Summer days

It’s really stinkin’ hot. Let’s go to the lake.

I’m sweating whilst standing still. We don’t have air conditioning. Most houses in town don’t, because until the last decade, it was never really *that* hot here in the summer. But last year we got into the 40s (104F) with a heat dome and we all withered away, hiding in basements or underwater. We have a lot of lakes too, but this summer, they’ve been rife with swimmer’s itch, making all the kids afraid of the water because the itching after is intractable and miserable. There is nothing quite so horrific to a child as being itchy and hot.

“I don’t want to go to the lake.”

Well then. I’m not going to go to the trouble of packing everything up for the lake if you don’t want to go. What would you rather?

“I want to go to the library.”

Ahh, my smart girl. The library has air conditioning. And there will be no one there on a Sunday afternoon. Tourist towns are nice for that…

We troop off to the library, sitting in a corner all squished on one of their extra wide cushy purple upholstered chairs, reading. And not sweating all over each other. It’s rather nice.

We stay until close, taking home with us a collection of books that are now sprawled all over my living room, much as we were for the remainder of the day.

****

It’s 6am and I’m meeting a friend for a bike ride, in hopes of beating the heat. We head out and as we get higher and higher up the mountain, the mosquitoes start increasing in density. They are so ubiquitous I am feeling panicky, hearing the whine of their wings in my ears, feeling the little pricks of mosquito proboscises all over my arms, legs, back. They’re biting through my shirt, the mesh of my knee pads, my gloves. The climb steepens and I struggle to breathe, in part from the effort of the climb, and in part because I’m freaking out a little bit with the bugs and want to cry. It would have been better to have just sucked it up and ridden in the heat, the mosquitoes are so savage.

Finally, finally, we reach the top and after a quick sip of water and an opening of shocks, we start the descent. It’s just over an hour of climbing and we’ve barely spoken to each other because good god the bugs are bad let’s get out of here and do what we came to do, which is descend. Now we’re moving faster, the wind cooling my sweat-drenched shirt and face. It’s not long before we’re back at the bottom.

In the evening, I go to Monday Night Rides. The past few weeks, I’ve been the only female in our riding group, and perhaps the weakest rider. There are 3 Scotsmen in the group, one of whom I’ve only just met, and has a cool habit of wheelie-ing up hills. There are a lot of new guys riding with us too, many who started coming to the weekly rides this year, and from my estimation are all in their late twenties and early thirties. Tonight, and many nights, I am not only the only female in this group, but also the oldest human. The trail chosen for tonight is at the end of a long service road grind up the ski hill. A massive international bike festival is coming to town for the next week and a bit, and this will be our last time to ride this trail before it gets blown out by a bunch of world class racers racing down it next week in the Enduro World Series. The course was just released, and locals are trying to ride all the favourites one last time before they become full of bomb holes. I feel like I could’ve kept up with the boys on any other day if I hadn’t done a ride that morning and a strength training workout midday, but the fatigue hit hard on the first third of the climb, and I couldn’t keep up. Ever gracious, they’d stop and wait periodically, giving me a smile and holler of encouragement as I pedalled in to join the group.
“Thanks guys, but go ahead,” I pant, “I know the way. I’ll join the slower intermediate group behind us.”
“Nah. We’ll wait. You’re fine. You won’t want to descend with the group behind us.” They are all sweat-soaked, faces shiny and squinty in the evening sun.
He is right. The other group can be frustratingly slow on the descents. Besides, there is still one guy behind me, breathing hard, noting this is about twenty minutes faster than he’d do this climb any other day.
I don’t know how I’m viewed by this group. It doesn’t much matter, but I am curious. Sometimes I think they think I’m the old lady slowing them down. And sometimes I think they ride features that scare them because they saw me ride it and goshdarnit, you can’t have an old lady riding features you aren’t. So on balance, I am neutral.

Toward the end of the climb after we get off the service road. I took this photo in July 2019. We do this slog on a regular basis because, well, look at it. 🙂

After a shower and a beer, the bites show up. It’s worse than I thought. My shoulder blades and calves are peppered in red spots. My elbows itch. I have a rash over my stomach from where my wet, sweaty jersey clung to me on the climb.

I slide my tired, happy body into overly warm bedsheets, willing myself not to scratch anything. I grab my library book, and the protagonist eerily carries many of my own pathologies in her thought processes. I wonder if it’s good or bad for me to read these novels. And suddenly, before I can finish the chapter, I’ve slept the whole night through for the first time in a week.

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