Day 13. Rain, humidity and heat do a heat rash make.
Good taste suggests that we don't disclose small health related problems, especially when we want the world to see us as capable adventurers. But I feel like I need to explain my paltry mileage stats, lest my readers think I'm lazy. Today I only covered 47 miles, the last 18 of them off the Parkway as I looked for a place to stay on a Friday night (knowing that there are so few places to stay outside of campgrounds that looking on the Parkway is likely to be unsuccessful on Friday and Saturday nights). Why not camp, you might be thinking?
Well, I've been trying to figure out how hurricane Cindy is affecting weather over the Appalachians. It was supposed to rain on and off all day and into the evening, so I decided getting off the Parkway and finding an inexpensive motel in Roanoke was a good idea. Given how the access and egress roads work on the Parkway, I had to commit to that idea mid-day, and there was no going back.
And then the unexpected happened (as it so often does). It became wildly sunny and oppressively hot - only mid 80's, but the humidity was so intense it made biking a bit of a struggle. But what is really getting to me is a new physical challenge - in this extraordinary humidity, I seem to generate random and suddenly occurring (and just as suddenly disappearing) heat rash. Imagine navigating hills and traffic with random bursts of itching, and you can imagine a guy who alternates between pleasure and sudden irritation, all at 5-20 miles an hour. In one way, the irritation gives me energy. But in a deeper level, it wears me out. So I found a run down Ramada in a weird location that has a great PTAC, and I am enjoying AC and far less humidity. And the rash has abated. But I do wonder how we humans will cope as this kind of heat becomes more routine. I had a similar thought last summer as I passed through southern Utah on a bike and my Garmin registered 117 degrees in the sun. Will there be parts of the US where large swaths of the country will be too dangerous to be in anything other than a conditioned space?
No doubt the readers of this blog understand the basic science of greenhouse gases and climate change, but as I travel around the country, I realize that many people do not. And that's forgivable - our President and the heads of the EPA and Department of Energy don't either. Yet, today I was pondering the reality that in just 250 years we have gone from 280 ppm to over 400 ppm of CO2. The last time carbon levels in the atmosphere were that high was at least 800,000 years ago. CO2 levels have never escalated as quickly as they have in the past few centuries, and especially so since about 1950 (over 25% in the last 60 years). To a thinking person, this is pretty strong evidence that humans are causing the rise. In any case, geological time is slower than human time, so we have no idea how the physics of our current greenhouse gas levels will play out. To be blunt about it - we are in uncharted territory. Adventures are great - but we may not like how the Great Anthropocene Climate Change adventure ends.
But, on a more human scale, I'll get up tomorrow and brace the heat as I pedal back up onto the amazing, pristine, remarkable, pastoral Blue Ridge Parkway. I hope it isn't too hot.
I apologize for not having a picture of sunshine. I guess I was in such a hurry to get out of the heat, I was too rash to get one.
More to come,