Thursday, July 29, 2010

The power of a weak cold front

I have a quite a lot of sources I can consult when I want to know what the weather is going to do. My dad being one of them. He has all these theories about what the weather is going to do in Mossel Bay when the wind is blowing in Cape Town. Most of the times he is correct, because what is the difference between a few drops of rain and nothing when you are suffering from your worst drought in years. The problem is, when you are on a bike then it matters, because a few drops of rain eventually gets you soaked. Not that I am scared of rain, but as soon as it starts feeling like you are sitting with your clothes in a bucket of water, then it matters.

When I left on my gravel road trip I was aware of this approaching cold front chasing me from behind. A "weak cold front" the TV weatherman called it, with a 30% of rain. Now my dad in all his weather wisdom will tell you that 30% chance of rain is as low as 0%. When I arrived at my destination in Bredasdorp I was obviously very interested to see what the weather was going to do the next couple of days. My plan was to go to Mossel Bay, and from there up into the Langkloof and back to Cape Town. The weather prediction was still 30%, but Giel Hugo, a famous weatherman living in Bredasdorp was convinced that the next two days were going to be rather wet. I was standing in front of a huge decision. Was I going to believe that it's one of my dad's 30% chances, or do I listen to Giel the weatherman from Bredasdorp?

Early the next morning I already had my answer. I was going back home. Outside it was wet. I was not going to waste 3 days of vacation on wet weather, so I took the road back to Caledon on my way back to Cape Town. I was very reluctant in doing so, but I was worried that the gravel roads would just be mud pits and I was not planning on getting stuck for the sake of adventure, especially not if I am riding alone. From Bredasdorp all the way to Caledon I was riding in the rain. Maybe it was more mist or light drizzle, but I got wet nevertheless. Closer to Caledon I saw that the sky looked rather clear towards Cape Town, but on my left towards Hermanus and Kleinmond the clouds were hanging rather low. Besides, Giel predicted more rain towards the South Coast where I wanted to go after Bredasdorp. At Caledon I phoned my wife to ask about the weather in Cape Town to see if I should go via Kleinmond, but she never answers her phone when I need her and this time was no different. I decided to head towards Hermanus hoping that the rain was just mist coming in from the sea. With the skies clear over Cape Town, this was a possibility. The road from Caledon to Hermanus runs along the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ("Heaven-and Earth"). This is a beautiful area and a definite place to visit on a sunny day.

A small section of the road going down to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
I was just about 5 kilometers from Caledon when things changed for the worst. The mist turned into a light drizzle. I never turn around, and after turning around on my whole trip I was even more determined now to take the weather as it comes. Besides, this is my only way of dealing with my disappointment of not continuing my trip. I never knew that after a while the road turns into a gravel road. Boy, was I excited when I discovered that.  Now I had no choice. I had to do the wet gravel road, there was no turning back and I was already wet. I didn't want to take pictures, was scared my camera might get wet, but at one point I did take a single shot when it looked like the rain was over. The showers were definitely scattered, with some areas looking as if it did not have any rain at all. But I was wet enough to prove that it was in fact raining. I couldn't see much of the scenery, it was too cloudy and my visor was too wet. This was probably the most tricky riding I had to do since I started my gravel road trip the day before, and at a point I stopped to feel the road surface with my boots to see how slippery it was in actual fact. I also had to switch off my ABS, something I did a few times on my trip so far. This was for sure a bonus after accepting my fate of ending my gravel road trip due to bad weather predictions. When I reached Hermanus I decided not to go back to Cape Town via Kleinmond but rather to do it across the Sir Lowry's Pass. It was clear that Kleinmond was just as wet as Hermanus. At Sir Lowry's the wind was blowing quite strong but the sun was shining. I refilled at the Shell garage near Somerset-West and arrived home about 40 minutes later, slightly drier than an hour before.

Even though my 3-day trip was shortened to one and a quarter day, I had some good riding and good experience. Getting out and on the road is just what I needed to clear my head and to give me more confidence on gravel roads. After this I realized that I should probably invest in some rain protection gear. I also discovered that my topbox is leaking and that I have to protect my contents a bit better in future. I don't know what I can do about the visor, visibility or rather the lack thereof is a serious issue. If you cannot see in front of you, how can you ride? This is another road I will do again just to get the pictures I couldn't get on this trip. I would also like it if my dad could write down his weather theories. Maybe I can publish it on my blog for future reference. But in the meantime I will make use of Giel the weatherman in Bredasdorp. No hard feelings, Dad.

1 comment:

  1. There were no rain in Mossel Bay and we are still waiting for you.