Adventure, The Great Adventure

Dodging Storms and Lightning Bolts

Image by Peter Patau

Rain pours over the roof of the gas station. I’m under the overhang, furious on my iPhone. The Giant leans against cinder blocks. Waits for my decision.

“Here.”

It’s the owner. He’s known me six minutes. He likes my Adventure, but cannot believe I’m biking in this. He has a small piece of paper.

“It’s the password to our wireless,” he says. “Might be faster for you.” He looks away. “I usually throw travelers out of here, but… you’re not drunk.”

He laughs. I thank him.

Judgement. If I wait here I’ll be unable to make my evening destination. If I push on in the wrong conditions, I die or something. That’s a fair proposition.

Lightning blasts the hill again. Weather websites are shit, you know; they are designed for people in offices.

The radar says there are two concentrations of clouds—two separate storms, if you will. One, the smaller one, has just passed over us. We still have rain, but the thunderhead has gone.

The other, far larger, is bearing down. It extends down along my route, but… I cock my head. Eight miles?

“Ha!”

I run inside. Confused clerk girl gets the paper with the password, helpful owner gets a firm handshake.

“You’re going?” He’s worried.

“We’re in between two thunderheads! If I can make Uniontown I’m past ‘em!”

“There’s nothing in Uniontown!”

“Yeah, and no lightning!”

He gets it but the door is already closed. I’m in the saddle. Risk evaluation is the most important adventurer’s skill, risk avoidance a close second. (Risk acceptance—the only skill usually associated with adventuring—is actually a bad thing.)

I measured my options and learned how to run.

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9 thoughts on “Dodging Storms and Lightning Bolts

  1. The storms get more powerful, the further you go south.

    It raises questions like: how long does it take you and your gear to get dry? Is there a standard dry down procedure for the giant? Is this going to give you chills or a cold?

    I’ll share my favorite weather app.

    • Got the weather app, thank you! (For any wondering: it’s Accuweather for iPhone).

      Dry down is more of an art than a science. And by art I mean like preschool finger painting, not Sistine ceiling stuff.

      My most crucial gear is kept in two waterproof Ortlieb panniers. The laptop is inside its own drysack inside one of those, so doubly protected. A dry change of clothing is also kept in those waterproof bags.

      I have a large garbage bag that I put my bedroll in when I expect rain. This offers roughly 95% protection for it.

      The camping hammock always gets wet, as does my shaving kit and most of my other possessions. When it rains I wear only shorts and a Tshirt and allow myself to get soaked completely (more fun than sweating inside my rain jacket) so those and my shoes may not dry out even left hanging up all night. Often they are still wet when I put them on in the morning.

      As far as I can tell the hammock does not suffer from being damp so often and as of yesterday it has not acquired any mildew.

      The Giant himself is pretty hearty. Genius Inventor Ben told me it will not harm him (the bike) to leave him out in the rain, and indeed I’ve done so many times. There is no clear performance difference except that I need to take care to oil his chain as soon as possible once it stops raining. There have been times the Giant has been out all night in storms and was still raring to go in the morning.

      I’ve never experienced any (direct) health conditions due to being out in the rain on this trip. In theory being cold can lower your immune system and increase your chance of getting sick, but I seldom feel cold. Most days it is 60+ even if it’s raining which is just fine. I feel most people are far too sensitive about rainy weather. In the summer you can be out in the rain and it is totally comfortable. The discomfort is only in our heads.

      A coworker of mine (hi Annie!) once told me that if you can just start to enjoy biking in the rain, you’ll really enjoy biking in the rain. Honestly it’s like a ritual or a party game. Hair, shirt, pants, socks, everything is wet and you’re just laughing and charging down the road with this glorious wind in your face. Kids do this stuff for fun. It’s recreation. As an adult there is an added thrill that comes from ego. When people see you biking in the rain you are a badass. Cars give you more room and slow down a little. People look at you and smile or cheer you on. What a cool thing.

      One thing I do change in the rain is make sure to wear my contacts, because it’s hard to see through rainy glasses. My helmet has a little bit of a shade visor which keeps the rain off my face (sometimes). As long as you can see fine it’s a blast.

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