Actions and Consequences, Part VII

09.17.2013 | 7:53 am

A Note from Fatty: This is Part VII of “Actions and Consequences.” You’ll find the earlier installments of this shaggy dog here:

Also, obviously I kinda broke my “short post” rule today. I wanted to finish this thing.

I know something about weather. I’ve lived in Alamosa, Colorado, which can boast some pretty harsh winters. I’ve lived in the Arctic Circle for a winter. I’ve walked for hours in snow and through snow. If you dress against it, it’s not a big deal. You can stay cheerful in snow. In fact, if you think about it, people pay good money to be around snow.

But rain

Rain is different. Rain is something special.

Rain gets under your skin. It gets into your head. Sure, there’s a whiff of excitement when rain starts — especially when you’re a kid. It feels like something’s happening. Like maybe you should go jump in a puddle or run around and let it soak you.

But it doesn’t last long. You don’t play in the rain for hours, and then come in, wishing for another day, just like it. A few minutes of rain on your head, on your face, in your eyes, is plenty.

I don’t know anyone who pays money to be in the rain.

But sometimes I forget all that. I have said — utterly foolishly — that I hope it rains the whole day at Leadville, just because I think I am tough and that it will do worse things to my competition than it will do to me.

Stupid. No, not stupid. Idiotic

And then there’s wind plus rain, so that every drop feels like when you were a kid and someone used a straw as a blowgun to shoot a popcorn kernel at your face. (I’m guessing this was more a boy thing than a girl thing; it’s also possible I just had really rude friends.)

And in short, I was miserable. And afraid. Because even though it was just two or so in the afternoon, it was more or less dark outside. And cars were spraying big wakes of water onto each others’ windshields, so they couldn’t see anything for a couple wipes of the windshield. 

And we were out there, weaving in the wind, trying to keep our Shivs — now more kite than bike — under control.

Every time a vehicle approached, I looked up, hoping it would be a truck. And when it was a truck, I would hope it would turn out to be a white truck.

And when I saw a white truck with the unmistakable blue cast of HID headlights I knew The IT Guy had installed, I was so relieved. So happy.

What Could and Would Have Been

I thought it had been raining hard. I did. If asked to rate the hardness of this rain, I would have put it at a seven. But as we loaded one of the bikes into the backseat area and used come along straps to secure the other bike in the truck bed (I wasn’t at all kidding about the kiting effect), the rain stepped it up a notch. And then it stepped up another five notches. “Ten,” I thought to myself. “This is raining at ten.”

And then one more notch. This rain went to eleven.

This is how it’s been raining for the past twenty miles of my drive,” The IT Guy said, shouting over the sound of the rain and his windshield wipers, going at top speed and still only kind of keeping up. 

We had gotten lucky. Unbelievably lucky. There was no way we could have ridden in this rain. If The Hammer hadn’t gotten that flat, we’d be about ten miles further up the road, in the middle of nowhere, in that downpour, with who knows how long ’til we could get a ride.

And, as we were about to find out, it would have been worse than that.

Minor Obstacles

We drove, talking about the incredible downpour. “Thirty percent,” The Hammer said. “The Weather Channel app said thirty percent chance of scattered thundershowers.

And then, between Fountain Green and Nephi, both The Hammer and I gasped as the truck suddenly sent up a giant wall of brown water.

For a moment, we couldn’t see out of the truck. Then the wipers cleared the windshield; now we could see what was ahead of us: a fast flowing river, coming down the mountain to our right, crossing the road, and continuing on down the other side. 

It was probably somewhere between eighteen inches and two feet deep. 

Suddenly, we were extraordinarily glad that, instead of calling my son — who would have brought the minivan — we had called Blake, who had brought his truck. His truck which has been modified with a lift kit.

We rolled through the fast-flowing flood slowly and got to the other side just in time to watch the mountain slide down over the road ahead of us. A pile of mud, boulders, and debris — about three feet high — was now in our way.

The IT Guy came to a stop, then inched over it. 

“The minivan,” I said, “would not have been able to get over that.”

A mile later, we pulled to the side of the road as multiple police cars and trucks, lights and sirens going, zoomed toward the flood and slide we had just left behind. We’d find out shortly that they would close the road. That we were, in fact, one of the last vehicles to get through.

Actions and Consequences

We continued on to and through Nephi, laughing with relief at how everything was OK. Laughing with relief that we hadn’t been there on our bikes.

For another sixty miles, we’d drive through the most intense rainstorm I have ever seen in my life. The whole way, we talked about the decisions we made earlier in the day, and how they could have — would have — affected us if we had done things differently.

What if I hadn’t begged for an extra hour of sleep? I had been so tired when the alarm had gone off that morning that I delayed the start time of our ride so I could sleep a little longer. We would have been an hour — or more — further along, and maybe been right in the area where the big flash flood and mudslide hit, right when  they hit. Which would have been bad.

