The Time I Biked Blind and Deaf, Uphill, In the Rain

“I run because if I didn’t, I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that.”
― Dean Karnazes, in Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

At this point, my contact lens has fallen out and a fire truck is shrieking by. Despite this, and despite the fact that I’m sprinting uphill, I barely register the acid burn in my legs. All I can think about is my phone.

I don’t want to lose yet another phone to water damage.

Tweet this post! The Time I Biked Blind and Deaf, Uphill, In the Rain: via @JosephHavey

Backing up

For several years, my parents held on to the idea that I would move back home after finishing school in the city. Despite numerous protestations, I could do nothing to shatter this fantasy. Additionally, my mother’s promises of free meals, cheap rent and hometown familiarity did nothing to persuade me away from D.C.

There are many reasons for this, but at the top of the list is bikeability. I absolutely love my lack of an automobile.

Everything about a car-free lifestyle it speaks to my philosophy of movement. I am forced to use my own body for propulsion. I am required to interact with fellow city-dwellers, on the street, in the bus, among the bike lanes. I am required to maintain high levels of kinesthetic intelligence as I careen down the hills of Northwest D.C., dodging dogs, car doors and potholes.

So many potholes.

In a car, there is no wind in your face. There is no gut-wrenching cold air in the winter. No draining heat in the summer. No feeling at all.

There is no … life.

There is, however, shelter from the rain. And in the D.C. summers, due to the extraordinarily high levels of humidity so characteristic to this swamp-town, there is often rain.

Red sky in morning

I leave my internship in typical fashion: excited to replace the static seat of my chair with the dynamic seat of my bike. The ride home is largely uphill and takes about an hour — one of my favorite times of the day.

I walk out the door and notice the climate. A pre-storm deadness hangs in the air.

I choose to ignore this and instead focus on the small patches of blue sky that remain. An hour is plenty of time to make it home.

The first thirty minutes are fairly uneventful. This part of the ride is downtown, which means the road is flat, but I have to contend with stoplights every few minutes.

No rain or wind yet.

After navigating through a traffic circle, I veer out of the heart of the city to begin my long ascension home. The next twenty minutes will be a steady pedal-mashing session.

The music blaring in my ears drowns out the noisy gusts of wind.

Pitter patter

Due to the lack of bike lanes on this road, I’m forced to pedal on the sidewalk. I would feel guilty, were it not for the three accompanying cyclists who routinely join me. Dog-walkers, out of the way.

Today, though, there are no cyclists. No runners either.


I fail to notice that there are no longer patches of blue sky. They have been replaced by gray Cumulonimbus clouds, bulging with rain.

I’ve never been to Seattle, but people often describe an ever-present haze so minimal natives don’t bother to don raincoats or umbrellas. How different that sounds from the East Coast, in which the sky bottoms out for twenty minutes, without warning, drenching everything to the core before moving on.

Half-way up the hill, the rain hits like a thunderclap.

“My phooooonnnneee!” shrieks my internal monologue. I carry a small book bag on my back. Tissue paper is more waterproof.

I pull off to the side to take shelter underneath a tree. This proves futile. D.C.’s rain is either full-on or nonexistent. The tree does me no good, and I realize I need to get to the next bus stop to take shelter under the plastic awning.

I launch myself back on my bike and begin galloping uphill.

I can hear my phone drowning.


With the adrenaline coursing through my body, my heart rate increases, my breathing becomes deeper and my eyes become wider. While the former help with forward motion (good), the latter leaves my contact lenses exposed to the outside air (not good).

A lens peels off my eye.


“That’s what you get for waiting three weeks past the expiration date,” I can hear my mother’s voice say dryly.

My saving grace is that there is no one else dumb enough to be out in this weather, which means, as long as I can stay upright, I don’t have to worry about wounding any innocent pedestrians.


I can see the bus stop about 200 yards in front of me.

I can feel my phone gasping for air.

I can hear it moaning at it’s own doom. No … wait. That moaning is something else. I realize a fire truck is coming up the street, sirens blaring.

The noise becomes loud to the point of comedy, passing me as I pass the 50-yard threshold. Half a football field to go until I can rest … and then frantically check to see if I can enact CPR on my phone.


A quick look through my bag reveals I had nothing to worry about. The phone is safe. I’ve reached the safety of the bus stop, and in a devilish coincidence, the rain has begun to subside. I know in five minutes, it will have moved on entirely. Such is the nature of D.C. afternoon storms.

I look out, barely able to make out the blurry images of buildings and trees. My ears are ringing from the onslaught of the siren. My legs burn from the 10-minute all-out sprint session. My entire body is drenched.

I begin to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Why would I ever trade this for a car?

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Tweet this post! The Time I Biked Blind and Deaf, Uphill, In the Rain: via @JosephHavey

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