Rain and Routes

Today was another one of those mornings where the weather radar failed me.  Usually, weather radar is a valuable ride-planning tool.  Today, although rain was predicted for most of the day, things looked fairly dry for my morning ride.  As soon as I got on the road, though, the rain picked up, and it rained pretty hard for the entire ride.  It tapered off as soon as I got to work (isn’t that how it always works?).  I didn’t pack any rain gear except a rain jacket.  I stopped about ½ way into the ride and put the jacket on, but by that time, it was too late.  I arrived at work completely drenched.  It seems like I have a ride or two like this every year, although they mostly happen in early Spring or in October or November.  It’s somewhat unusual to have a grey, drizzly day in mid June.

Anyhow, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m trying out some new routes to get from UMBC to my home in Elkridge.  Here’s a route I tried a few times last week.  This route avoids the Shelbourne Rd./Sulphur Spring Rd. intersection by cutting through Arbutus Middle School.

  • Exit UMBC via Poplar Ave. turn right onto Shelbourne Rd.
  • Just before you pass Arbutus Middle School, there’s a walkway that leads around the side of the building to the parking lot in the rear.  It’s just beyond the tennis courts.  Turn left onto this walkway and follow it to the parking lot.  You will need to turn a little early and ride a short distance on the sidewalk to reach the walkway.
  • At the lot entrance, turn left onto Sulphur Spring Rd.
  • Turn right onto Dolores Ave.
  • Turn left onto June Rd.
  • Turn right onto Oakland Rd.  Follow Oakland to the intersection with Selford Rd.
  • Proceed straight at the intersection.  Oakland Rd. turns into Cedar Ave.
  • Follow Cedar Ave. until it ends at S. Rolling Rd.  Turn left.
  • Follow S. Rolling awhile.  It will turn into South St.
  • Turn right at the entrance to Patapsco State Park.
  • Ride into the park and turn left on Glen Artney Rd.
  • Turn left onto River Rd. and exit the park.
  • Turn right onto Lawyers Hill Rd.

One of my objectives with this route was to avoid traffic on Shelbourne and Sulphur Spring Rd., and it does do that.  This route is OK, and I’ll probably ride it every now and then, but it’s not going to become my everyday ride home.  It has a number of disadvantages:

  • Cutting through the school property is not ideal.  The sidewalk doesn’t have ramps in convenient spots, so you have to either hop curbs, or follow the sidewalk all the way to the parking lot exit where there is a ramp.  The alternatives to cutting through the school are (1) following Shelbourne all the way to Sulphur Spring and turning left, which is a blind turn in traffic; or (2) continuing straight on Poplar out of UMBC and riding through the neighborhood there, which lets you out near downtown Arbutus, where there is a lot of traffic.
  • The route crosses Sulphur Spring Rd., Elm Rd., and Francis Ave., all of which are busy during rush hour, which means a lot of stop-and-go.  Granted, given the choice, I’d rather cross busy roads than ride on them.
  • The route is much hillier than my usual route home.  It runs through a lot of established neighborhoods, so there are a lot of opportunities to vary the route by riding on different side streets, but they all involve a lot of up-and-downhill riding, and some of the hills are pretty steep.  This is not really a disadvantage, but as I have to go up Lawyers Hill at the end of the ride, I prefer the rest of it to be a bit flatter.

I can envision taking this route once every week or two.  If nothing else, it’s a change of scenery, and it’s given me a new appreciation for my everyday route, which follows Sulphur Spring and Selford Rd.  Selford is flatter, and bypasses both Elm Rd. as well as the busier (and hillier) part of Francis Ave.

My kind of rain

Now this is more like it.  If it’s going to rain, I’d much rather it be chilly, so I can wear rain gear and actually be comfortable in it.  This morning was 50 degrees with a nice, misty drizzle.  I wore full rain gear, which includes a Marmot rain jacket, hi-vis vest, Novara rain pants, and shoe covers.  Ideally I’d like it maybe 5 degrees cooler, but this wasn’t bad.  I was comfortable enough that I extended my ride a bit and did a loop through the park.  My rain jacket is about a year old now, and I really like it.  It normally runs around $90-$100 at REI, but I believe I got it on sale for $70 or so.  It’s been worth the money.  I recently found out that an REI is going to be opening in Columbia, around 10 minutes from me.  A convenient REI could be dangerous for our bank account.  It’s much safer having the REI on the opposite side of town, 20 miles away, in a direction we never go.

Never trust the weather forecast

So..  yesterday’s morning forecast: mostly cloudy all day, then rain after 7pm.  I leave work at 5, so no need to pack rain gear for later, right?  Wrong.  It started raining at 3:30, and I got to ride home in a steady drizzle with no rain gear.  No, it wasn’t all that bad.  But, I was slightly annoyed that I didn’t follow my own long standing advice: when in doubt, pack the rain gear.

I did wear the rain gear this morning.  The storm system is moving off the coast, but it’s still plenty damp out.  I checked out the park access road, and it’s improved to the point where I shouldn’t need to detour onto US 1 any more.  It’s still not bikeable, but it’s now possible to walk the bike through without having to pick it up and drag it along.  There are even a few spots of pavement peeking through.  I also checked out the Grist Mill Trail head, and the first part of the trail looked clear.  If I’m feeling adventurous tomorrow or Friday, I may try to see how much of it is passable.

I ordered a new helmet the other day.  My old one is 7 years old and starting to show its age.  I got a good deal on a 2009 Bell Sweep, which ordinarily sells for $130.  It’s marketed as sort of a do-anything helmet, and it’s one of the only “road biking” helmets I could find that comes with a visor.  The visor is important to me because I use a visor-mounted rear view mirror.  Fit is also an issue with me, as I have a large head, and I was happy to find that the helmet fits me fine (it’s a large, of course).  I haven’t ridden with it yet, but it’ll be interesting to find out if a $130 helmet is any better than my old one, which I believe cost around $50.  Stay tuned.