Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lost River Rainmakers

"Did you notice the rain?"

This from my teammate on the ride back from Saturday's Lost River Classic.

"It rained?" I replied, puzzled.  The afternoon, despite meteorological reports, had turned out unceasingly hot and almost entirely clear of clouds, much less rain.

"Yeah, on the descent.  I felt droplets," he affirmed.  Then he seemed to rethink himself.  "Either it rained...or the guys ahead were incredibly sweaty."

To the rainmakers of Lost River, either in the heavens or on earth, congrats.  

At four points during the Lost River Classic loop, you pass water: Lost River and three of its tributaries, Howards Lick, Snyder Run and Cullers Run.  The names of these bodies aren't essential, since they all mingle and flow to the Chesapeake via Hagerstown and Washington DC.  
Lost River Downstream
This meandering route means, for those of who live in DC and sweat rivers in Lost River on Saturday, we can ride out to Hains Point and see our sweat flow by today, four days later (1).

Most of us do all of our riding within the Potomac catchment, which stretches westward from DC all the way to, approximately, Lost River.
Potomac River Catchment
It looks very much like a tree or bush, which explains why we use the same word for offshoots of rivers and plants: branches.

If on Saturday after our race, we'd ridden westward a few miles from Lost River into West Virginia, we'd have passed over a watershed.  Our sweat, instead of travelling 200 miles to the Chesapeake, would instead have flown into the New River.

The ironically named New River (ironic because it is among the oldest rivers in the world) starts in North Carolina and first heads northeast, exactly the opposite of its destination.  Through Pennsylvania, Ohio, it joins the Mississippi River and then runs south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

New River to the Gulf
Had we sweat into the New River, we could watch it pass New Orleans in the middle of August.  

The Mississippi's catchment is 1.15 million square miles, 37% of the land area of the United States--capturing quite a lot of sweat from not only Americans, but also Canadians.  Quite a lot of branches, and quite a tree.

Mississippi Catchment
Who cares?  Rivers are just low points in the earth.  

Yes, they are.  But they are also useful concepts.

Rivers offer ways of thinking about the world, by analogy, metaphor, or symbol.

Give me peace like a river, but not one Katrina touches.

Baptize me in the river Jordan, but not the river Styx.

"No man ever steps in the same river twice," said Heraclitus, a notion Goethe took to mean "Upon those that step into the same river different waters flow."  

A river, bound by banks that sometimes overflow, is a fitting symbol for bike racing.

We are ourselves rivers.  Water flows, albeit slowly, through our own bodies.

So if you are descending a mountain on a hot day and the question comes, "Is it raining or is this the sweat of others? "  You'll know the answer.


 1 Assuming distance of 200 miles, average river speed of 2mph


Chuck Wagon said...

First - damn, kid! Another week another podium. You're killing it.

Second, I can categorically confirm that from my spot at corner 4, it was both bright sunshine and very light rain for a brief, weird moment.

Third, I don't sweat, I glow. Sweating is so very unladylike.

Good blogging lately. You're like the only good channel on the internet these days.

Kevin Cross said...

Thanks for the ego building. Always appreciated.

Good seeing you Buddha-like there on the side of the road. You're like the George Washington of that race, aren't you?

Bless you for starting it and contributing to keeping it going, by the way. Probably my favorite race, even if I always suffer like a dog in it.

AndyJ Bridges said...

i peed in the new river a couple of times. Not like into the river, but i was floating through rapids, had to go. Seems less disrespectful somehow.

oh yeah, how's it going? I too noticed you crushing it lately. nice job man.