5.27.2009,11:50 AM
Uh Oh......
After only 5.5 hours of sleep, I was tired yesterday. I lost all my oomph at 4 pm and left the lab early enough to catch the 4:45 train to Fort Worth. The day was hot and humid and I felt sucked dry after a weekend of camping and riding. I fell asleep on the train.

Aroused from quasi-slumber -half asleep- right before my station stop, I noticed a large white group of clouds contrasted against the bright sun and blue sky. Not until I was on the freeway did I notice the large gray-blue mushroom cloud ahead. From the bottom center of that cloud mass dropped a veil of blue-gray rain with tendrils dipping down along the edges. It was power and beauty rolled into one huge mass of cloud mushroom. And surrounding it was bright blue sky on a hot humid day.

Not paying attention to the direction of this awesome sight, I realized about 10 miles down the highway that it was not where I thought it was. Instead of riding alongside it, I would be riding right into it. 'Well, a little rain won't hurt and it will be cooler,' I thought.

As I exited the freeway and rode on a narrow rural road I watched the giant mushroom cloud to my right. It was a beautiful and awesome sight. Too bad I did not have the camera to capture it. Further down the road branches of tall oaks reached over the road; it was dark enough for the instrument lights to glow in the tunnel of leaves. Soon I was up out of the creek bottom and up on the open prairie again, riding closer to the stem of the mushroom cloud.

Stopping at the intersection of the rural and FM road that eventually leads to my gravel road, the sky was dark and ominous to my right: north where I would be heading. Okay, we will get a little wet. Reaching down with my left hand I tugged closed the zipper of my left pant leg to protect the foot from water. Nothing I could do about the right foot. Soon I was riding the roller coaster road down the high prairie and ran into a wall of rain. Then it all went terribly wrong.

I slammed my face shield closed and ducked down on the gas tank and behind the windshield. The downpour reduced visibility to nearly 10 feet in front of me. I couldn't see any vehicles in front of me, but I wanted to make sure all vehicles saw me. Quickly and in succession, I turned on the side LED light, the bright headlight beams and four-way flashers. The wind was whipping me side to side as I fought forward into it. Then I felt a sting on my throttle hand and felt pelting hail on my helmet. I saw blurred car lights way behind me and I was thankful the driver was also exercising caution. A law enforcement car slowly passed me in the opposite direction and I wondered if he or she was shaking their head at the idiot on the motorcycle in this storm.

I could feel the bike tires crunching the hail on the road and feel the stings of it hitting my hands and arms. I let the bike slow of it's own accord, carefully shifted down to fifth gear and maintained a steady slow speed. Meanwhile, it took some time for me realize my boots were full of water and my entire lower torso was soaked. Rain was starting to run down my arms inside my jacket, but I didn't dare pop my head above the windshield.

I eased off the throttle right before the crest of the hill letting gravity slow me down before descending to the stop side ahead. 'Brake only as much as you absolutely need to,' I told myself. 'And use both front and rear. Easy does it.' Shifting down while deceleration, I looked both ways at the stop sign. No vehicle in sight, so I coasted through the intersection and onto my road. The hail had stopped and my hands still stung, but the rain was unrelenting.

I followed my road home feeling like a drowned rat and carefully turned onto my gravel drive only to see rivers of mud running on each side of the center. I hugged the center as close as possible and then stopped before the turn onto my gravel driveway. It was worse than a river; it was a pond. A muddy one. 'Okay, you have to do this. Now, go!'

Carefully pointing the front wheel where I wanted it to go, I smoothly rolled the throttle open and the bike wiggled through the mud and water. Then there was the obstacle course straight ahead: two deep potholes that have grown over the winter and spring. Knowing that the center was higher and still had gravel, I maneuvered through that without any issues and took a deep breath of relief. Coasting to a stop near the house, I then fully felt how soaked through I was.

I pulled the tank bag off the bike, yanked my work stuff out of my soaked side bags, and made it into the house. Dripping pools of water. I walked into the second bathroom, literally peeled off gear and piled it all into the bath tub. Hail hammered the roof and lightening pounded the sky.

Because I had left all the windows opened, the carpet was wet all along the north side of the house. Towels were draped on the floor to soak up the water and I changed into warm and dry fleece. The storm started to recede. I popped three Advil for a pounding headache and I lay on the bed to relax and warm up. And fell asleep.

Thunder and pounding rain woke me in the dark. A glance at the clock told me it was 12:30 am. Then the house rocked. Not shook; it rocked back and forth. Thank goodness it didn't roll. Wind was hammering the north side of the house as if hundreds of bison were hitting it trying to get through. Lightening was incessantly impaling the night and my skin crawled.

Rushing to the windows I felt as if a huge presence was pushing at the house, one that was whining and humming. I heard crashing and thumping against the house. At that point, I was debating shoving my feet into any footwear available and getting in the truck to leave. I live on the top of a naked hill on the prairies. I was beginning to fear if a tornado were nearby.

At this point I was straining to see out the windows to see if the bike was still standing. I could barely make out the outline of the bike against the white truck in the flashes of lightening. And still debated if I should leave the house. I noticed the neighbor's lights were on; I could take refuge there. But I stayed. I still don't know if that was foolish or not.

About an hour passed and the wind abated somewhat, but the lightening and rain didn't. It still hammered the house. I went back to bed, still uneasy. And decided to wait till the morning to see what damage was done.

In the morning I could see moonlight reflected off white siding and skirting scattered all over the back and side yard. It was too dark to see any roof shingles, but I'm sure they are on the ground, too. The cast metal bench was laying on its back and debris from trees many hundreds of yards away littered the ground. But the bike still stood, I realized with relief.

Feeling drained and with all my gear still soaked, I drove the truck this morning. Damage assessment will have to wait until I get home tonight. This weekend will be damage control and repair. The neighbor to the west of me was not home; I thought I saw his car creep down the road last night. And I wonder if I should have left, too.


posted by Macrobe
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