Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I like storms. I even like riding in storms. It's not often that I fear the weather; Your chances of getting sucked up into a Swirling Vortex of Doom or getting struck by lightning are pretty slim.

Last night, I got scared.

The skies were ominous when I left, and there was a strong wind out of the north. I didn't have my waterproof backpack with me, so I'd wrapped my phone up in a plastic bag. I was ready for rain and headwind. Some co-workers offered me a ride home, but their sedans wouldn't accommodate my bike, and I didn't feel like messing with the bolted front axle to remove the wheel so it'd fit in a trunk. They wished me good luck. That made my day, at least.

Riding across 113th, there were a few times I was nearly blown straight off the road by crosswind. Once I got myself into a headwind situation on Santa Fe Trail Drive, I was okay. I had to put my sunglasses on because the wind was blowing debris at me with stinging force. Then came the first few sprinkles and even more wind, clawing at my forearms and calves. All while trying to hold a straight, assertive line on the road. A kind man in a pickup drove next to me for a while and asked if I needed a ride. I thanked him and waved him on. I'd later regret that.

After a few miles, the deluge set in, and it was like riding into a sandblaster nozzle. There was zero visibility and the driving rain caused burning pain on all my exposed skin, even my scalp as it drove its way through the vents in my helmet. Lightning strikes were landing way too close for comfort and finally drove me to find the nearest overpass to wait under for a while. It's easy to write off a lightning strike as a one-in-a-million probability until you've heard the sharp sound of arcing electricity right before you feel the thunder a few times in a row.

Shortly after getting back out on the road, I would find myself being passed far-too-closely by a lane-straddling semi as I tried to go over one of the gnarlier railroad crossings. Despite my assertive lane position, I didn't get nearly enough room, and I couldn't make a perpendicular cross like I usually do. The rear tire hit the second rail, lost traction, and tried sliding right out from under me. I managed to stay shiny side up without stopping, thanks to fixed gears' natural tendency to be easier to control in low-traction conditions. I would have looked for the plate number of the truck, but it had stopped to wait for a left turn and I didn't feel like waiting around.

The rest of the trip was uneventful as can be when you're dealing with storms. At least I felt refreshed when I got home, even if I did have to wring three gallons of water out of my backpack, clothes and shoes.


Dean Fuhrman said...

I was driving at about the same time you were riding. Holy smokes ... you are a dedicated biking dude. Glad to hear you made it out safe and sound. That storm was a beast.

Jennifer said...

I've been afraid to ride in storms since a microburst (macroburst?) sent me to the ER last month. Glad to hear (read?) you're OK. Seems like the storms where you are have been wild this summer.

In related news, this.

Noah said...

I don't really have an alternative right now. I can take a bus to get to work, but all bets are off on the homeward trip. My car is out of commission and has been for quite a while.

Had I known, I would have asked my boss if I could leave a bit early. I may have also left the bike at work overnight and just hitched a ride with a co-worker.

Noah said...

Jennifer: F. That. *heebiejeebies*

Anonymous said...

"At least I felt refreshed when I got home" - LOL

Glad to see you are already riding again after your deer encounter.

Apertome said...

Lightning is one of few things that will keep me off the bike. Statistically maybe there's not a huge chance of anything happening, but sitting high on a metal object in an electrical storm seems like it's asking for trouble.

We have had some truly amazing lightning storms here recently, too.

Chris said...

I know exactly what you're talking about with the lightning. I got caught in a bad storm up in the boundry waters on a canoe and lightning hit the lake a hundred yards from us and we could feel it...don't mess with mother nature!

Unknown said...

I was driving my wife back to Brookside from Menorah when the same storm hit. I was sorry to even be out in a car. A bike would have been unpleasant.

Ron said...

I've been weary of lightning ever since a bolt struck way too close to me. But I still ride in it-although with much anxiety. It was a devil of a rain that night! A much better ride just after the torrent (and Lee's Summit tornado) passed.

amidnightrider said...

The rest of the trip was uneventful you said. Ha! After all that, what more could have possibly happened?

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