A Day To Remember

by bj max

Looking at the GPS screen it was plain to see that the highway we were on was going to bear right a couple of miles ahead and that track would lead us straight into the teeth of a wicked looking storm that hovered over I-40 not more than six or seven miles distant. But then, just dropping into view on the little screen, was Country Road 1061. I tapped the zoom a couple times, backing the display out to eight miles. Uh-Huh, just what I thought. CR 1061 tracked in a southeasterly direction and that would take us away from the storm. We were shootin’ for I-40, but under the circumstances this little road would do and it would get us to our destination, even though we would have to navigate the suburbs of Amarillo.

As I made the turn, I keyed the two-way and confidently informed the four bikes behind us that this next little bit of storm-dodging was courtesy of Garmin electronics and the Department of Defense. Despite our detour, it became more and more obvious that the storm was gaining on us.

The first few drops of rain splattered against my windshield. I warned the others, “Here it comes boys” then added a classic quote from Chucky the Rug Rat, “Hang on to your diapees.” And come it did. The squall hit with a vengeance as if our attempt to escape had enraged the thing and visibility was reduced from infinity to zero in the blink of an eye.
In the 1880s, some of the big cattle drives came through here on their way to Abilene and Dodge City and I’ve often wondered what the cowboys did when they encountered storms like this. I was about to find out.

The wind kicked up and began to howl. Lighting flashed and the thunder rolled. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. My navigation skills with the GPS had taken us directly into the path of a rip-roaring, full-blown, Texas hail storm and there was no where to hide. Golf ball-size hail (is there any other size?) rained from the sky. I took hits to the side of my head, my nose and got slammed in the mouth so hard it busted my lip and rattled dental plates.

Blinded by rain and pounded by hail, I was forced to ride slower and slower until the bike began to wobble. I tried watching the yellow dividing line in the middle of the road. That helped, but not much. Although there was no shoulder, I knew I was gonna have to pull over or wreck.

I wobbled to a stop at the edge of the road. It was simply too dangerous to go any further. We stepped off the bike and Sugar Booger, with her full-face helmet and Joe Rocket jacket, turned her back to the storm and hunkered down as snug as a bug in a rug. I, on the other hand, went nuts, scrambling around looking for some way to fix things; a senseless waste of energy I know, but being a man I felt a real need to do something.

I glanced back at the crew stopped behind us. They too were hunkered down, waiting out the storm. But not me. Oh no. I was busy doing something. Something so stupid I still can’t believe I did it. I opened the trailer, took off my fully armored Joe Rocket jacket and put on my fully un-armored rain jacket. Now why would I do that? I was already soaked to the skin and the Joe Rocket at least afforded me some protection from the hail that was still hammering away. S o why would I do something so stupid? Fear. It had to be pure, unadulterated fear. It’s no secret that I am deathly afraid of storms, and when attacked by one I go to pieces. This goes back to my younger days when Sugar Booger and I lived in a trailer and a tornado flipped it upside down one night. I never got over it and I’ve been plagued with tonitrophobia ever since.

At last, things began to settle down so I decided to find us the quickest way to a motel. That should be I-40, but how do I get to I-40? Shamrock, Texas straddles I-40 some ninety miles to our east so I keyed in the Shamrock icon and the GPS quickly worked out a route. Then I pulled up the turn page and found that I-40 was only two turns and six miles distant. We fired the bikes and took off down the road. Two miles later, we took a right turn on another two lane blacktop as per the sexy British voice in the GPS. I-40 was now four miles straight ahead but there had been no I-40 sign of any kind at the Intersection. I crossed my fingers and prayed there would be an on ramp.

There was. We made a left and zoomed up the ramp just in time to intercept the same storm we had just been pounded by. While I concentrated on traffic hidden in the rain and spray, Sugar Booger watched the signs and alerted me to the first exit that pointed toward motels. We dived down the ramp and headed for the nearest, a Marriott Courtyard.

The double doors automatically opened as I approached. I was soaking wet, my face was bruised, my lip was bleeding and I must have looked like I had just went ten rounds with Muhammed Ali. I stopped at the threshold, held my arms out with a submissive ‘I don’t care anymore look’ and pleaded, “Excuse me, Ma’am. Would y’all happen to have five rooms available?” She glanced down at the register, looked up and smiled as though I were a normal everyday traveler, and replied, “Yes sir, we certainly do.” I didn’t ask the price. I just told her to start writing ‘em up. Then I turned and stumbled back outside to what was left of the Happy Bottom Riding, Yachting, and Snipe Huntin’ Club. I gave them a thumbs up and staggered to my bike and began unpacking.

Gathered around a communal steel grill table at the Kabuki Steakhouse, we were dazzled by the flashing knives of the Benihana Chef as he prepared our evening meal. Our miserable situation out on the Texas plains seemed as far away now as the moon, but in reality it had happened only a couple hours ago.

We were attended by a very nice and competent staff at the Marriott that went out of their way to make us comfortable. They delivered armloads of dry towels to the lobby during check-in and allowed the use of their big industrial dryers to dry our wet clothing.

The last couple of hours had been truly dismal, but as we sipped warm saki and relived the day’s events, we concluded that in five years our memories of this trip will have begun to fade. Yesterday was perfect, as was the day before, and they will soon be forgotten. But not today. Today will be talked about for the rest of our lives and with every telling the wind will get stronger, the hail bigger, the thunder louder and the lightning more brilliant. As miserable as it was, it will all be recalled with fondness. It had been a day to remember.

M.M.M.

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