Top Down in the Rain

I discover that at certain speeds, it doesn’t really matter if it’s raining and the top is down.

I spent the day in Scottsdale today. I had an FAA course to take at the Scottsdale FSDO. The FSDO isn’t at the airport and doesn’t have a helipad. (How inconsiderate!) So I had to drive.

I drove my Honda. If you’ve been following these blogs, you may know that last year I bought a Honda S2000. It’s the last sports car I’ll ever buy, so I don’t drive it often. It has to last. At 18 months old, it still has less than 9,000 miles on it. I’d like to average 5,000 miles a year.

I normally drive my Jeep around town. It’s starting to become a bit of a beater. The roof needs replacing — too much time in the sun! — and the plastic side and back windows were so scratched up that the other day, I just unzipped them and threw them away. Now at least I can see what’s going on behind me. That’s especially useful when I’m in a parking lot, backing up, and the drivers around me aren’t 100% aware of what’s going on around them. (Sadly they can’t use bad windows as an excuse.)

The Jeep is terrible on the highway, even with the windows on. It’s loud and rides like a truck. It has a tape deck that’s so full of dust that it just spits the tapes out without bothering to play them. Not that you could hear the tapes anyway. The darn thing is so loud you can’t even hear yourself think. And you have to downshift to third gear to pass on the highway.

Of course, it does tackle the roads at Howard Mesa very well. And I’ve driven up the river more than a few times in it. So it does have its uses. Highway driving, unfortunately, is not one of them.

Anyway, the Honda is a convertible and I rarely drive it with the top up. But since I had to be in Scottsdale by 8 AM, that means I had to leave Wickenburg at 6:30 AM. And at 6:30 AM in January, it’s still quite dark and very cold. It was a top up drive.

I forgot my iPod at the office. I recently bought a kit that hardwires the iPod into the car’s stereo system so you can control it with the dashboard stereo controls. At the same time, it keeps the iPod charged. This works with the new iPod (iPod Photo, in my case) only. It won’t work with my old, original iPod. (That’s another argument for keeping the old iPod in the helicopter, as I discussed in another blog entry.) The car has a CD player and I had a few CDs, so the iPod wasn’t really missed. I like to listen to NPR, anyway. I listened to that until I was sick of hearing about the Iraqi election’s consequences for the rest of the Middle East, then popped in a CD and listened to old (70s) Elton John for a while. Then I hit traffic on the Loop 101 and decided it might be good to listen to NPR for a traffic report. Evidently, stop-and-go traffic on the Loop 101 between I-17 and Scottsdale Road is a normal occurrence, because they didn’t say a word about it in two traffic reports.

I got off at Princess Road. There were lots of signs about needing a permit to travel on certain roads. I later discovered that the Phoenix Open was somewhere in the area. As if traffic wasn’t screwed up enough, there was this huge, week-long event to completely destroy it.

I pulled into the FSDO’s parking lot without problems and got a good space out front. I stepped inside at 7:58 AM. Sheesh. Imagine doing that commute every day? Sadly, I have to do it again on Wednesday and then again next Wednesday.

I sat through the first half of course. It really has no bearing on this story.

I put the top down when I went to lunch. It was a beautiful day, although still a bit cool. I had a very nice turkey and melted brie on herb bread sandwich at a bakery. I think it’s called the Wildflower Bakery. Something like that. It was a sandwich you can’t buy in Wickenburg because 1) there is no bakery in town and 2) no one there is creative enough to suggest brie with turkey. (Wickenburg used to have a sandwich shop that had interesting sandwiches, but it went out of business.) I enjoyed the sandwich very much, primarily because I’d had a bad stomach problem on Friday night and the sandwich was only the second bit of solid food I’d had since then. I walked over to Organized Living to look for a file rack for my desk and stepped out empty-handed. Then I made my way back through the traffic to the FSDO office for the afternoon session.

At 3:30 PM, when class was over, I stepped outside and was quite surprised to see dark clouds. But the forecast hadn’t said anything about rain. So I put the top down and heading back to the highway for the drive home.

The rain started falling when I was northbound on I-17. First a bit of a drizzle, then enough rain to turn the wipers on. There was traffic, but it wasn’t bad. I was able to keep a speed of 40 to 50 MPH. I felt a few drops on my head, but not many. I had to make a decision: stop now and put up the top or keep driving with the top down?

Ahead, there was sunshine. And I really didn’t want to stop. So I kept going.

I almost regretted my decision when traffic got a bit worse and my speed dropped to about 30. I was getting a little wet. But then traffic cleared up and I sped up. Soon, I was cruising at 65 MPH. And even though the rain was getting heavier, not a drop was falling inside the car!

Top down in the rain, not getting wet. How cool is that? I kept imagining a wind tunnel with the smoke going right over the top of the car. The rain was like the smoke.

I passed a bunch of cars, my windshield wipers working steadily, wondering what the other drivers were thinking of me. They probably thought I was nuts. But I wasn’t the least bit wet! Then I caught up with and passed another convertible with its top down. There were two women inside and they were laughing hard. I waved to them, sticking my hand out into the rain. They waved back. We all laughed. I wondered if only women were crazy enough to drive a convertible with the top down in the rain. Then I sped on.

By the time I got off at the Carefree Highway exit, the rain had stopped. But a look to the west told me that it was likely to start again. And it might rain harder. Was it worth keeping the top down? I was already stopped, waiting behind other cars to make the left turn. It would be easy enough to put the top back up.

Oh, heck. I pulled up the parking break and pushed the roof button. 10 seconds later, I was snapping the two latches closed. I’d keep the top up for the rest of the ride.

It didn’t rain until I got near Wickenburg, and even then it wasn’t much of a rain. I could have left the top down after all. Just keep the speed up and remember the wind tunnel.

What do you think?