On the way to Louisville last Friday evening, a storm conspired to rain on us the entire length of the state of Indiana. It happened because the storm was formed an a 45-degree angle from Northeast to Southwest. As we proceeded south toward Kentucky, the long front edge of the storm kept tracking east at the very same rate we were traveling down I-65.
We saw the warning of what was to come as we rolled through Merrillville to get on the Interstate. A deep gray angular cloud sank into the horizon up north. Lightning flashed in the depths of that dark wall and I commented to Sue, “That’s where Satan lives.” Because it looked that ominous.
So we turned onto the Interstate as she cheered me on to drive faster. “Go! Go!” she laughed. For fifteen minutes we seemed to have outrun the front edge of the storm. Then all hell broke loose as the bending storm caught us out in the fields of northern Indiana. “Oh boy,” she intoned. It was pouring.
It rained like mad for the next four hours on the road. Massive amounts of concentration were required to keep a driving interval and not do anything sudden or dumb that could put us in jeopardy. It went like that for hour after hour.
Fortunately, the other drivers in Indiana kept their distance. No one did anything stupid. Many put their rear blinker lights on so that people following behind could see them. That truly helped. We all moved through the murk and the mayhem to the best of our ability. Sometimes a few cars would pull over when they’d had enough. They perched like beached shipwrecks on the road shoulder.
Finally the rain became so strong that Sue and I both thought it was time to take a break. Even with the windshield wipers on high speed, the whap-whapping could not keep the rain off the glass. Fortunately an exit popped up and we got off to get fuel for the car and find something for us both to eat. In the parking lot we sat looking through the washed out windshield as the Subway sign twisted in the pouring roil of the falling rain, which didn’t let up, so we hopped out in our raincoats and piled into the restaurant.
By the time we came out the storm had relented. It was still raining but not in such a downpour. The hours that had just passed seemed like minutes because when you’re concentrating that hard on anything, there is no time to get bored or distracted.
As we headed south again the rain let up. On the Weather Channel app it looked like the lower edge of the storm would swing behind us. It was nice to travel on clear roads once again. But of course we found a construction zone and traffic slowed again. As we crept along with the semi trucks, the storm rose again in the west.
We finally reached Louisville and it looked like we were going to beat the storm completely. But that was hoping for too much. The southern edge of the 200-mile long storm front had picked up its pace and was coming fast from the west. As we made our exit into Louisville the clouds poured over top of our vehicle. Lightning flashed and the winds swirled. Everything was dark and furious. The rain started in again, coming down in sheets, driven by a low breeze. Illuminated by our headlights, the rain appeared to be engaged in some sort of mad, weather-driven Shakespearean play about the tempest versus the vespers.
We got off the big roads and were headed onto the two-laners with the help of the Waze Lady giving instructions to turn right and turn left. We pulled into the condo lot and dragged our bikes into the house from the car. Sue’s wheels were filled with water and my handlebars were wet as a salamander’s back. But we’d made it after eight long hours of driving. I gave her a hug and a kiss on her wet face. Her blue eyes flashed and I was grateful we had arrived safely.
The reason I share all this is to shed light on what it was like to ride the next morning. Eight hours in a car with your legs under the steering wheel is not ideal preparation for cycling. I’d had to massage my quads several times during the long drive to keep them from cramping.
Which meant there was still considerable tension and fatigue left in my legs the next morning as we got up to ride. And wouldn’t you know it, the first five miles of the ride were damned hilly. My quads burned even as I tried to focus on keeping the pedal stroke even between quad and hamstrings. Still, I got dropped by the other three riders. Nothing I could do at that point. That’s no way to warm up legs that fast after you’ve just driven eight tense hours the night before.
I kept up fine riding on the flats and rollers that we took at well over 20 mph. But a few climbs later I’d made up my mind to cut the cord and let them tarry on without me. The goal for those three was to learn the Ironman course and get in two long rides that weekend. My goal was to get in some climbs and hard riding in advance of next week’s Olympic distance tri in Lake Zurich.
So I gave them the cyclists humble goodbye and wished them Godspeed. Then turned around to ride back to the condo on my own. The ride was 42 miles at 2:24. About 17.5 miles an hour. The next day I rode the same route, but ten minutes faster. So the weekend was more than salvaged. Kentucky looks just like southwest Wisconsin with a few more mockingbirds and dozens of cardinals thrown in.
And I’m sure the look on my face was much the same as it would be on the equally steep hills outside Madison as it was on the hills outside Louisville. My thighs are still tired today after the 5.5 hour drive home and a repeat 42-miler in the heat and hills of Louisville yesterday. But Sue’s are even more tired after 75 miles yesterday and 65 miles the day before, often at a 18-20mph average. All in prep for the Ironman Louisville race in October.
But it’s still summer, and we were grateful for no rain in the forecast on the way home. Because if there had been storms tracking across Indiana again, it would have been like, “What the hell?” How many unexpected obstacles do you have to overcome in order to overcome the obstacles you choose for yourself. I mean, what the hell?
We made it back without weather intruding. The Waze lady insisted we should take 294 over 355 coming back north, but we ignored her and got home in time for me to head into work.
We had escaped the dark clutches of Satan to spend a nice weekend among the pleasant people of Kentucky. Tomorrow we’re hosting a 4th of July party after a visit to Phantom Fireworks in Indianapolis. If Satan and the rainy gates of hell come anywhere close again, we’ll fight fire with fireworks, all the while yelling, “What the hell!”