Alabama/Mississippi Border

Wrestling with a Whirlwind

June 2011

Iron Butt Ride #52

In Schertz TX at 2:26pm CT on 27 May 2011, I logged a Frost Bank ATM slip marking the successful completion of what should be certified as my 5th Bun Burner 1500 and 52nd Iron Butt Ride on which I covered a distance of 1,555 miles in 24 hours 28 minutes road time and 35 hours 50 minutes total time. My route for Day 1 was from Miami Beach north on the Florida Turnpike to IH-75 then east on IH-10/IH-12/IH-10 to Beaumont TX for a total of 1,111 miles. My route for Day 2 was from Beaumont north on US-69 to Rusk TX, then west on US-84 to Waco TX and south on IH-35 to Schertz for a total of 444 miles.

At 3:00am ET on Thursday, 26 May 2011, I awoke with the intention of attempting my 6th SaddleSore 2000 by riding from Miami Beach north through Georgia and Tennessee to Jackson TN on Day 1, then continuing west to Oklahoma City OK and south to San Antonio TX on Day 2. A last minute look at the Weather Channel, however, compelled me to reconsider: My planned route would have taken me through the widest and assumingly worst part of the massive T-bone shaped tornado-packing storm front that had just devastated Joplin MO, so I plotted a safer and southernmost course that I guesstimated would allow me to punch through the front near its narrowest point somewhere between Mobile AL and Baton Rouge LA.

For the first 700 miles or so, I enjoyed warm but not scorching temperatures and partly cloudy to sunny skies as I rode north to Lake City FL and then west to Mobile AL. There the early afternoon weather quickly changed from sunshine to showers, and I was glad I’d stopped to strap on my brain bucket back at the state line. And with each passing mile from there on into Mississippi, the skies grew grayer and darker as the rain fell harder and more slanted. I had expected this and experience told me to just keep on riding straight into the storm, because the worse it got the sooner I’d see clear skies on the other side.

Somewhere west of Moss Point MS, above the intermittent sheets of rain and ahead of me, I saw what appeared to be a clearing in the now almost black cloud bank that otherwise filled the skies. I took heart in that, thinking that I’d soon see the sun again. But as I rode under “the clearing”, I realized the light I was seeing at the end of the tunnel was actually the proverbial oncoming train: Filling a third of the sky above and to the right of me was a surrealistically circular and ominously churning funnel cloud with a narrow band of blue sky separating it from the dark clouds that surrounded it. This allowed just enough sunlight to make the outermost cloud ring look like a glistening circle of cotton balls, while the inner rings grew progressively darker until they converged as the not quite fully formed funnel at the center.

I was thankful for that, and for the fact that due to the heavy rain I was not going very fast when I hit a wall of wind blowing from the left as I came directly under “the cloud”. Penetrating that wall took only a second or two. Then as quickly as the wind stopped, the temperature around me plummeted: Seconds before I was soaked in rain but quite warm, but now suddenly chill bumps formed on my sleeveless arms as I felt a shiver building up inside me. And the air was not only cold and calm but somehow felt “thick”, if that makes any sense.

Cruising at a cautious 45mph, it took me a couple of minutes to reach the other side of whatever you call what I was riding through. And I didn’t see the second wall of wind coming, but I sure as Hell knew when I hit it: The temperature rose so much and so fast that my windshield, mirrors and visor fogged over in an instant. At the same time, a crosswind much stronger than the first hit me from the right and wrestled me for control of the handlebars. I immediately closed my throttle hoping to stabilize as I slowed, but through my foggy visor I could see I was still being blown steadily left towards the median … and perhaps oblivion.

It was a photo finish, but thanks to Divine Providence as my velocity decreased my stability increased. And just as my front wheel touched the last stripe of white (or was it yellow?) paint inches from the edge of the pavement, I regained enough control to start easing Hidalgo back towards the center of the lane. I was only going about 15mph at that point, but at least I was still heading for Texas … and not for Hell.

With the storm front and funnel cloud behind me, the winds and rain quickly subsided. Warm and welcome sunshine had me almost dry by the time I stopped for gas in Slidell LA, and from there on into Beaumont there was not so such as a puff of wind or a feather of a cloud. Day 2 was much the same.

Until next time, Ride Long, Ride Free!

Bruce Arnold aka IronBoltBruce

IronBoltBruce … record-holding long distance motorcycle rider … disappointed bikers’ rights activist but proud member of The 100 … disillusioned political agitator targeting social injustice and piercing the veil of our two-puppet system to expose the institutionalized greed of the Kleptocracy pulling all strings Left and Right … like Thomas Jefferson, an aficionado of ethnic aesthetic and a philosophical anarchist who accepts the State as a necessary evil under which the best government is less government.