humidity

Liquid Air: The Path to Plan C?

I’m not a huge fan of selfies.

I have a contract with my five-year-old nephew, Tom (Hi, Tom!), to provide him with a selfie from every country (or major part of a country) that I go to on this trip.  And that’s as far as I really want to go with them.

Except today.  I wanted to explain the Queensland humidity in words.  But I found that ‘damp’, ‘moist’, and even ‘swampy’, were not really cutting the mustard.  None of them get close to the experience of sweating through your shirt while sitting immobile in a chair.  At 7am.  Hopefully, this might help:

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Ignore the cheerful (if slightly awkward) grin.  More accurately, ignore the forced and painful smile.  It’s not my best picture, I know.  That’s not what this is about, though.

I’d been riding for 50 minutes, on an outrageously flat road, with a gentle tailwind.  In other words, I should hardly have broken sweat.  And no, it hadn’t rained.  Yet, as you may have noted, my top appears to have been doused by a particularly enthusiastic bunch of firefighters.  The sunscreen, which was perfectly absorbed into my skin just a few minutes before, has made a disturbing reappearance.  I’m not sure how much water there is in a human body, but pretty much all of mine had simply dived out through my pores, saturating everything in its path.  Lovely.

This is one effect of Queensland’s Liquid Air.  Another is that the air actually feels thicker than usual.  It’s not that is doesn’t provide any oxygen, it just feels like harder work than normal to drag it in and out of your lungs.  Combined with the inability to hold water inside the body, this makes the riding less than easy.  And that’s before the third aspect of the humidity hits.

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The air turns pretty readily (and very rapidly) into actual moisture.  Lots and lots of actual moisture.  The term in these parts is ‘showers’.  I think of them more as full-on monsoons.  They pop up at any time of day, leaving you (if you’re lucky) stranded under a tree or a petrol station canopy for a while, cutting your riding time.  And they hunt in packs, with unfeasibly heavy downpour following unfeasibly heavy downpour.  Sometimes for hours.

What I’m trying to say, with all this Liquid Air nonsense, is that progress has slowed alarmingly once again.

I had to have a couple of days’ rest at Mackay, partly due to a few beers with a Belgian card-sharp who I met in New Zealand, but mainly due to the humidity.  The Liquid Air effect really took hold there, and with the addition of sunshine, significant distances would have been difficult, if not actually dangerous.  I was better staying cool.

I’ve made it to Airlie Beach in two days from there, which is not terrible.  But, sadly, I missed the guy who’s walking around Australia in a Star Wars Stormtrooper costume.  If I’d been on the road a day earlier, I could have heard how his ‘armour’ saved him from a snakebite first-hand instead of on telly.  Grr…

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Airlie Beach is a tourist town, and, as the name may suggest, is on the coast.  I figured that there would be cool sea breezes here to ease the heat a little.  So far, I’ve been proved wrong, although it is (maybe) a degree or two cooler than inland, and a colossal black cloud floated over earlier, rather than discharging floods of rain on the town.

So maybe things are looking up.  The worry is that, with conditions like this, I won’t be able to make the distances I need to get across the outback to Darwin before my visa expires.  And these conditions are rolling straight out of the outback at present.  It may be that I’ll have to content myself with Cairns instead.  And maybe a day or two off to see the Great Barrier Reef.

Plan C, anyone?

Beat By The Heat; or, Misery in Missouri?

I’m feeling a bit warm.  The hard-pack trail is kicking up dust.  I’ve downed a couple of litres of water, but still feel thirsty.  The sun is scorching my back as I trundle along the old railway path.  I’ve got sweat in my eyes.  It’s well over 80 degrees F.  And it’s eight-thirty in the morning.

I promised I wouldn’t moan about the temperature or the humidity.  But they finally cracked me today.  I guess you can only ignore heat warnings for so long before they catch up with you.  I got ten miles down the road this morning, stopped for breakfast, and to help a lady with a flat tyre, which let the temperature rise some more.  Made it another five miles before I realised that another sweltering day – it was 100F by eleven-thirty – was going to do more harm than good, and bailed out into an air-conditioned motel.  At least I get to recharge my batteries (both literally and metaphorically) and wash my socks (just literally, I think).

I’ve made decent distance in the last few days, despite shade temperatures which have been consistently in the high 90s and low 100s.  I’ve no idea what the temperatures in the sun on the road were.  And I’ve crossed the Mississippi, which puts me at least into the west of the mid-west, if not the West itself.

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From the famous arch in St Louis onwards, the map starts to fill with those place names that are so familiar from old cowboy films and TV; Kansas City, Dodge City, Wichita, etc, etc.  You cross the old Route 66.  The whole place starts to smell a bit more of adventure; Daniel Boone lived around here (as well as almost everywhere else in the US, it seems), and Lewis and Clark set off west from here to explore for a route to the Pacific.

I rode through St Louis on Sunday.  Partly because there’s minimum traffic then, and partly because I had half an eye on what might or might not kick-off  in Ferguson, which is one of the northern suburbs.  Nothing to worry about for me, as it turns out; as usual with those sort of things, trouble tends to be localised and easily avoided.

I spoke to two cyclists with very different views of the situation.  Unsurprisingly, one was black and from the northern part of town while the other was white and from the (very) wealthy western suburbs.  It’s obviously a very polarising situation, and feels like quite a divided city; from my own view riding through, the obvious wealth differential between their two home areas was stark, and their views on the whole Ferguson crisis were diametrically opposed.  Hope it all settles out, but fear it may take a while…

Now (or at least until my cowardly retreat to the motel) I’m following the Katy Trail up the Missouri River valley.  The Missouri joins the Mississippi at St Louis, and is a fairly impressive river in itself.

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It was up this river that the Lewis and Clark expedition began, so I’m once again following in history’s footsteps.  Though I’m pretty sure they weren’t tempted by bunking off to an air-conditioned box.  Tomorrow, I’ll try to rediscover my backbone and get back out there; on the plus side, there might be a break in the weather in a couple of days.  But I’m not (all that) stupid; weather like this needs to be respected, and the daily mileage may be taking a dip until things cool off.  Assuming they ever do…