After an oddly cool, and wonderfully pleasant, May, June seems to have a need to settle the score. The thermometer in my car hit 100 yesterday. The icon on our weather forecast is the sun, burning yellow on an orange horizon. “Hot.”
For a native Southerner, I’m bad with heat. I grew up in the Southeast, in an area with wickedly high ozone levels. With the heat, the humidity, and the bad air quality, I learned to get from one air-conditioned place to another as quickly as possible. “There’s no air in that air!” I would joke, “just water vapor and ozone.” I moved to an even hotter climate for graduate school, but it was drier, too. The rule of thumb there was that anything between 90 and 100 degrees wasn’t that bad. Over 100 was stupidly hot, and under 90 meant clammy, heavy air.
My last two summers were spent entirely in New England, along with most of the two before that. One of my favorite things to do was to hit the u-pick Blueberry patch on days when it got to 90 degrees. I had it all to myself. I took great delight in telling people who complained about the heat that “You should try 108!” (This was purely in retribution for them mocking my sweaters in June.) K would race to the mountain bike trails on those days, certain that he would be the only person on the trail. Those New England summers are amazing. 85 degrees in July, with an ice-cream stand in every town. People in New England love summer the way people in a drought love rain.
I’m having some trouble reconciling these two views in my brain. One part of me knows that 97 degrees is hot enough to be dangerous, even without adding exertion. The UV index most days is “10+.” I wear SPF 30 and a hat the size of a patio umbrella just to go to the grocery store. I worry about biking, both because of the sun exposure and because of my aptitude for heat-induced nausea. Another part of me remembers rejoicing to see that late summer evening light, which meant we could ride twenty miles after K left work.
I think the sad truth is that we’ve mostly missed the best cycling season. I’m annoyed by this, because I have a virtually brand-new, fun, very fancy road bike just sitting in the garage. I was never dedicated enough, or hardy enough, to ride year round in New England. Once the roadsides covered with snow, I retreated to the bike trainer. In contrast I’m feeling a kind of stubborn determination about this heat. Somewhere there’s room for reasonable caution to coexist with biking, and I’m going to find it.