Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have learned to care a lot about El Niño and La Niña weather patterns. We know why they happen and what it means for our winter weather. Apparently, it all depends on what happens over on the western side of the Pacific Ocean. It has to do with low or high air surface pressure in the ocean's tropical region. Then that creates a series of other events in motion which feed into the jet stream, and then before you know it, you’ve got El Niño or La Niña on your hands. See? We’re serious about this stuff.
All signs seem to point to us having a La Niña winter. In other words, get your gear ready for riding in the rain, maybe find a good pair of fenders, and keep the hot coffee nearby. We can expect colder and wetter conditions than usual in Oregon and the surrounding area.
I’m reminded of a ride Steve-O and I took a couple years ago. Oh, and did I mention Lance Armstrong rode with us, too? Yep, he led the way for us and a couple thousand other folks. Not to brag or anything, but I did actually get a glimpse of Lance at one point in the ride, so if you’d like me to autograph anything for you, please contact Mrs. C who would be happy to arrange something on my calendar.
Anyway, about the ride. Weather went from bad to horrible during the ride. High winds at the top of Bald Mountain closed a portion of the route. Nasty conditions that made you wish you just had a couch, a blanky and a remote. Unrelenting wind pushed us around and howled in our ears all day. Cold rain water made puddles and road spray everywhere.
I just remember at the start of the ride, still fairly dry and comfortable under layers of shirts plus a lightweight jacket and rain pants. By the end of mile one I was soaked everywhere, and I still can feel the shock from when so much water had run down my back, saturating my cycling shorts and then up....well, you know. At nearly the same time, my shoes and socks were soaked through, and my feet began to throb. Just remember, chilly cold.
It was such a ridiculous set of circumstances that you had to choose: either laugh or quit. Lots of folks quit. Most took a much shorter route option. Not us. We got off our bikes after the full 80 mile route, looking like we’d just crawled out of the river. Certainly one of the worst days to ride ever, and ironically, one of the best memories Steve-O and I share as riding buddies. That was the day we met our constant friend, the headwind, who makes a point of finding us on every ride.
La Niña will test us in the Northwest; it will be a gut-check to see who's willing to go out and make wet-weather memories on two wheels. It will separate the intrepid hell-or-high-water cyclists from fair-weather riders.
I know which group I want to be in!