Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 14- Riders on the Storm

Today began with an ominous sign; black clouds on the horizon. Oh no, I thought. Are we really going to have to ride in the rain again?
At breakfast we all decided that we should leave with our rain suits on, that way if it did rain, we would be ready. We geared up and got ready to leave. In case the threat of rain wasn't bad enough, my bike started coughing and spluttering, and giving off a bit of black smoke. Great, that's all I need, a broken bike in a rain storm. Well, fortunately about ten minutes down the road my bike was back to normal and running great. We figured it must have had some bad fuel in the line, and once it cleared, I was good to go.
About 20 minutes into our journey, the rain came pouring down. We were riding through the Lewis and Clark National Forrest, and what I could see through the rain was beautiful. I was not very happy to be in the rain again, but we had no choice, so we rode on. A little while later we pulled over in a tiny little town to get something warm to drink, but the coffee shop wasn't open yet, and wouldn't be for another hour. Fortunately for us, a local woman told us about a place down the road, The Lazy Doe, where we could get coffee. 5 minutes later we were inside and drinking hot coffee, trying to get some warmth back into our cold bodies.
After a short break, and with a slight pause in the rain, we got back on the road. We were in the rain for nearly 2 hours before it let up. And when the skies cleared and the temperature rose, we were all very happy people. We stopped for lunch about 60 miles outside of Billings, Montana. The sky had cleared, and it was even hot enough for us to take our rain suits off. After a very slow lunch, we got back on the bikes, glad to be done with the rain, or so we thought.
For the first 30 miles or so after lunch, life was good. The sun was shinning, it was warm, and we were cruising. We were once again on the open road, cruising through the ranch-land of Montana. And then, the real adventure began.
30 miles outside of Billings, the sky off to our left was gorgeous, clear blue, and sunny. Off in the distance to our right, massive, dark storm clouds. Above us, the meeting of the two. It would be a battle between light and dark, and only time would tell which would win. We had a decision to make. Should we stop, take 15 minutes, and put all of our rain gear back on, or just keep riding in the hopes of beating the storm? We decided to go for it, and take on the remaining 30 miles in our regular riding gear.
20 miles to go, and the storm was winning. The blue sky was getting further and further away while the storm was coming closer. A few minutes later the atmosphere changed and the smell of rain was in the air. In the distance to our right, bolts of lightening began erupting from the clouds and onto the ground below. It was incredible to see, and with every bolt that shot out of the distant clouds I laughed and screamed with delight. It may sound crazy to be chuckling at lightening while on a motorcycle, but I knew we were safe, as the lightening was far away, and the rain was very light.
15 miles out, and now the rain was really coming down. Without our rain gear, we were soaking wet. Was the lightening coming closer, or was that just my imagination? We kept on going, trying to race the storm.
10 miles out. The storm was winning. The rain was coming down hard, really hard. And the lightening that was once miles away, was now just a 100 or so yards in front of us! Giant bolts, thrown by Zeus himself, exploding out of the sky ahead of us, followed by a giant blast of thunder. There was nothing we could do, nowhere we could take shelter. We were out on the plains and all we could do was keep riding the last 10 miles into Billings. Visibility was almost none, so my concentration was at an all time high. Everything in my body was telling me we needed to get off the road, but my mind knew we had to continue. It was a battle, man vs. nature, and we were going head to head. The storm may have beaten the sunshine, but it would not beat us. Determined, and with adrenaline pumping, we rode on through the storm.
We pulled into our hotel not a second too soon. And, I shit you not, just a minute after we walked into the lobby it started hailing outside. And then, as if in some crazy movie, sirens started blasting outside. What sirens you might be wondering? Tornado warning sirens! Had we stopped to put on our rain gear, or taken any longer getting into town, we would have been hit by the hail, and potentially caught in a tornado. The reality of it all slowly began to sink in with everyone, and I am sure many a silent thank you was sent out to the heavens.
The previous 30 minutes had been the most exhilarating and terrifying moments I have ever spent on the road. It was a real adventure, and one that I could never in a million years have guessed we would experience.
For those of you that know me, you know I don't believe in chance, or coincidence. I truly believe today that we all had angels on our shoulders, guiding us to forgo putting on our rain suits, and keeping us safe in the storm. It is because of things like this that we drink a toast to the Road Gods for keeping us safe, and after today's ride, you can imagine how grateful we all were. So, to all of you out there reading this, send thoughts of clear skies and sunshine our way, for tomorrow we ride again . . .

Take a look at the pics to see a bit more:

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