by The Lorax
I wasn't ready to ride in the rain. I could barely ride
in the sun. Freddie told me many times it was really not much different
from normal riding, except for a few extra cautions.
The day was cloudy but deliciously warm. One of those days where you
feel like a juvenile rabbit darting here and there, kicking up your
heels, taking in big gulps of the kind of air that reminds you of being
buried in fallen leaves. The warmth gave me a feeling of total
awareness, of being part of the Universe, not separate from it. A
feeling that nothing could go wrong. The warm breeze on my face, as I
headed down the road, felt like a kiss from Mother Nature herself.
"Okay," I said to myself. "So what if it does rain?" We weren't going
far and it was warm enough. Kick-starting the Enfield was always a
challenge. I just got my official license to ride and Fred still
couldn't refrain from chirping, "Don't give it gas," "Give it a real
kick!" "Now give it gas!" For my own sanity, I learned to get off and
let him start it. What he never knew was that I sometimes let the bike
stall so as to start it by myself. How else does one learn but by doing?
Off we went down the road to take part in one of those time-treasured,
newbie rituals: A trip to the supermarket and back. It was surprisingly
dark when we finished our purchases. I nervously asked Freddie if it was
going to be OK. As he is known to do, he shrugged it off and replied,
"You can do it."
As we took off, I was sure it was going to rain, but I was hoping it
wouldn't. It wasn't long before we could see the edge of the storm.
Freddie immediately slowed. I pulled up alongside and he yelled, "Just
ride like normal, but don't be hard with the brakes!" Then we hit a wall
of precipitation and that searing attack of needles began.
Freddie had his left hand across his face and signaled for me to do the
same. "Yeah," I thought to myself. "I could do that, but we're close to
home and my first rain ride will be with both hands on the controls." I
had taken rain in the face while riding on the back of his bikes before
and I didn't find it that bothersome. I had to smile at Fred because
there he was, with a beard and a mustache, and he still shielded his
face while I toughed it out. It wasn't that I was afraid of releasing my
death grip on the handlebar. Not at all. "Men are such babies," I said
Well, we made it home without incident and I felt so confident! It
wasn't that bad. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. My bike
didn't slide all over as I'd feared.
The last time I rode in the rain, was not as pleasant, alas. Nor will it
be something I'll ever forget.
That day the weather report stated "chance of rain." As I had for the
previous two months, I'd packed my yellow "duckie suit" in my Heritage
Softail's saddlebags. It so happened that I'd ridden the bike to work
because I had no choice. The car was in the garage getting operated on
for a blown head-gasket.
I didn't mind riding every day. We were in the middle of a drought. How
hard would it rain? I wish I'd never asked that!
I left work early so as to stop off at the garage to see how the car was
coming along. As I walked out of the garage, I noticed the very angry
sky in the direction that led home. I donned my "duckie suit," and
lightning danced across the dark horizon.
The grin across my face was only equaled in intensity by the rapid
beating of my excited heart. It didn't matter that I had no windshield
and that I wore only a small, beanie helmet. I was ready to - as the
Indians put it - count coup. With lightening streaks becoming more
numerous, I rode into the beast. How powerful this was going to be! Rain
and lightening. Fire and water. As I was to soon find out, wind also.
The rain hit and it hit HARD. My God, was this, here and now, falling
all at once, all the storms that never occurred during the long drought?
The huge drops of heavy rain pounded the ground, exploding as they hit
the pavement. It was almost as dark as night and the wind howled. Each
car sent a tidal wave on me and my poor bike. Tractor-trailers left me
blinded for long seconds. The Harley - not a light bike - wobbled and
wandered in the wind. The thunder rocked my ears.
I was on the interstate, so I decided I'd stop beneath the first
overpass that came along. However, there were none on that stretch of
highway. Somehow, I was not scared. I should have been petrified, says
In amazement, a guy riding a chopper and wearing only leathers passed
me. I was like a little duckling, a baby searching for my mother's
comfort or a novice in search of an "elder's" guidance as I followed
this other wet rider in a direction that would take me on a somewhat
different route home. Something I can't explain told me to "just do it."
Before long, however, Yoda left me. To my dismay, he turned down a side
road. I was on my own.
The wind had kicked up to about 50 mph and the buckets of water that
poured from the sky created 3/4-inch hydroplane-inducing blanket on the
pavement. I admitted defeat and pulled over. My right foot landed in a
rushing, ankle-deep stream that splashed up and over my shoe and left a
wake. I just sat there, waiting for the storm to pass. I'd checked the
weather radar before leaving work and saw that these storm cells were
small and short-lived. The winds blew hard and the big bullets of rain
created large mushroom splashes in the river that was once a road. I
felt humbled to witness such a storm. After a very long time, I started
to imagine never getting home. Motorists honked as they passed. The rain
and wind were relentless. But I never once wished I was in a car.
Eventually, I got off the bike. I was reluctant, at first, because I
didn't want the seat to get wet. I giggled at my stupidity in worrying
about a wet saddle. After all, the rain had run down my neck and I'd
been sitting in a puddle that was inside my rain suit. It was a pool of
water that would give any size Depends a good soaking. When I stood up,
I felt that water spill down my legs.
After some time, the rain let up and off I went. Up from the road -
charmed skyward by the warm, shining sun - snaked an eerie curtain of
steam. I didn't stop to remove the rain suit because I had no idea if I
would hit another storm before I made it home. I noticed people staring
as I rode through the main street of the last town I hit before entering
the five miles of country roads that led to the dryness of my house.
That stupid smirk returned to my drenched face.
The sky clouded once more before I made it home. I debated whether I was
going to stop or continue. But - of course - I kept going. I am a
maniac, I guess.
I arrived home and immediately removed my "duckie suit." I felt like I'd
wet my pants. As I pulled off my soggy shoes, I lifted them to the sky
as an offering to the Gods. Then I dumped out the water, removed my
saturated socks and twisted what seemed like gallons from each one.
As it turned out, it had rained only lightly at the homestead. My
husband, therefore, had no idea I'd just ridden through Hell and I had
no idea that the big storm missed our town. I felt hurt when he didn't
immediately come running and say all those romance novel, sweet words of
concern and expressions of joy I was alive. Now I make a point of
rubbing it in - every time it rains hard - by saying, "This is ALMOST as
bad as the storm I rode through."
I sometimes wonder: Was the chopper rider sent to entice me to take a
different route. Was he a Ghost Rider or something leading me to a
(hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen my mettle. I
hope I don't have to experience that type of storm again. But, in a
twisted way, I enjoyed and am thankful for it.
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Renee Aun, All Rights Reserved.