Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Odetta -- "Wade in the Water" (1954)

I took one step into Jordan
The water came to my knees
And then I took another step into Jordan
And the water came to my waist
Then I took another step into Jordan
The water covered my head

(This is the second of two posts about my harrowing bicycle journey to my office on "Bike to Work Day" last week.  Click here to read the first post.)

There are dozens of recorded versions of the Negro spiritual, "Wade in the Water," including the very popular instrumental version that Ramsey Lewis released in 1966:

Odetta Holmes -- known simply as Odetta to most -- influenced many performers, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin.  Her fans included Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., who called her "the queen of American folk music."

Odetta's version of "Wade in the Water" (which was released on her 1954 album, The Tin Angel) is one of the few to include the lines quoted above, which are tres apropos to little ol' moi.

A few miles into my recent "Bike to Work Day" ride from my home to my office, I was literally wading through water that "came to my knees" on the Rock Creek hiker-biker trail.

So I abandoned the bike trail and took to the streets.  The sun had come out and all was well for the next several miles.

Then I turned on to Beach Drive -- a quiet, flat road that goes through a park and is often closed to cars on weekends so bikers can enjoy it more safely.

When I saw these closed gates, I thought that perhaps Beach Drive had been closed to cars because it was Bike to Work Day:

Guess again.  It had been closed because Rock Creek had escaped its banks and flooded Beach Drive:

The swath of parkland between Rock Creek and Beach Drive (which includes parking lots, playgrounds,and picnic areas) is at least 50 yards wide -- it might be 100 yards wide in places -- and it was all completely submerged:

I thought about wading through the water covering Beach Drive.  But I couldn't see where the flooding ended -- there was no street visible as far as the eye could see.  And I had no idea how deep the water covering Beach Drive was.

We're not talking about the River Jordan, but this water might have come to my waist.  It might have even been deep enough to cover my head.

I decided not to take any chances.  So I detoured through a nearby neighborhood, came back to Beach Drive a mile or so downstream and tried it once more.  But the next stretch was flooded as well.

I detoured yet again, riding on busy streets -- which I hate doing -- until I got to downtown Bethesda and picked up the Capital Crescent Trail.

A few miles later, I made it to the McDonald's where I usually stop for breakfast when I ride to work.  Given that all my wading and detouring and picture-taking had delayed me by about an hour, the breakfast service was long over -- I had to settle for a double cheeseburger instead.

The next section of the trail is the most downhill part, and I zipped along at speeds close to 20 MPH for a half hour or so.

But then I hit another snag:

It seems that the heavy rains had caused sewage to overflow a manhole near the C&O Canal, which the bike trail parallels.  Sufferin' succotash!

The DC water company had barricaded several miles of the trail and dispatched a whole host of workers to address the problem:

I was able to ride along the canal towpath, but it's not paved -- it was not only bumpy, but also wet.  By the time I got to Georgetown, both I and my trusty steed were muddied up to beat the band.

Here's a picture of the aforesaid steed taking a break alongside the very fast-moving and very brown Potomac River in Georgetown.  That's Key Bridge in the background.  If you look closely at the extreme upper-right corner of the picture, you'll see the tips of some spires on the Georgetown University campus:

For the last few miles of my ride, I used the new L Street bike lane.  Quelle horreur!  What with cars and trucks suddenly deciding to change lanes and make turns with absolutely no regard to the fact that they were cutting off  poor defenseless cyclists minding their own business and helping to combat global warming, I would have felt just as safe on a nice, peaceful autobahn.

I got to my office about an hour later than I should have.  A long and very hot shower helped me recover from my harrowing ordeal.  I always bring a change of clothes to my office the night before I ride to work, but I didn't bring another pair of shoes.  So I spent much of the day barefoot.

When I had to leave my office -- to answer nature's calls, etc. -- I put a stack of paper towels inside my shoes before putting them on.  That helped soak up the excess water they had absorbed.  By the end of the day, they were reasonably dry.

People often ask me if I ride my bike back home at the end of the day.  Are you crazy?  It's dark by then, and the way back is somewhat uphill.  Plus my ass is drag gin' pretty bad by then.

So my bike and I take the Metro home:

So now you know . . . the rest . . . of the story:

Here's Odetta's version of "Wade in the Water":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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