Sunday, May 18, 2014

Johnny Cash -- "Five Feet High and Rising" (1974)

How high's the water, Mama?
Two feet high and rising

"Bike to Work Day" is an annual event that promotes commuting to work on a bicycle.  It's a big event in cities all across the United States -- from San Francisco to Boulder to Chicago to Washington, DC. 

This year, Bike to Work Day was Friday, May 16.

In the Washington area, local governments set up 79 "pit stops" along bike trails and popular commuter routes where Bike to Work Day participants could pick up a free T-shirt, grab a donut and a cup of coffee, and listen to forgettable politicians make forgettable speeches.

Sometimes the Bike to Work Day folks run out of T-shirts.  Sometimes they run out of free donuts.  But they NEVER run out of politicians and speeches.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx
at the 2014 "Bike to Work Day"
I usually miss all that stuff anyway because the pit stops are only open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.  To get to the most convenient one for me, I'd have to be on my bike by 7:00 a.m.  

I could handle that if it didn't mean getting out of bed before 7:00 a.m. -- but it does.  As for getting up that early, let me quote something I once heard former baseball star Lenny Dykstra say: "Sorry, dude.  No can do, dude!"

Last year, some 14,000-plus bikers participated in the Washington-area Bike to Work Day.  This year, more than 16,000 were expected to turn out for the event.

But the northern and western Washington suburbs (including the area where I live) were hit with three to four inches of rain in the eight hours that preceded sunrise on Bike to Work Day.

I went to bed Thursday night fully expecting not to ride to work on Friday.  I live almost 26 miles from my office, and I had zero interest in riding a bike for two hours in a heavy rain.

The rain was supposed to last until at least noon, but it had almost stopped in my area by 9:00.  Sunny skies were predicted for later in the morning.  

"What the hell," I thought to myself, and saddled up my trusty Gary Fisher Utopia urban assault bicycle:

Things went swimmingly for the first three miles.  Then I hit this -- standing water and mud on the hiker/biker trail I would take for the first half of my bike commute.

"No worries, mon," I thought to myself, and kept riding.

But less than a mile later, I hit this:

Rock Creek, which looked more like the Mississippi at this point, had overflowed its banks and flooded the trail.

I dismounted and started walking my bike along the flooded trail.  Bike to Work Day had become Wade to Work Day for me.

Pretty soon the water was one foot high and rising:

Fortunately for both of us, I was wading -- not riding -- when I came upon this good-sized turtle, which was almost entirely submerged and apparently enjoying the heck out of himself . . . or herself.  (Who can tell?)

At its deepest, the water was two feet high -- several inches above my knees and almost deep enough to submerge my bike's wheels completely:

After making my way through the first flooded area, I quickly came upon another stretch that looked even worse.  So I detoured along a spur trail and rode through the local neighborhood on streets.

The sun had come out by this time, and it looked like I'd be riding in high cotton the rest of the way.  

But that's not exactly how things turned out.  I'll tell you the rest . . . of the story . . . in the next 2 or 3 lines.

Johnny Cash's recording of "Five Feet High and Rising" was released on his album of the same name in 1974.  It was inspired by the Mississippi River flood of 1937, which threatened the Cash family homestead in Dyess, Arkansas.

In this video of Cash performing "Five Feet High and Rising," he tells the rest of his story:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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