Buckle up… this is a long one.
A good friend and fellow rider, Sean, invited me to his cabin way “up nort” a few years ago. If we had ridden straight there, it would have been about a five hour ride. But what’s the fun in that? Of course we had to stretch it out into a full day.
We left on Saturday morning and had planned to hit several stops along the way. In Wisconsin, there is one of four 45×90 geographical locations. One more is somewhere in China. The other two are in oceans; so it was kind of a big deal.
Wisconsin also has a fantastic set of “rustic roads”. If you travel the rustic roads and take a picture of yourself and your motorcycle (or car) at each end of the road, you get “prizes”. 10 rustic roads gets you a patch. 25 gets you a certificate.
After a full day of riding, we finally arrived at his family’s cabin in the woods. It’s a really nice place right on a lake. Seriously… it’s like 10 feet from the water. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and had a great firepit. Sean’s father was there and we sat out under the stars talking about the trip and motorcycles.
The next morning, we had a nice breakfast and I got introduced to his childhood home away from home. Sean showed me the places he used to play when he’d visit up there as a kid. Finally, the time came for us to get on the road. We geared up and headed south.
About three hours into the return trip (longer because we took all backroads), the skies turned dark. It wasn’t so bad because we weren’t having to deal with the sun bliding us and riding in cooler weather is nice sometimes. But this… this was something different.
As we approached a mid-sized town to gas up, we started seeing flashes of lightning. We made sure to exercise poor judgement and figured we could get south of the storm (which was approaching from the west) before it got us. Ha!
We continued south. I was leading with Sean not far behind me. The roads were dry and curvy. The air had that certain electricity of the impending storm. The scenery was magnificent. Sean began flashing his lights at me. We pulled over. I lifted my visor. Sean pointed off to the sky just to the right a little bit and said “See that?”
I hadn’t seen that. It was a very large, very dark storm. You could plainly make out the curtains of rain coming down. My eyes got big. I turned to look at Sean again just as the sky lit up with a massive flash of lightning.
As a kid, you learn that for every five seconds counted from the flash to the thunder equals one mile. In my head, I didn’t even get to “wo….” before we were shaken by the thunderclap. “What do you want to do?” Sean asked. I don’t know why he asked… I had already demonstrated poor judgement. So I demonstrated it to him again. “Let’s just ride until it starts to rain on us. Then we’ll pull over and wait it out. Maybe we can make it.”
We rode about a quarter of a mile. The first raindrops hit my windshield. I didn’t really think much of it. The road ahead looked really inviting. The asphalt curved into a section of forest that seemed like it would hold scenic wonders. We passed a little townie bar that doubled as a community center. I love Wisconsin. I’m glad I took note of it because about 500 yards further, the skies opened up on me.
You’d think that there would be some sort of ramp up as the leading edge of the storm approaches you. This was like someone turned on a shower. Just an immediate deluge. We quickly turned around and headed back to that little bar. We parked the bikes and went inside. Waiting it out seemed like a prudent idea. We ordered a pizza and had some sodas. We checked the radar on the phones and saw that we didn’t have enough money to wait this storm out. It covered the entire midsection of the state. In our final exercise in poor judgement for the day, we decided to just go for it. We could find a bridge to hang out under periodically.
Sean had some rain gear, but I did not. All I had was my “water resistant” wind breaker. It worked okay for the first 10 minutes. After that, I might as well have not been wearing it at all. We rode.
I am a very cautious rider to start with but in this pouring down rain, I was riding even slower. On these two lane country roads, there was a huge line of traffic behind us. They probably didn’t mind so much though because the rain was coming down so hard they would have had to drive slow anyway.
Here’s a little tip. Between Waupaca and Madison on Highway 22, there isn’t a single bridge that a motorcyclist can stop under. So we rode.
Finally, after what seemed like 4 hours, we reached one of the northern suburbs of Madison. We pulled off into a gas station for the final fuel stop and to call home. My phone had died since I only had it in my pocket. It was soaked. Sean called and asked his lady to pass word along to mine that we were okay and about 30 to 45 minutes away. It was still raining but we were so close and so soaked, it didn’t matter anymore. As we were fueling up, some biker guy and his biker lady came rolling in. I don’t know where they were coming from or where they were going to, but he was in a muscle shirt and jeans… no helmet, only sunglasses. She was wearing a very tight shirt and the tiniest little shorts. Again, no helmet, just sunglasses. We chatted a bit and laughed at ourselves, us for being drowned cats and them for being drowned cats with no protection.
When I finally reached home, I got inside and parked the bike. As I was walking toward the door to the house, my wife popped her head out. She started to giggle at me as I was squishing as I walked. My boots were so water logged each one felt like it weighed about 10 pounds. I looked at her square in the face, pulled a glove off and DUMPED WATER OUT OF IT. That sent her into fits of laughter. All I could do was laugh too. Laugh and get into the shower.
I’m very fond of telling people that if I had jumped into a lake I could not have been more wet. That is 100% true. I was soaked through and through. It’s okay though. My friend and I both made it home in one piece. Neither one of the Hondas we were riding had any trouble at all. But best of all, I got a great story out of it.