Monday, October 26, 2009

The sound of rain

I've always like the sound of rain against something. It's why I live in the top floor apartment of the building, the rain against the roof. And during the summer I forget the sound until the first serious rain storms sweep through the Pacific Northwest and just rain for hours on end, only changing intensity and occasionally clearing overhead to remind us the sun is still there above all those clouds.

This last week I had to drop the van off for its annual service. Their shuttle service doesn't cross the Tacoma Narrows bridge so they drop me off at the last on/off ramp and I walk home, just about 2 miles one way, most of which is across the new bridge. The day I went to pick it up, it had rained most of the night and had lessened only slightly in the morning during the walk. But when I got to the pickup place the driver called to say he was running late, about 30-40 minutes.

So I stood there, in the rain, waiting, when the rain decided to pour down in earnest and not let up. But I wore my Northface Expedition rainsuit which I bought about 20 years ago. I had wore out my original Gore-Tex rainsuit from work which I bought in 1978 (now in the extra clothes bag in the van for emergencies). I remember paying about $750 for the Northface then because it could withstand any storm and had a lifetime guarantee.

Well, it does and I've never had to test the warranty yet. But just standing there, all dry and warm, was interesting just listening to the rain against the hood and coat. It reminded me what my boss said when I started with the USGS and came back from the first winter field trip.

I had bought myself one of those clear plastic raincoats. And on the 2nd day of the week field trip it leaked and then tore. I spent the rest of the trip in the Oregon Cascade Mountains cold and wet. When I got back and talked to the lead technician about the weather, the boss, an old crusty guy about my age now, said, "There's no excuse for being cold or wet."

Well, that day I spent $100 for a new technology Gore-Tex rainsuit. It last the five years I spent in Oregon and the five years in Arizona. It didn't survive the Washington winters so in 1988 after resealing the seams and repairing leaks every few trips, I replaced it with the Northface suit, and never got wet again.

Cold, however, is what you wear underneath it, and there are times when the cold doesn't honor clothes and just goes right through you to chill your bones. When that happens there is nothing you can do to in the field except work fast. But mostly the Northface was a champ holding in heat too.

What I also learned years later about my boss is that he could say that because he rarely did his field trip in the rain, and never in the cold. He had the easiest field trip and always tried to go when the weather was warm and clear. He always found excuses for worst weather, and only went we had to measure floods, but even then he often sent us as he had to "man the office" during the events.

Yeah, right. Anyway, I remember doing many field trips for the week in the rain. I grew to hate it sometimes because you were always in it and you had to write which meant my hands were always cold and wet even with fingerless gloves. It eventually lead to the onset of Raynaud's Syndrome and getting out of field work in 1991 when another job opened in the office.

I still continued to hike and bike in the rain, but then slowly faded out those trips to Mt. Rainier NP when I spent a hiking trip in the rain and got tired of everything being wet all the time. I eventually just hiked out and went home. Rain now is something I like to pick when I go out in it and how long I stay.

I also continue to run in the rain, and in fact love it more than when it's not raining. Rain forces you to focus on the run and mostly the road and trail. Since the runs are shorter these years (30-40 minutes tops), I don't really get very wet with a good rain/wind shell and pants, and know home is always at the end of the run.

But sometimes, though, it's just nice to stand there letting it fall on and all around you, just to listen and feel it. And remember.

1 comment:

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