The Longest 10 Miles

The Boot

It was Million Mile Monday for HOG members around the world, and day #9 in a row of 90+ degree temperatures in Delaware.  The humidity was ridiculous, and the sun was blazing!  We had cut our route a bit short due to the forecast of afternoon thunderstorms, and had just finished up lunch.  A quick check of the radar on Skip’s phone indicated that the storms had already started to pop up, and all of us who were headed north were going to be heading directly into a pretty nasty one!

It was still stiflingly hot where we were in Smyrna, so we decided not to bother with the rain gear since getting wet would be a welcome relief, and the group psyched ourselves up for the trip up US-13.

Mile #1
We were approaching the ramp to get on Rt-1 and cross the Canal Bridge, and I still hadn’t felt a single drop of rain.  There had been a few visible lightning strikes, and the sky was looking quite ominous.  As if Mother Nature had drawn a line where the asphalt switched to concrete at the base of the bridge, all hell broke loose as soon as we crossed that line.  I kept looking at the dark stains on the concrete roadway and thinking that must be oil in there just coming to the surface as the rain began to fall.  It must be incredibly slick, and the winds were pretty strong as we crested the bridge.  Going down the other side I felt like I was being pelted with paint balls, and I couldn’t really see for nothin’!  I was however very glad that I had worn my ¾ helmet with a face shield that day rather than my shorty.

Mile #2
I knew several of the riders were headed much farther north than I, but still it was a bit of a surprise when no one got off the Rt-72 exit with me.  The rains were getting harder with every foot I traveled, and the winds were picking up too.  It made it quite difficult to concentrate on the little details of riding…like exactly which gear I was in.  I pulled up to the traffic light at the end of the ramp, and put my feet down a bit abruptly because of a wind gust.  I tried to balance the bike with one foot on the ground and kick the lever down into first gear, but it wouldn’t budge…so I hoped that I had gotten it all the way down.

As I sat waiting for the light on an inclined slight bank to the left with a huge truck right behind me, I watched as the raindrops on the pavement became white water washing across the roadway and the traffic signals swung sideways in the wind.  The first thought that overwhelmed me was “I am totally alone.”  All of my friends were headed up the highway, and Jay was safe & dry at work.  If anything did happen I would have to handle it completely by myself.  I was having difficulty even holding the bike upright with both feet on the ground because the winds were so strong.  If I could make it around the corner, there was a school a block down the street where I could pull in and be safe for awhile.  There’s no real cover there, but I am already drenched so I’m not sure why that would make a difference anyway.

The traffic light finally changed, I gave it throttle and started letting out the clutch.  The bike did not move.  It was then that I determined I was surely not in first gear.  I shuffled my feet a little as the bike creeped forward about a foot or two.  There was no way on this sideways banked incline with water gushing over my toes that I would be able to pick up a foot enough to get her down to first gear, at least not until the roadway leveled out a little…so I had no choice but to finesse the clutch and practically duck walk my bike around the corner.  I thought the guy in the big truck was going to run me over, but he actually patiently drifted thru the intersection behind me.  I still don’t know if I ever kicked her down into first or if I just fought my way through until second gear could pull her weight, but somehow I actually started moving.

Mile #3
I was in the wrong lane to pull into the school, so I kept on trucking.  Slowly and steadily I rode down Rt-72 toward Red Lion Rd.  There’s a gas station there.  I can pull in and call Jay; he can check the radar for me and let me know where the storm is located, which way it’s moving, and how long until it lets up.  The gas station was on the opposite corner of the intersection from where I caught a red light.  As I sat there I realized that the rain & wind were already dying down so I may as well just keep on moving.

Mile #4
I was very careful to count each shift as I moved along so I’d know exactly what gear I was in.  I was traveling about 40 mph in a 50 mph zone, and thought that I must be a hazard.  But everyone else was going that slowly too, so I stopped worrying about it.  I thought maybe I should turn on my hazard lights, and wondered what on earth possessed me to opt out of the rain gear when I knew I was riding directly into a storm.  At least the hi-viz orange and reflective accents would be much more visible than my soaking wet dark purple mesh jacket.  I spent $175 on good quality gear, why in the world am I not using it?  I never did turn on the blinkers or stop to pull out my rain gear.

