How Hurricane Ike caught us on the road.
Riders in the Storm
On Saturday Hurricane Ike struck the Texas coast. Hundreds of miles inland, we Arkansans awoke that morning to overcast skies and ominous gusts of wind. Dad and I nonetheless decided to try spending a couple of hours riding motorcycles on Saturday morning. Apart from a short-lived fuel line problem on my bike, we encountered no trouble. The cooler than usual temperatures felt fine.
We could see, though, that something was brewing. The skies everywhere we went were mostly various shades of grey, with now and then a little patch of white-edged blue. The winds were blustery. Leaves blew across the roads. It felt as though autumn had come too early.
We got home and put our bikes back under shelter just before a brisk shower broke. It had finished by lunch time. We settled in to await the main weather event. A couple of hours later we were still waiting.
Some parts of the state were already getting heavy weather. As Dad tried to watch the Razorback game (while Mom graded papers and I read a book), weather bulletins interrupted every couple of minutes to report that this or that area had fallen under a tornado warning. Outside we saw only those more or less grey skies and occasional gusts.
Eventually Dad and I decided to take a chance again. This time we left the bikes under the shed and brought out Dad’s motor scooters. If we ran into rain they would be easier to clean later. We stowed wet-weather gear in the scooters and rumbled off down the still-damp road toward town.
In town we turned onto the Smithton Road. It took us through the familiar countryside of modest houses and fields, railroad tracks and patches of swamp. The only change I noticed from earlier rides this way was a mobile home that had acquired a coat of very bright yellow paint.
We crossed the highway to another road that ran through one of the most scenic sections of our part of the county. We saw miles of rolling pastures and meadows and attractive houses. I had ridden this way several times before, but always before in sunlight. Now beneath the overcast, in the lower light, I noticed textures and colors in the fields and houses I had not observed before. It occurred to me that any place worth seeing is worth seeing at a variety of different times of day and year.
As I mused along these lines we turned down a rougher section of road through less open country. The sky grew darker. I wondered whether Dad planned to turn back and head home before too much longer, or whether he would keep going and make our ride into a big loop. A few moments later my question was answered when we ran smack into heavy rain.
We promptly doubled back the way we had come, hoping to get out ahead of the rain. The weather moved too fast for us. We stopped just long enough to put on our rain jackets and motored on. It was the first time I had ever ridden in a real rain. As usual, even when he had not planned it that way, Dad had presented me with a new riding challenge to stretch my skills.
We had not been riding long when Dad signaled a left turn. I saw his headlight bumping along a gravel drive toward a large open-sided, sheet-metal-roofed shed some way off of the road. The old saying about any port in a storm came to mind.
We pulled up in an unoccupied corner of the shed. The rest of it contained a camper trailer, a large and rather nice-looking boat, the stripped remains of an old Ford Mustang, and a dog who appeared to belong there. The dog rather surprisingly raised no objection to our arrival. I petted his head. He looked as if he appreciated some company.
Dad and I stood and watched the rain for a bit and speculated on whether it would let up enough to let us get back on the road. At one point I walked to the back of the shed past the boat and the derelict Ford. The floor of the shed was of dirt, dark and cool and cratered with the nests of aunt lions, or “doodle bugs” as we’d called them when I was growing up. It looked very much like the floor of my grandmother’s carport that I had seen so often back in the day. From the back of the shed I could see through the rain the muted green of the field and the trees beyond the fence row. Beyond the trees winked the tip of one of the cellular signal towers that now dot the countryside.
The rain slowed almost to a stop. We mounted our scooters and made for home, splashing along the road about twenty to twenty-five miles per hour. We had not gone very far when we ran into more rain. This rain was if anything worse. We were riding straight into the wind. The heavy, wind-driven drops stung our faces.
Dad abruptly wheeled around and doubled back to a driveway we had just passed. It led up a little knoll to a newly-built house. We darted under the house’s large carport. Dad explained that it belonged to an old friend of the family who had not yet moved in and would not mind our taking the liberty of sheltering there. “Any carport in a storm,” I said.
The wind lashed the rain up to the middle of the carport. Rain cascaded in sheets from the roof of a neighboring house. Clouds rolled along the sky like a great grey express train. I had never seen them move so fast without the benefit of time-lapse photography.
After a few minutes the dark grey clouds had passed, leaving lighter grey overcast. The wind and rain died down. We set out once again. We returned to Smithton Road and rode back in toward town, taking it slow, avoiding sudden terms and deep mud holes, and keeping a watch out for newly fallen branches and other debris. The splash guards on the scooters kept our legs from getting any wetter than they were already.
We made it back home with no more trouble. Mom was glad to see us safe. I was glad for a chance to change into dry pants. That evening, when we went out to eat, we learned that the truck stop and other places around it had lost electricity in the storm. We drove on to the county seat and ate there. Another heavy rain poured down while we were eating.
When we were at our second stop Dad apologized for the way our gamble with the weather had lost. “But then that’s part of the fun,” he added. Indeed it was. That said, I do hope that I don’t encounter that particular part of the fun of riding again any time soon.
Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven.