Touring - Bike-Tour Storm Stories
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David in PA
03-24-05, 01:30 PM
I would like to hear any bike-tour Storm Stories involving rain, floods, sleet, snow, hail, high winds, hurricanes, or tornadoes. How did you fare? Any suggestions for protections? As for me, I only experienced a severe thunderstorm in PA without any available shelter, but eventually a good Samaritan took great care of me.
03-24-05, 04:39 PM
Well Wolfy -
I've seen it all.
Back in 1989, I was heading up into the Cascades near Mount Adams in early June. The weather forecast called for sunny weather. It started drizzling during the night and guess what I woke up to?? Heavy snow. The weight had done a number on my tent - fly touching tent touching sleeping bag meant a lot of wet stuff. I put on a pair of dry socks, then plastic bags over them into my wet shoes, and spent the better part of the morning in a outhouse reading - hey it was dry plus the decomposition made it warmer.
I was hit by a hailstorm in Lava Beds N.M in northern California. Not a tree to be seen for miles as ping-pong sized hail bounced off my helmet - no loss there - and me - which did hurt. I managed to find a sign and with the wind blowing the hail in a slight diagonal direction - protect myself until it was over.
I used to carry a nice rectangular fly and pole from an old tent which could make an instant shelter. Somewhere along the way it disappeared.
My worst incident I will be reticent about - leave it be said that during a tornado alert in west Kansas, the person who "befriended" me nearly killed me - and I'm a guy. For women it is so much more dangerous. I am reminded of a poster I saw at Williams Lake, BC - that true equality will be gained when a woman can go anywhere, anytime and feel safe.
Still cycle all over the place - but with a bit more wariness.
Best - J
I would like to hear any bike-tour Storm Stories involving rain, floods, sleet, snow, hail, high winds, hurricanes, or tornadoes. How did you fare? Any suggestions for protections?
Sounds like my day-to-day normal rides!
I've ridden in more rain than I care to remember - a few times it was coming down so heavily, it was hard to breathe. Suggestion for protection: rain gear ... and try to seek shelter somewhere.
I've ridden in sleet, snow, and bitter cold ... those are my usual conditions from November to April. Suggestion for protection: the right clothes go a long way. You've also got to be careful about hydrating enough. In cold weather you won't be as thirsty and your bottle might be frozen solid, but you still need to find a way to drink.
I've ridden in hail. It hurts. Suggestion for protection: lots of clothing and seek shelter.
I've ridden in winds so strong I had to get off the bicycle and walk ... and I've been caught in a small tornado once. No, not a little whirlwind. A tornado with winds clocked over 100 km/h. I've also seen a number of funnel clouds and tornadoes from a distance. Suggestion for protection: seek shelter. Also with tornadoes, if you can lie as flat as possible in a low lying area, that might help.
I've ridden in vicious lightening storms with lightening striking all around me. Suggestion for protection: seek shelter away from your steel bicycle.
I look at weather as an additional challenge!! :)
03-25-05, 07:09 AM
I normally don't let a little rain, snow or freezing rain get in my way when commuting, but I usually tour when I'm expecting better weather.
Once I was in Kent in October. The two weeks I was there it had rained 135mm. It was my first tour and I was more than just a little green. I thought wearing rubber clothing would keep me dry.
Being excedingly thrifty, I didn't want to have to pay $12 for the Ordance survey map for the 12 miles to Faversham. Usually the Sustrans routes are well marked but in this area the farmers had organised. Tired of bicyclists suprising them on their tractors while toodling down those country lanes, some farmers had resorted to removing the markers.
When I got lost in the pouring drizzle, I asked two farmers welding impliments in a shed near the road about the bike route to Faversham. Obviously they were co-conspirators, as they directed me by a route that turned out to be the M highway (expressway).
I decided instead to take a bridleway. A bridleway is a path for horses, although rough, bikes are allowed on bridleways but not public footpaths. I followed the various ruts on the road for several kilometers. At times there were other paths crossing fields and down into woods with abandoned cars. Soon I spotted a sign: NO BIKES WITH GUNS BEYOND THIS POINT! Although handmade and grammatically incorrect I took the warning. As I tried to make my way back I came across an abandoned encampment of wire cages and filthy caravans. All around were pheasant. In fact there were so many phesant, that they appeared not to be afraid to noisely approach me.
I began to fear meeting those 'bikes with guns' for I might be in too close a proximity to the birds.
The downpour continued and I decided to walk my bike back to the road and walk it along the shoulder to the next exit. If it had not been raining so hard and been so muddy, I would not have been able to make it back. I followed my muddy tire prints back to the highway. It was two days before all my clothes were fully dry.
03-25-05, 12:11 PM
We experienced the strongest winds I ever encountered on Ruta 40 in southern Patagonia. The wind was so strong it would push your bike flat agains the road, I had to help my wife push it back vertical. We could only progress by walking in a ditch besides the gravel road. At one point the gravel on the road started to fly, we had to take cover behind the bikes.
03-25-05, 12:55 PM
I was on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand in January, 1997. I was generally staying in "backpackers", but I was in an isolated area in the East Cape region so I set up my tent in a campground late one evening. I noticed that a fair number of folks were taking down their tents, which seemed strange at that hour. I asked someone why they were suddenly leaving and they told me that a cyclone was headed our way.
Well, the sun was setting and I was exhausted. I figured I was about 2 hours ride away from civilization where I could get a room. I turned on my little shortwave radio and listened to weather reports about the storm and its projected landfall and path. It sounded like it wouldn't get real bad where I was until about 10am the next morning. So, I set my alarm for about 30 minutes before dawn, and got on the road by dawn. The wind wasn't particularly strong yet, and I made it to a backpackers by 9am.
During that afternoon, the wind picked up, but the rain didn't really hit until late afternoon. Wind & rain were pretty fierce during the night and the next day, and there were at least 4 cyclists who were holed up at the backpackers for 2 nights while Cyclone Drina blew through. One of the cyclists, a very nice guy from Japan, was headed in the same direction as me, and when we could finally leave, we headed off together against a very nasty headwind. We've stayed in touch ever since.
03-25-05, 01:12 PM
I have been caught in a few bad storms over the years but a memorable one happened to me about a year ago when I was cycling to Bordeaux. I camped out along side a country road and woke with my tent covered in snow. A storm was blowing hard, and according to my short wave radio, all of Europe was covered in snow. Well after another day and night snowed in with no food or water, I packed up all my gear, de-thawed my bike lock!, pushed my icy bike into town and caught a train to Bordeaux. While I was organising my wet and frozen stuff at a hotel, I met this interesting lady and we ended up hitting it off and travelled together for three weeks.
03-25-05, 01:22 PM
Another weather story:
Years ago I was biking in the Rockies from Denver, Colorado up to Jasper National Park, Alberta. I was biking over the old Loveland Pass (which goes above the tunnel the interstate highway goes through) when a hailstorm hit. Loveland Pass is about 12,000 ft, or around 3600m. I was above the treeline when the storm hit. There was absolutely no place to hide. I stopped riding and waited it out in a ditch. It was very unpleasant and even painful when the hail hit my body, especially my neck. I was wearing a rain suit with a hood. It was weeks before I saw another storm.
Another time a friend & I were biking up to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah around May 20. Cedar Breaks is about 10,000 ft (3000m) high. The temperatures in SW Utah varied largely based on elevation. We had 95F/35C heat in St. George. As we climbed up toward Cedar Breaks, however, it got colder and colder. As we got near the top, there was a thick layer of snow on the ground alongside the road. Cedar Breaks is notorious for having snow late in the season, and the visitor's center wasn't even open yet. It started snowing pretty hard, and we must have put 4 layers of clothes on trying to stay warm. The only thing open on top was the toilet block. We went inside and there was a small electrical heater which cycled on and off. It felt great, and we didn't want to leave. Finally, we went back out, biked through the snow in a level area on top, and then began our long, fabulous downhill to Panguitch. By the time we were halfway down to Panguitch, the sun was out and we were wearing shorts & t-shirts again.
I've gotten stuck in torrential tropical downpours in Malaysia, Fiji, and Costa Rica. The worst, however, was a short ride my friends & I were taking from our motel in Hilo, Hawaii, to a restaurant. The heavens opened up as only they can in the tropics, one of those rainstorms so sudden and so heavy that in about 5 seconds, you're completely drenched to the bone. Because were quickly soaking wet, we just continued biking. We found a nice, little Japanese diner and walked inside. The owners were incredibly gracious. Water was flowing out of our clothes. They smiled and laughed and insisted we go sit down in a booth. They brought as towels and mopped the floor around us a couple of times. We had a great meal. I think it rains so much in Hilo that locals aren't the slightest bit fazed by it.
The west coast of Scotland averages over 250 days of rain a year. A friend & I were biking there for about 10 days in June, 1992, and we must have had the best weather of the entire 20th century. It was sunny & warm almost the entire time! The locals were wilting from the incredible heat (about 82F/28C in Oban, about the all-time record we were told!)
03-25-05, 01:46 PM
We experienced the strongest winds I ever encountered on Ruta 40 in southern Patagonia. The wind was so strong it would push your bike flat agains the road, I had to help my wife push it back vertical.
I can vouch for the absurdity of the westerly wind in Patagonia. Even indoors, you can HEAR it all day and all night in the summer months. Just riding from Punta Arenas along the Straight of Magellan to the airport, I struggled to maintain control of my bike each time a truck would pass me and momentarily block the crosswind.
The Iles de la Madeleine, in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, are also notorious for their winds. We were staying in the middle of the long, narrow archipelago. One day, we biked to the NE tip of the island chain with a powerful tailwind. In the long, straight, flat section, we were moving along at about 26 km/hr with only an occasional pedal stroke. We knew we'd have to pay for that upon our return later in the day. We drafted one another all of the way back, and we averaged about 7 or 8 km/hr on a flat road with no panniers. We got back after dark.
Four of us were on the last 25km stretch along farmer's fields coming into Calgary after a 3 day tour. The weather had previously been beautiful, bluebird sky, calm, warm, and sensual. A Calgary hailstorm blasted in and started pounding us with 2cm ish size hail (it's the knuckles that really get mashed), so the four of us tried to get into the lee of a big signboard. A fantastic good samaritan in a full sized van saw us huddled up, pulled his van off the road and shouted over the hail that we should get in. We all piled into the back, soaking wet and frozen, he cranked the heat, and we just sat there chatting with him for 25 minutes and waited for the hail to stop. We thanked him, bid him farewell, and got back on our soaked bikes. We rode no more than five minutes and the hail started up again, so we crawled into the ditch to try to shelter ourselves again, and believe it or not, we saw the same van come ripping up the road back towards us; he had pulled a u-turn and come back to warm us up again!
What a great awful-weather experience.
This story is not so much about the bad weather as how we solved our problem. Needless to say, it was as heavy a rain as I ever see here in the Northwest while on my first tour. The support vehicle was nowhere to be found. We, my riding partner and I, were many miles from our motel room when we finally came upon civilization. A Starbucks. We warmed our cold and soaked bodies with a mug of coffee while we hatched to plan to get to the motel without cycling. With some help from someone at the Starbucks we managed to arrange for a reasonably priced taxi (station wagon) ride for the next 30+ miles to our destination. Soon we were relaxing in the hot tub and the remaining days of our tour were beautiful. Did we get teased about the taxi by the others? You bet. Did I care?...read my mind.
PS The rain was so heavy that it was also a safety issue, not just toughing it out. Also, I didn't have my raincoat. it was in the support vehicle.
04-04-05, 11:32 PM
At midnight all hell broke loose. Not anyone intent on absconding a pair of unwieldy, loaded touring bikes, mind you. Instead, bright bursts of lightning and corking cracks of thunder detonated in the heavens. The thunder was loud enough to cause the dead to sit bolt-upright. But not me. I barely stirred. After two more hair-raising explosions, one on top of the other, it began to pour. Torrentially.
Rain spattered my face.
My wife, Sharon, wearily rose on one elbow and closed her half of the vestibule. “Now you wish you hadn’t left it open?” she asked, lying back down. I was still too groggy to close my side. It gaped open like a yawning funnel. Rain continued to splatter my face. Maybe I should have broken out the shampoo?
Not long after that, I remembered the ground sheet. Normally the vestibule covered it. But with only half the vestibule closed, the fabric channelled a runnel of water onto the ground sheet, and then beneath the tent. Before I was conscious, a sizable pool had collected inside the tent — luckily most of it was on Sharon’s side. Still half asleep, she sat up and muttered something exclamatory. Using one of her bandanas, she set to work sopping up the puddle. “A hundred and one uses,” she mumbled.
“Quack, quack,” I said, watching her paddling motions through half-closed lids. “Weather fit for a duck.”
“You’re the one who’s quacked,” she spluttered, zipping shut my half of the vestibule.
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