Living in the southern part of the United States is special in many ways. We talk a bit different, even from state to state. We have towns with names like Sweetwater, Slocumb, Opp, Dogtown, Slapout and many others. We kill and eat just about everything that walks and crawls, usually fried in grease or grilled with Kingsford. Guns in our culture are as normal as breathing. It’s also hard to find someone in the South who will not help you in time of need. Family is a bond that could cost you, if you harm a member, even if we don’t particularly like that person in the family; and this brings me to a point, only a family member can talk about another family member. We are set in our ways. We don’t take to outsiders, even from state to state, getting into “our” business. Most of us go to church every Sunday (and Wednesday night). We pray at high school football games, and nobody files a lawsuit. While on the subject of football, it is life in the deep South. It is not uncommon for most cities to appear as ghost towns on a Saturday afternoon, during the season. Friends and neighbors come together under unified alliances to scream their team to victory through a television set. We love hard, play hard, and work hard. And we can take the heat . . the persistent Southern sun.
The heat in the South is something of legend. Scorched earth begs for a few drops of water and the sun is relentless. The heat is one thing, but it is the humidity that sets it above anything else. Walking out work this past Monday, I glanced at my phone to check the weather (a habitual thing with a cyclist) and noticed the humidity was 62%. Now, when temperatures are reaching 97 degrees (36 c for my friends in the old country), it is already oppressive. Throw in the heavy humidity, and it becomes its own entity: a stalking monster that consumes human energy, kills grass, withers tree leaves, stunts the growth of crops, and thrusts man and beast toward any kind of shade. Cycling in the South is not for the weak at heart. Fluids cannot be consumed fast enough, and maintaining hydration is a skill that is needed as much as fast-twitch muscles. Sweat pours . . . (let me be clear) pours from the rider, making the slipstream quite an experience. Drink every 5 minutes and eat every 20 has always been my rule of thumb, but in heavy heat I half that time. Not only is the body working hard to propel the rider forward, but it also working extremely hard to regulate heat. In my experience, I have had some close calls: sweat suddenly stops, cramping, dizziness, and the huge warning sign of chills. If you ride below the Mason/Dixon Line, it will happen. Yes, we have a longer riding season (generally from March to October), but the middle of it can be brutal.
Today, I had to stop at the half-way point on my ride to snap a picture when I noticed the temperature. Many find it hard to believe. I enjoy where I live, and maybe one day I can ride in other places and experience other kinds of weather as I pedal. Cycling is a part of who I am, so I’ll keep checking my phone and continue to ignore most of the predictions. Because when it comes down to it, I’m going to ride.