While on the way home last week, I took shelter from this storm under the awning of a used car dealership on Highway 60 east of Louisville. I glimpsed the radar prior to leaving work and knew that a break in the front would allow me access to the northeast corridor of Interstate 71. Assessing that I had fair chance of making it to the house relatively dry, I pulled over to don the yellow crossing-guard-of-doom rain gear and wait on the nastiness to grind it's way southeast.
One of the maxims that I've come to appreciate in motorcycling regards expecting the unexpected. In general, this philosophy keeps a rider alive and is epitomized in such statements as "cover your controls" and "ride as if you're invisible". Being prepared for and riding in adverse weather exemplifies this practice. I haven't traveled without some form of rain gear on the bike in over a decade; the lesson came hard-learned. In my early twenties, I rode out of Owensboro, KY for a trip of about a hundred miles or so. When I left my apartment, the sun was shining, a light breeze blew the scent of drying tobacco through the woods and fields of southern Indiana, and the temperature barely crested 70. By the day's end, a storm system moved into the area and it started to rain. With only my leathers, I soaked to my skin quickly. The temperature dropped into the lower 60's. I discovered that the body can go hypothermic when wet in as comfortable a temperature as 60 degrees. Add in the wind chill factor and I'd slapped together a receipe for a near-death experience. The resulting pneumonia could have been prevented, in all likelyhood, by a thin layer of plastic.
During a lull in the storm last week, I decided to make a break for the interstate and try to stay ahead of the next wave of thunderstorms. What I hadn't counted on, indeed, what no one factors into the equation, was an accident blocking the north bound lanes of I-71. Before I could ride to the shelter of the rest area and nearest exit, the rain poured down. By the time I climbed off the bike and slouched in under the overhang of the area's vending pavilion, I could not longer see through the sheets of water and blinding lightning. The thunder beat my chest like a drum.
But I was dry, thanks to the thin, plastic rind of my rain suit. And reasonably safe under the roof of the shelter housing the vending machines. Motorcycling fosters patience. Ride long enough and far enough and the weather will turn against the rider, no matter how righteous his karma. The other lessen I learned during that sodden ride years ago was to listen to my gut. If my head busied itself with figuring routes around the storm and my heart stroked my ego with how tough I would be for motoring through a tempest to the far side, then heed the voice of caution, located somewhere between my lungs and my balls, and pull over. Prop myself up between some vending machines among the stray cigarette butts, close my eyes, and bask in the soft spray of hard rain.