Fun fact: there are approximately 120,000 different species of fly in the world. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you want, but I know this firsthand because most of them are currently crawling over my body.
I am climbing Cleator Road, a steep, lumpy couple miles of mind and crotch-numbing fireroad. It's a stretch of dirt you'd only ever pedal up to get to something better. Fortunately, there is a good mess of the better stuff awaiting me at the top—miles of ridgeline singletrack with jaw-dropping views of snowy Mt. Baker off to the east. That bit of singletrack is my reward for enduring Cleator. Most people shuttle the fireroad, logically figuring that there's no point in pedaling when a pick-up truck with a bed full of bikes amounts to having your cake, eating the hell out of it too and then chasing that cake with a hot tub full of guilt and consequence-free anonymous sex. This, of course, is sound reasoning, but my miserable inner Catholic just never feels right about a ride that doesn't involve some meaningless suffering. So here I am. Grunting up the climb. Covered in a thick lather of sweat and a veritable Who's Who of the flying-insect world.
I'm not an entomologist by trade, so you'll have to forgive my taxonomical sloth. There are the big, stupid flies that look fierce and scary, like a combat-ready version of a horsefly. Fortunately, these are actually the easiest of the vermin to contend with. These are the drunken frat boys of the fly world. They spend most of their time chest bumping and high-fiving one another–so stoked are they on finding a giant, sweaty bag of flesh to party down on–that you can reach down and smash the frat flies by the dozens. Einstein, they are not.
Then there are the mid-size models, which look like your garden-variety housefly, but which quickly prove to be a whole different flavor of evil, biting hard and zooming in and out frightfully quick. A dozen of them will hover around, harassing me for the next 50 minutes with absolute impunity.
Last but not least, there are the tiny midge-like flies. Small though they are, they might be the worst. This variety has numbers on its side. At any given moment, several dozen circle my head. Worse yet, these bastards have no fear of death–they fill my nose, my ears and even attempt to climb into my eye socket. While I'm killing handfuls every few minutes, I'm not even denting their numbers. Kill a couple dozen and their ranks are immediately filled by eager new recruits.
This is the soundtrack of my summer. Not to sound ungrateful, but I've never been a huge fan of summer. I grew up without air conditioning in a place that was consistently in the triple digits. As kids, we spent a good chunk of our youth staring vacantly into the heat-shimmering distance, dabbling with severe dehydration and shouting at one another to refrain from flushing the toilet because We-are-in-a-goddam-drought, goddamit!
Moving to the Pacific Northwest a decade and change ago was a revelation. Suddenly summer simply meant less rain and clearer skies. The mercury considerately hovered between 70 and 80 degrees. I haven't a clue what the hell that amounts to in Celsius, but rest assured, it's like being wrapped in a perfect blanket of rainbows and butterflies.
This summer, however, has been hot. Okay, it's not actually towering inferno-style "hot" in Washington state, but after a few years of living in the cedar forests and fog, you become a two-legged version of those blind, albino catfish that live in underwater caves. You see a bit of sun and you burn to a crisp. I've become a temperature pansy. I admit it. Give me eight months of rain and slush–I can handle that stuff just fine, but riding for hours in what feels like a giant Betty Crocker E-Z Bake oven is a buzzkill.
Which brings me back to the goddamn flies. The heat must be some kind of Viagra for flies because they are everywhere this year. I come home from rides now and sometimes–I'm not exaggerating here–the first thing I do is reach for the dental floss because I've got so many of the damn midge things stuck in my teeth. I've consumed so much fly DNA this summer, that I'm at risk of going all Jeff Goldblum and turning human fly.
So, while I understand that the rest of the world loves summer and the whole ritual of courting melanoma at the beach, I'm waving the flag of surrender over here. Color me a wimp, but I'm done with summer.
Bring on the rain. Bring on the sleet. Bring on the snow. I'm ready for a little winter in July.