I had offered to host a casually-paced Boxing Day ride a few weeks ago, and several friends indicated interest. I even had a couple of emails late in the last week asking for particulars from three people who all said they'd meet me at the starting point. But the day dawned cold -- 38F when I left the house -- and wet, and very blustery -- and a cold front with more wind gusts was scheduled to move through North Portland around the time of the ride. So I was not entirely shocked to see only one person waiting for me at the starting point -- my new team mate Rob, clad in knickers and a rain shell and smiling wryly at the sky as I pulled up.
With more wind moving in, I was frankly not excited at the prospect of wrestling with my bike all the way past Smith & Bybee Lakes out to Kelly Point, and asked if Rob would be okay with a more urban, coffee-oriented ride. He had ridden in from the west side and didn't mind at all. So we enjoyed a gently-paced ride through North Portland out to downtown St. Johns. Riding on N. Willamette Boulevard was rather exciting, as gusts of wind from the south and west threatened to knock me off my bike a couple of times. It got easier to deal with when we turned off from the Bluff and rode past the University of Portland. We lingered a little longer than I normally would at Anna Bananna's, no doubt because the weather outside simply did not excite either of us and it was a chance to get to know each other a little more -- a good thing since we'll be racing and riding together next season.
When we left Anna's, content after coffee, fresh baked goods and conversation, the sun was peeking out from behind fast-moving clouds, and the showers started up again when we opted to take a more direct loop back along N. Lombard for several blocks. When we turned onto Greeley we were exposed to the wind again rather suddenly. By the time we'd ridden up Greeley to Bryant I was ready to go home, so we parted ways there, happy to have gotten out and stretched our legs a bit but neither of us feeling especially ambitious.
Crossing the Bryant Street overpass wasn't too bad. The wind had died down a little and the sun had come out and made everything soaked by the morning's rain turn bright and sparkly. Still, I was very glad to get home, take a hot shower and scrub off the embrocation from my legs. I like using embrocation for cold-weather riding; it allows me to forego heavy tights (which I find a little restrictive on a bike) and ride in wool knickers instead, which do a good job of covering my knees and are warm enough once you get moving a bit. I used the hottest stuff I had today, and I'm still enjoying the last residual burning tingles an hour and a half after getting home. Nearly 15 miles on the morning was just enough to feel like I went out and did something on my bike without killing myself.