cafe mama

finding magic every day

biking in the rain . november 20. 2008

my bike in the rain
I pick up my raw milk on Wednesdays after 4 p.m.

I have been calling it "barely legal" raw milk on Twitter because of the big-dairy-industry rules that must be followed to get it to me -- you may not buy it in a store, it may not be delivered to you, it may not be advertised or promoted in any way, so you must ask for it, you must find the email address of the right person who will pass you along to a drop point, someone who will drive to Washington to purchase the milk and bring it home, where you must pick it up -- but my edgy-laugh-because-it-hurts moniker was picked up by Portland Monthly magazine* and seen as outright insulting. While it is both horrible and laughable that, though the government has specious violations of decency ranging from rampant and societally debilitating meth use to uncaring and greedy misuse of arcane financial securities with which to contend, it has chosen to crack down on raw milk, which has only one time, ever been actually proven to hurt anyone, well, it is what it is for today. I will march on Salem (via bike, while breastfeeding, and eating locally grown produce that can't be found in our schools) when I have the energy.

In the meantime, come Wednesday nights, I must pick up my milk. And many Wednesdays of late it has felt to me a task that was too much, that my biking had gone too far, what would take 20 minutes and no human energy at all! takes an hour and the hills, I can see them when I close my eyes, and they are the steepest on the journey home. Each gallon weighs eight pounds, and I am up to four gallons.

And many a Wednesday, it rains.

When it rains in Portland in the fall and winter, it is not the quenching, laughing rain of July, the steady, living rain of April, the blowsy grey rain of June, the stormy, gulping rain of August. The rains of November, December, January are black, they are undulating, they are pointilist, they are riffed with chill. Over an hour's ride, they can shift from misty to soaking and back, or can steadily pour until your teeth and earlobes drip, until you can no longer see anything but droplets and fog and the muddled blinking of car lights.

But I look up, despite the soak, I look around and see the city drip-drop-drip around me, I see the colors of walls inside front windows, I see children's toys left scattered on the edge of sidewalks, I see brave roses pushing their hips into the pour, I see black, black seedpods sketching sillouettes on the fences and parking strips. I see other bikers, shoulders tensed against the cold wet, blink blink blink blink, their lights say. I see the beginnings of one holiday's decor, the ends of another, I see children's art push-pinned on the wall of a front porch. I see families and neighborhoods, shouting their Portland-ness from every corner and garden box and bike hook, I see the best of all of us in the dark, wet, streets.

And this milk, this milk brings me up hills in the dark and rain, it sends me down again, wobbling from the weight but happy, full of the city and its life, cold but lilting with the vigor of Portland rain.

truman bundled for the rain
And now, as I've been asked, a brief how to bike with kids in the rain:

~~boots. I wear farm store black rubber boots with fearsome treads meant to muck around in the mud outside a barn. Or something. I recommend them highly, with several pairs of socks if it's below 40 degrees. I bought mine at Linnton Feed & Seed. I don't have boots that I love for the kids but have heard great things about Naturino boots.

~~rain pants. I wear the same rain pants I wore during track meets: the kind that are lined in warm cotton and make loud sounds when you walk in them. Layered in the colder days over ski long underwear. The boys get rain pants over pajama pants, as I've never gotten long underwear for them. If I did, they'd be wool.

~~lots of layers. The boys and I always wear at least three layers on top; as Everett generally refuses to wear sufficient waterproof clothing, at least it will take longer for him to soak through. My top layer is a wool/nylon biking jersey in the minor cold weather, and another track leftover -- a very warm waterproof hoody -- in the bitter cold.

~~wool knitted hats under our helmets. I wear the Dulles hat (see bar to the right) I made for Jonathan; it's tightly knit of Malabrigo worsted and it's very warm. Wool is a great fiber for the rain. The best hat will fit your head snugly and come down over your ears, but won't impair your vision. I know, a hard balance to strike.

~~gloves and gauntlets. I don't know if the guantlets actually make me warmer. But they're lovely and they're a totem of coziness. And I knitted them myself.

~~fenders or the all-powerful xtracycle. If you don't have fenders, get them. The xtracycle seems to do a fine job of keeping the rain off most of our backs, but Everett, on his fenderless Townie, always gets a whopper of a mud stripe up his shirt. He says he doesn't mind.

*I may be over-reaching to assume Anna Hirsh picked it up from me. I am not, after all, the first person on the planet to call raw milk "barely legal" (as I know from Googling it). It seems possible, therefore, so I claim credit, if only for literary effect.

paying the bills

read my previous post . of daily apples and pinecones . november 18 . 2008