cycling · family

On “special weather,” bike commuting, and missing certain people

There was yet another “special weather” forecast for this Monday–heavy rain, high winds.

Strong and gusty winds possible late this afternoon and evening.

A sharp and fast moving cold front will bring a sudden end to the warm air and sunshine being experienced across Southern Ontario today. This front is moving across Southwestern Ontario and will reach the Golden Horseshoe area including Toronto by early this evening, then into Eastern Ontario later this evening.

Strong and gusty winds along with showers and isolated thunderstorms will begin suddenly as the front goes through. Wind gusts of 80 to 85 km/h are quite possible in a few locales, with 90 km/h gusts not completely out of the question. These winds may be strong enough to cause some tree damage and associated local power outages in exposed areas.

There is also some potential for isolated thunderstorms to briefly reach severe limits with wind gusts of 90 km/h during brief very heavy downpours late this afternoon into early this evening as the cold front blasts through.

I followed my usual policy of riding in to campus Monday morning because it was warm and sunny at 8:30 am. My rule is that I’ll happily ride home in the rain but I won’t ride in in really wet weather. Why? Things don’t dry well in my office and I arrive looking like a drowned rat. But home? That’s different. I can get the wet stuff off quickly, hop in the shower or the hot tub, and change into yoga pants and a t-shirt. My family loves me even when I look like a drowned rat.

Rainy, stormy afternoons also remind me of someone special who died in recent months. Last year I lost both of my parents-in-law. I blogged about remembering Avis in the post On counting almonds, searching for Devil’s Claw, and remembering Avis. Tom died of a stroke just a few months later. Now they’ve been divorced the entire duration of my marriage and so I don’t know them well as a couple though I know lots of family stories. It’s been a very rough year. I have lots of fond memories of them both and we all take comfort in a close connection to Tom’s partner, Norma. Here’s the two of them together.

Tom and Norma

Why do rainy afternoons remind of Tom? My father-in-law Tom was my personal storm tracker extraordinaire. He loved information. He had a ham radio license and listened a lot. He had weather tracking gear at his house. And he kept a keen eye on Environment Canada’s weather radar. The Canadian Navy background was part of the story and so too were his years as a recreational sailor in Nova Scotia.

At first I found the weather bulletins a bit over the top. I told him I wasn’t a fairweather commuter and that I was still going to ride to school even if it was set to rain at 3 pm. But he knew my departure time was often flexible so then I started getting more detailed emails. “Samantha, if you leave between 3:10 pm and 4:00 pm you’ll miss the worst of it. But whatever you do, don’t leave at 7 pm. Another bad round of rain is expected through right about then.” At the time, I did tease him just a little bit. But it was also incredibly useful, dead accurate, and offered with true love and affection.

So now on rainy afternoons, with threatening storms, I think of Tom. I look at the radar and make my own judgements. Today, for example, I missed the worst of the bad weather. I just got some light rain in the last five minutes of my bike commute. It was enough to garner me some sympathy at home but not enough to actually require changing my clothes.

I miss you Tom.

My house, the rain, sticker courtesy of Facebook. What’s your policy about bike commuting in wet weather?

4 thoughts on “On “special weather,” bike commuting, and missing certain people

  1. What a beautiful memory of Tom in this post. Thank you for sharing that. I’m less likely to ride in if I think I’ll get caught in the rain later, but on days when there is “a chance of rain” I follow the weather through the afternoon and either try to beat the rain or bail on riding home and hop on a bus.

  2. Thanks for the lovely memories of this man; it reminds me of my own family members who are now gone but remembered at times like these. For me, chance of rain is okay, but great chance of thunderstorms is not okay, so I end up avoiding being out in late afternoon in summer when they are forecast. Dan, however, is like the postman– he rides in all weather…

  3. I always enjoyed seeing Tom. When we would talk at one of your get togethers,the conversation often turned to the current state of the weather. I thought it was just me, but no, he was a full- fledged storm tracker and was sharing a passion. He is missed.

    I think you know my position on cycling in bad weather. There is no bad weather, just bad clothing. If it’s so bad outside that I can’t take my bike, then it’s too bad to take a car ( or walk!) either.

    Otoh, I have been known to show up at my destination looking like a drowned rat, so…

  4. An interesting spin on memories and bad weather. 🙂 Rejuvenating.

    Did you actually want to take the risk of cycling in weather with 80+km/hr. winds?

    I’ve cycled home in super cold persistent rain in Vancouver…and on bike trips. I have say that if there’s a strong wind with rain, if I have a choice to avoid cycling to work, I will. I find it difficult and dangerous cycling in high winds. + wet roads. It certainly helps to have loaded panniers to keep me down/balanced..since I’m 98 lbs. But I feel incredibly fragile/light with a powerful crosswind.

    I learned my lesson 2 yrs. ago, when I unknowingly cycled 15 km. from home to store during a Calgary/prairie windstorm that tore up tree roots. It was so strong that I had to stop several times and simply walk my bike without being blown across the road. The winds were….80 km./hr. I found out afterwards.

    Some male strong cyclists here in Calgary have been blown off their bikes or fallen down because of high winds.

    So falling, little wind, rain in summer for the whole day when it’s warm, is fine by me. 🙂

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