Solo Gigglefest

bike from Em 1

I once heard Colorado described as a boom-bust state, with more bust than boom.  That’s pretty much what rainfall is like in San Antonio.  We can go long stretches with hundred-degree days and not a drop of precipitation.  Then boom!  Clouds roll in, lightning flashes, thunder rumbles, and the floodgates of heaven are opened.  At the very beginning of June, for example, we got nearly twelve inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

When this happens, streets flood.  Then parts of our beloved city–sports complexes, parks, and golf courses mainly–end up under water for a time.  That’s usually about the time national news airs a video of some thrill-seeker canoeing down Devine Road.

It doesn’t help that many streets in the city are little more than paved over drainage basins: creek beds, if you will.  Just a block and a half from my house, in fact, a major street ends up looking more like a river rafting paradise after fifteen solid minutes of downpour.

This background provides context, by the way, for my day yesterday.  It was one of those days where a good deal of rain fell.  Fortunately, unlike that day in early June, the rain did not fall constantly.  Rather, several strong downpours pommeled the city, each lasting an hour or so with stretches of rainfall-free times in between.  But the paved over creek beds that now serve as roads were flowing all day long.  And I was on my motorcycle.

I could go into the details about why I was on the bike.  They involve a flat tire and an emergency room visit.  But otherwise they’re not too exciting.  Suffice to say that I had no choice.  It was drive-the-motorcycle-to-work day for me or AWOL.  I chose the former.  I had some appointments to keep, after all.  Besides, I assured myself, I would wear my water-resistant coat and wrap my backpack in a waterproof cover.  How bad could it be?

Resigning myself that I would surely get wet, that I would surely ride through a downpour or two, I left for work at my typical time of 7:30am.  I took a back way, intentionally avoiding that creek-bed street a block and a half away.  It was slow going through residential areas mostly.  But other than having to skirt around a few puddles I managed to get to work dry.

Five minutes later a downpour began.

Next ride came at a little after 9am, a three-mile trek to a Bible Study at a parishioner’s home.  Again, resigning myself that I’d probably get wet, I grabbed my helmet and coat and headed out the church doors.  That downpour mentioned in the last paragraph had ended not ten minutes earlier.

This time I didn’t have the luxury of taking residential streets the whole way, but rather had to journey down Broadway, one of San Antonio’s busiest streets.  It wasn’t so much a paved creek bed as other streets, though, but it still collected a few large and deep puddles in choice locations.  Two or three of these I would have to pass, I knew, maybe through but possibly around, if they were still small enough.  But with my luck a neighboring car or pickup or SUV should no doubt drive through one or more of these large and deep puddles right as I was alongside, thereby soaking me head to foot.  As likely as not anyway, I said to myself.

Well, again I arrived mostly dry.  I couldn’t avoid riding through a small puddle or three on the way over, but my bike was made to handle this kind of stuff after all; and my boots were water resistant too, meaning the spray that reached effectively amounted to nothing.

Writing this now I wonder how it must have looked to those older parishioners inside as I approached their gathering to offer a prayer of blessing.  Black motorcycle boots, black pants, black water-resistant coat unzipped to reveal my black clergy shirt and collar: “We’re so glad you have a motorcycle,” one of them smiled; another said carelessly, “As you pulled up I thought, what are the cops doing here?”

Anyway, no sooner had I sat down to visit a little, cup of coffee in hand, when another downpour hit.

Thirty minutes later it stopped.  The prayer was done and the visit seemed as good a place as any to finish.  So I left.  And I made it back to the office similarly as I’d made it to the Bible Study: insufficiently wet.  Except this time a puddle or two had managed to spray my entire boots and then some, meaning the bottoms of my pants and my socks were a little wet too.

One of these puddles, by the way, I rode through at about 40 mph.  I anticipated the spray enough ahead of time to lift my feet up to about hand level as I did so.  This is where I think my socks got wet.  But the thing I remember most clearly is that a pickup truck driving towards me flashed his high beams on and off at me a couple of times, as if he were laughing at me.

One more daytrip awaited.  Sure enough another downpour came and went in the interim, the biggest of the day so far.  The ride to my destination, a class I’m auditing at a local university, posited several more puddles in my path.  But now I was confident.  My bike was built for this stuff.  And I’d learned how to avoid spray, more or less, by lifting my feet.  And I was giving my core a workout.  It was a win-win, really.

As I pulled into the university parking lot rain began to fall from the sky.  This was the first time I’d been caught outside in it all day, by the way.  And, benignly, the floodgates waited to open until I was inside.

Still, I showed up to class wetter than I’d been all day so far.  Though I was a lot drier than the few students who’d arrived after I had!

The present downpour lasted the full hour of class.  And by the looks of it, it was the worst of the day.

Still, somehow, the rain stopped before I got back on the bike.  I left the university and headed for home–for at last a car was available for me, if I would bring one of the kids home from school.  Sure thing!

But now the roads were at their worst yet.  Puddles now appeared where they hadn’t yet and the low water crossing on Devine Road in fact had water crossing it.  No problem.  My bike was made for this kind of stuff.

So, having gained valuable experience on my earlier rides, I now navigated the windy, wet, creek-bed streets confidently, meaning at the posted speed limit, maybe even a little over.  And what of the puddles?  I could just lift my feet and fly through them, no slowing necessary while I worked my core.  Downpours, schnownpours!

That was my attitude anyway until I passed through one water body that was really more like a small lake than a puddle.  I saw it coming; I lifted my feet with a smile on my face; I entered the mere.  Dang, I thought as I watched my handlebars dip, this thing’s at least a foot deep!

I didn’t crash, nothing like that, fortunately.  But as my handlebars dipped something else happened too: a wall of water rose in front of me, up and over my footpegs, up and over my raised feet, up and over my hands, up and over my windshield, and up and over my head.  I was positively drenched!

A pickup driving towards me flashed his high beams two or three times.  But he didn’t need to.  I was already giggling like a little boy.


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