stand in, and tough as leather. The kind that will forever remind me of November days bagging leaves with my dad and brother in the backyard.
A mix of stubbornness and haste kept me from pulling on my boot covers or zipping in my jacket's liner. The small voice in the back of my mind reminded me that neither of these were really waterproof without their counterparts. I ignored it, in favor of the louder voice that shouted "All's Well!", and I took to the road.
I was completely soaked by mile ten. The rain crept insidiously into all my dry parts. It soaked first through the vent chambers in my liner-free jacket before continuing on down my back. Here it lingered, teasingly, before crawling down my pants and into my longjohns. This accommodating reservoir filled quickly and the flood escaped down my pant-leg, thwarting the Gore-tex marvel of my rainpants. In my boots it sat, the end of a twisting and evil waterfall. It pooled under my soles and slip-slopped back and forth each time I'd shift or brake.
I went on like this for 80 miles, each exit becoming more alluring as I went. Finally, I pulled off to warm and dry as best I could. The rain had finally quit and the sky ahead had a slight tinge of clarity in it. I warmed up with hot tea and consulted the faded map that was pinned on the gas station wall. A wizard-bearded man pulled up in a red Jeep, nearly falling out of the side as it came to a stop. He shuffled in and began arguing softly with the register girl. He was trying to find his way back to Arizona without the help of a map (or much sense of direction).
I helped him orient as best he could ("well, it's certainly southwest of us") and gave him directions to I-35. He muttered a thanks, but nothing in his sunken black eyes conveyed much comprehension. He scratched his white-gray husky behind the ears before climbing back into his jeep and clattering back down the road.
I waved and said out loud, "Arizona's a long way, old man." I still had half a day myself before I'd be in Madison. I pulled on my wet gloves and kicked up the engine, keeping my legs close to the fins in hope of a little warmth. Back to the rain.