Thundering Home [From BA 42-400]
"The setting sun and humid air have created a creepy, beautiful atmosphere. The sky is orange and dusky, the air still. Lightning flashes in the distance. I decide to ride home, hoping to make it before the rain starts."
by Lisa Landry
I am at Grant and Nicki’s house here in Austin watching a movie. Around 8:00pm, we notice that the setting sun and humid air have created a creepy, beautiful atmosphere. The sky is orange and dusky, the air still. Lightning flashes in the distance. I decide to ride home, hoping to make it before the rain starts.
Mere minutes into the ride, the temperature drops noticeably and the wind picks up. Dry leaves smack into my arms and sand stings my eyes. I start the climb up Airport. I’m already in my easiest gear, struggling against the wind.
Around 12th Street, the rain begins as tiny sharp pinpricks. A minivan cruises past, honking at me. My lights are on, and I’m already as far onto the shoulder as I can get—what more do you want?
I approach MLK, still hauling uphill. The rain is harder, and the lightning continues. The sky ahead is a beautiful dark blue.
38th Street. Mueller development. It’s not just raining anymore—this is a fucking storm. I’m on a bicycle high; my brain is gobbling up the adrenaline. The water dripping down my face into my mouth no longer has the salty tang of sweat; now it tastes like chemicals. Every few breaths I have to spit it out.
Interstate 35—maybe I should hang out under the overpass for a few minutes and wait for the rain to let up? Airport isn’t a great bicycle route in the best of conditions—Airport in the rain is just ridiculous.
51st Street—I’m no longer spitting out the chemical rain sweat water. I let it dribble down my face, off my lips. Water is coursing down the street, taking up the entire shoulder, so I’m forced to take the lane. I hope that my backlight is still working. I approach North Loop and make my way into the left turning lane. I squeeze my brakes, but they might as well not even be there. Good thing I was going slow enough to roll to a stop.
I turn left onto North Loop, about a mile from home. The street is a river. This isn’t fun anymore. Now I’m afraid. The rain is still coming down in sheets, and thunder scares the shit out of me. I just want to make it home without jamming my front wheel into a hidden pothole or getting hit by a car. I roll through a four-way stop, not even bothering to brake because I know it’s useless.
The light at North Lamar is timed just for me, and turns green as I roll into the intersection. Goddamn, the water is deep—my feet are sloshing for a few pedal strokes. Just two more blocks. Left on Sunshine, left on Houston, left into 1003. I made it.
I peel off my gloves and take off my helmet. I hope they dry out by tomorrow so I can ride to work.