Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Friday Afternoon Ride turns into an Adventure

I will never take off on a ride again without checking the weather conditions. (I wish I had brought my camera)

I was on vacation for 3 days this past week. I got a 40 mile ride in on Wednesday but I was not able to ride on Thursday since I had to drive up to the Adirondack High Peaks Area to pickup my daughter from Southwoods Camp. The trip is about 4.5 hours each way and it was decided that we would do the whole trip in one day. This meant getting on the road by 5 AM in the morning. We were back home by 6:30 PM but I was too tired to even think about getting on the bike.

It has been busy at work and I decided that I would work for 1/2 a day on Friday to get some stuff completed from the trip to Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday. By the time I get everything done and ran the days errands it was about 2 PM before I could get ready to take a ride.

When I left the house it was sunny with some clouds. It was hot but not as hot as it had been a couple of hours earlier. I usually begin everyone of my rides the same way. I zigzag through Holmdel and then cut over to Marlboro. I usually take Conover Road south to Colts Neck. From Colts Neck I usually have several options that I take depending on how much time I have and how far I want to go.

As I was riding through Marlboro I notice that the clouds were starting to look kind of threating but I still thought I had plenty of time. Since I do not like to turn around I decided I would make my way over to Colts Neck and I could then shoot home and finish up with a 15 to 20 mile ride. With one eye on the clouds and another eye on the lookout for potential shelter should the storm hit quicker than I expected I continued on my way. As I approach the turn that would take me back home it appeared that clouds had dissolved and it was back to sunny skies with some clouds. Since I was on vacation and it was still early I decided to keep riding and I mentally created a route map in my head. I was going to head down through Shrewsbury into Little Silver through Oceanport to Monmouth Beach back to Sea Bright and through Rumson, Fairhaven, Red Bank and Middletown before coming back to Holmdel.

I should have bailed and headed home but that just would not have been me. As I was riding from Tinton Falls to Shrewsbury I looked north and that is when I saw the reason for the moment of nice weather in Colts Neck. A large storm front to the North had sucked all the energy and was gathering up strength. At this point I knew there was no way I was going to be able to make it home before the storm hit because I would have had to ride right into it. I decided to stay on my course in try to make it to one of the towns before it hit.

I heard my first crack of thunder when I got to the main intersection in Shrewsbury. At this point I was thinking of my options. There is a bike shop on Rt 35 but I knew that there were some stores in Little Silver with overhangs that would provide cover. I probably should have gone with the bike shop because I could have done some shopping but I went for Little Silver. Once I got to the NJ Transit/Crossing I knew I did not have much time (I probably should have stopped at the station because I could have taken the train home but the idea did not cross my mind at this point) so I ran the red light and pick up the pace so I could get into the main part of Little Silver.

Once in Little Silver I spotted the Walgreens with the big overhang so I decided to take shelter here. Just as I got under cover all hell broke loose. This storm had everything. Strong winds, heavy rain, ground striking lightning, flash flooding and of course hail. Just about everything that should scare and unprotected cyclist.

It was just after 4 PM when I got to Walgreens. I had already gone about 24 miles and the shortest route back home would be about 7 miles. I figured that I would simply wait it out. I figured it was a summer storm and it would pass quickly. Of course since Monmouth county is bordered by two large bodies of water (The Raritan Bay to the North and the Atlantic Ocean to the East) storms can be unpredictable.

The storm raged for the next 45 minutes. Just when I thought it was starting to slow down it would all of sudden pick up strength and continue. Finally the sun started to come out and the rain stopped. I decided that would stay put of a little bit while I waited for the flooding to go down and the roads to dry up a little. There was a Carvel next to the Walgreens so I decided to get a vanilla cone while I waited.

I waited around until 5:30 PM. While I was waiting a Little Silver Police Officer showed up in his SUV. He spent most of the time chasing cars out of the fire zones. He was not writing tickets but was giving warnings. I am not sure if he was keeping an eye on me as well since he circled around several times. I kept expecting him to stop and ask what I was doing but he never did. However, he should be used to cyclists coming through town. Since there is a steady flow of cyclists through Little Silver all weekend long and I doubt I am the first one to have to take shelter at the Walgreens.

It looked like the storm had passed and I decided to continue along my original route down to Monmouth Beach. At first the roads were still a little wet but the big puddles were gone. The wind had not broken any tree limbs so the roads were clear. It was now a little cool but the sun was shining and I expected it was going to be a nice ride.

The ride was uneventful until I got through Red Bank and turn on Hubbard to make my way home. (Hubbard is one of those roads that changes names at every intersection. It eventually becomes Laurel Ave in Holmdel. I live off of Laurel Ave.) I noticed that the skies were once again becoming threating and for the second time today I realized that a storm forming in the north had given me a false sense of security. I decided to pick up the pace and get home since the only shelter that I knew about at this point was my own garage. However, I had ride directly into the storm in order to get home.

Once I got to the Red Hill Road intersection I got a view like I had never seen before. It was like there were 3 storms all coming together at once. There was one huge cloud that was just sparking lightning. I was hoping that it was further away than it looked but I still had about 2 mile to do. I ran the ride light and I rode down the last hill. The roads were still dry because it had not started to rain yet so I could move quickly. The rain started just as I got to Laurel Avenue. I turned into my neighborhood just as the storm hit. My glasses had fogged up and I was praying that the lightning would not hit me. I also wanted make sure I did not lay the bike down on the pavement.

Finally I made it to my garage. I fumbled with the remote but I eventually got in. I was wet but not as bad as I could have been.

I ended up riding 45 miles for the day. Not a bad ride but not as enjoyable as it could have been. Thanks to the storm today is a sunny cloudless day in the 60s. I am looking forward to a ride today. I have already checked the weather report!!

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