Mile #5
Still rolling down Rt-72.  Jay must be worried sick about me.  I bet he has tried to call me, and of course I am not answering.  He’s probably watching the radar at work and wondering what part of the Delmarva Peninsula I am in?  I could be anywhere from Rock Hall MD to Chincoteague VA to Dover DE…  I am actually only 5 miles from home, but I am in the worst possible location – by myself, in the middle of a huge storm!  At least it’s not windy anymore, the rain is steady but getting lighter, and I haven’t seen any lightning since we all went through Odessa.

I crossed paths with another rider caught out in the storm.  He waved, I nodded.  Somehow it seemed as though the message “I feel your pain, Ride Safe, Good luck to you” was passed between us.

Mile #6
Another traffic light.  This time at US-40.  There is one car in front of me who stopped for the yellow, so I’ll be here for awhile.  The left-turning vehicles are coming into the opposite lane now.  Oh no, they are riding through a stream across the roadway!  I am going to have to go through that…and it’s right where I’ll be shifting into 2nd gear!  Steady pace, no sudden moves, keep an even throttle, shift either before I reach it or after I clear it.  I can handle this – it’s just like that time Lem took us for an ice cream ride down Rt-9 and there was standing water all across the roadway.

I lifted my face shield so it didn’t fog up as I sat there, and made the executive decision to keep it up as a sort of visor so I had clear vision until I got through the intersection.  The light turned green, and my plan went off without a hitch.

Mile #7
I ride up and down Rt-72 to work every day.  I could do it with my eyes closed.  It’s one of my favorite roads to ride – not so much because of its excellent twisties or anything, but because its sweeping curves are so familiar.  I feel very at home on this road.  Oh crap, sweeping curves!  I’ve been going pretty much in a straight line so far, but the coefficient of friction is not as great in a curve.  I hope I don’t go sliding across the roadway.  Choose your line very carefully…

Ya know, that pickup truck behind me is staying way back even though I’m going significantly under the speed limit.  That’s pretty considerate of him.  He probably sees some psycho soaking wet chick on a bike and feels sorry for me.

The curves went OK, now for the railroad tracks.  Mikey slid out on railroad tracks in the rain when he was riding his brand new V-Rod home from the dealership the night he bought it.  Banged it up pretty bad.  Not a good thought.  Watch your line, angle it perpendicular, hold it steady.

Mile #8
Almost home – so far, so good.  It’s only drizzling now.  As I sit at the traffic light at Old Baltimore Pike, I can actually see the sky starting to clear off in the direction of my house.  I have intentionally chosen the left lane because the roadway under the I-95 overpass just a few blocks up always has standing water in the right lane every time it rains.

My bike is idling funny.  She doesn’t sound steady at all.  Please don’t stall out on me girl, please don’t stall…  I keep giving her just a little bit of throttle as I sit there, just to keep a strong rumble.

Mile #9
The pickup truck that has been behind me pulls into the right lane.  What a jerk, I think…he is going to barrel  past me through the standing water and splash it all up on me as I go under the bridge!  And I thought he was considerate before…ha!

Oh crap!  There is a whole bunch of traffic all jammed up on the other side of the overpass.  I see some flashy yellow lights up ahead, like the big lane closure arrows, but I can’t quite make them out.  Holy Noah’s Ark, Batman!  The entire road is completely flooded out – at least 4 inches deep, all 4 lanes across, and almost a block long!  that stream across US-40 had nothing on this flowing river! 

Everybody is inching through in both directions at like 5 mph.  At least that means the splashing should be kept to a minimum.  It’s too late now to do anything about it – I’m going in!  OMG, OMG, OMG…  As I got to the other side of the overpass the water just kept getting deeper.  I swear it had to be 6 inches deep at one point.  One of the cars that was coming the other way apparently didn’t get the memo about going slow and his wake splashed up to my knees as he passed me.  Somehow I managed to keep it steady all the way through…now what?  Brake lights?!!  Oh no, I cannot stop now!  I am knee deep in standing water!  Oh thank god you came to your senses…

Mile #10
I turned into the neighborhood and cruised along through a light mist.  Fourteen speed humps, 3 stop signs, around the corner into my court, and…why do people always have to park blocking my ramp up to the shed?  Now I am going to have to go down the sidewalk and around the tree.  Ugh!  And of course, the patio blocks in front of the door are completely underwater.

Well, I made it home safely, poured the water out of my boots, and took a nice hot shower (after calling Jay to let him know I was OK).  This was a Million Mile Monday adventure I will not soon forget!