Space and time our way to Perry blessing my morning with coffee, breakfast, road snacks and weather wisdom. Today is the definitely the storm day I’ve had my eye on all week. Four forecasted days of possible storms and today’s seems the potential most severe and most possible. We’ve managed to avoid most of it the last three days, but today seems a more inevitable event is upon us. Perry dismisses the value of the position of local weather forecaster. I pull up the radar map and she’s says we’ve got “the ketchup and mustard”. An obvious reference to the volatility-indicating colors on the map on my phone. Yup. Supposed to start at 2pm. We decide to get as many miles in as we can, a delicate balance of going far but not too far. On bicycles.
Damon and I pack up. Perry comes out to send us off. We share a big ol’ mutually-vaccinated hug. Damn it’s good to hug people again. Regular people. The feels are good. She tells us she looked at the storms and says we’re gonna get wet, but we probably can get to Baton Rouge before it gets dangerous. We head out, hopeful that our local oracle told us what we need to hear.
Five minutes in and I’m convinced this is a bad idea. I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Chewy. The wind is directly in our face, somewhere at 20 mph. The clouds are stacked and gray. I keep cutting down the 25 miles to Baton Rouge into small meaningful goals. Rain starts to sprinkle. The wind gusts pick up. The clouds drop and get that hanging look to them. This is too much like a day in Minnesota 11 years ago on my Northern Tier ride that I won’t ever forget. I don’t wanna say tornado but everything smells like tornado. 15 miles in and I tell Damon I don’t feel comfortable riding in this. There’s nothing but trees so we ride on and look for somewhere to go inside. I see cows. I can only think of that cow that gets sucked up into the sky in the movie Twister. I see ditches and I think about how I could dive in there and maybe even hide in a poopy puddled-up sewage pipe if push came to shove. My mind goes over my New York State Academy of Fire Sciences survival training on tying a bowline knot around my waste, just in case I need to tie myself to a tree and hug it for dear life. Then I remember I shipped my paracord home back in Del Rio. Well, fuck.
The sun makes a brief appearance and everything but the wind feels calm for a good ten minutes. A strange irony oozes into my consciousness — this very wind we are fighting and riding directly into could very well be keeping the storms north of us. The steady 20 mph wind is straight off the Gulf of Mexico. I’m no meteorologist, but I’ll take the paycheck even if I’m wrong.
We make Baton Rouge. It feels safer in a city. As if we can’t get struck by lightning right here on the shores of the Mississippi River. The rain let’s up and I get one sole road photo the entire day:
We’ve taken very little breaks thus far but need to get a weather update and a little rest. I stop at a bench and see that the most violent weather has been delayed from about 2pm to 4pm. Damon and I apparently like gambling with our lives, so we head back into the rural bayou for what he will soon refer to as “more final boss shit”. We are the bikepacking Killer Mike and El-P. We don’t run, we ride. No jewels, just storms.
Five miles past LSU and I feel like we’ve made another mistake. We should have stayed in Baton Rouge. The rain comes back around and I’m getting every sort of alert on my watch. Lightning. Thunderstorms. Tornadoes. 30 miles away. 20 miles away. Fuck. We make a left turn off route but toward civilization and a cadre of hotels along my old nemesis Interstate 10. Shelter is ten miles ahead. My watch buzzes. The lightning is ten miles behind me. I’m tired as fuck. I can’t make this sort of drama up, and my hands are white knuckles on my handlebars; realizing I definitely have a fear of tornadoes and the tension of fifty miles under threat of this fear has taken its toll on my stamina as Damon zooms ahead. Lightning has caught up and the dark sky is now flashing around me. That whole phrase “you’re more likely to get struck by lightning” really fucking sucks when you’re in the middle of a storm and there’s a higher than normal chance of actually getting struck by lightning. Two miles to go has never felt so long.
Spoiler: I don’t get struck by lightning or thrown miles across the bayou by a tornado. Dead people don’t blog.
The first hotel out of like 15 in a row is a fancier than a normal one. We take it. The pool is even open but that doesn’t mean shit because the pool is outside and fifteen minutes after check-in the monsoon and light show really commences. Wow. I’m quite happy to be experiencing this awesome demonstration of natural power from my ground floor window. Plus I managed to grab some fantastic jambalaya and an Abita Andygator Doppelbock for this evening’s showing.