What if we had stuck with our original ride plan? Just a few miles in the ride, I had an idea to change up the ride plan. Instead of heading out to Cedar Fort for our first forty miles, we decided to skip that section and ride further past Fountain Green instead. If we had stuck with the original ride plan, we would not have hit the glass patch, wouldn’t have gotten the flat, and would have been right in the middle of the rainstorm — and maybe the flood — without a ride on the way.

What if we had turned around half a mile earlier? If we had turned around when my GPS (as opposed to The Hammer’s) said 100 miles — or if we hadn’t turned around at the beginning of the ride to make a minor repair to The Hammer’s saddle — we would have been a half hour further along before we ever called The IT Guy to pick us up. By the time he got close to us, the road would have been closed. And we’d have been stuck, in the middle of nowhere, in a rainstorm so fierce it was causing flooding and mudslides all around us. 

When we thought about it, in fact, if pretty much anything had gone according to our original plan, our day would have been much, much worse than it turned out.

We were wet, cold, and disappointed that we hadn’t finished our 200-mile ride.

And we both knew: we were very, very lucky.

PS: It rained, hard, almost the whole way home to Alpine: The IT Guy drove us home through eighty miles of incredible downpour. We broke through the storm about ten miles before we got to Alpine; it wasn’t raining there. But there were some freaky clouds gathering. And within five minutes, the rain started. The storm had caught up with us. Before the afternoon was over, flooding and mudslides would force neighbors as close as three blocks away to evacuate their homes. 

PPS: We are hoping for better weather as we race the Salt to Saint this Friday.


  1. Comment by Jacob | 09.17.2013 | 8:04 am

    I was once changing into my running clothes after work, checked the forecast for my exact location. 0% chance of rain for the next four hours followed by 30% in the evening.

    I work in an interior room in the building so no windows. Then I heard a weird muffled roaring, so I walked out into the hall and looked down to the exits. It was a wall of water obscuring a black sky at 4 p.m. Maybe just forgot a 1 and a zero in that percentage.

    Honestly, I think I would have pulled over to the side of the road and waited for Blake if I was worried about cars seeing me. Not sure how that would have factored into your lucky breaks, though. Maybe that would have added just the right number of minutes that the road gets closed and you don’t make it home until much later.

  2. Comment by Barefoot Rose | 09.17.2013 | 8:10 am

    Feels a little like something was telling you not to do what you wanted to do. I imagine gardian angles that were flying around you that day kept having to resort to Plan B, C and D while saying, “Now what are we going to do to keep them out of that mudslide?!?” “Slow them down.” “Speed them up”

  3. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.17.2013 | 8:20 am

    Had you called Blake a little later, he might have been swept off the highway in the landslide. Had you stayed in bed, and whiled the morning away, you would have had nothing to write about!

  4. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 09.17.2013 | 8:20 am

    Those things are good to ponder, in retrospect from a warm house. It sure could have been worse. Is that the same storm that flooded Boulder, CO where my daughter was helping out all her flooded neighbors? Like you, she came through wet but OK. Was it the choices she made in the past about her current apartment location that made her “lucky” while so many are suffering? Food for thought.

  5. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 09.17.2013 | 8:22 am

    A week or so ago I caught a glimpse of flooding and mudslides on one of the news channels and noticed the text overlay said “Alpine, Utah”. I thought, “Holy crap, that’s where Fatty lives!”

    I knew you were ok since you were blogging but I had a feeling this story was leading up to something like this. Very glad you and your family were ok.

    Can’t wait to read about Salt to Saint.

  6. Comment by Corrine | 09.17.2013 | 8:47 am

    Truly EPIC. Glad you guys are all okay. Good luck this weekend and sending thoughts of blue skies and tail winds your way! On another weather note, we are supposed to get up to 2 inches of snow tonight in Fairbanks, AK! That’s unusual, even by Alaska standards.

  7. Comment by ScottyCycles | 09.17.2013 | 8:49 am

    Great story Fatty. The “butterfly effect” (if there is one) may have saved the both of you. The little things add up on each other like ripples on a body of water. Glad to see the both of you came OK.

  8. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 09.17.2013 | 9:25 am

    That makes me think about the last LiveStrong Philly ride I was in. Tradition there is for hard rain during the event. I got to within 5 miles of the finish when the lightning started. Each burst caused the speed of the group I was with to increase (amazing how progressively not tired we were at that point). When I got to the finish couple of Friends of Fatty were there to great me. No announcers no crowd. “We are supposed to take shelter in the gym.” As I was unclipping lightning destroyed a tree in the parking lot. It was a fast march to the gym. Rain and lighting so not my first choice.

    BTW. I was THRILLED to get through the whole Leadville this year and not get wet. Wet would raise that to a totally different level of misery.

  9. Comment by Davidh-marin,ca | 09.17.2013 | 9:57 am

    Like everyone else glad this story turned out well. Let’s hear it for youthful testosterone and monster trucks. When Brice asks to put a lift kit on the minivan I hope you say yes, ’cause that would look cool!276873328_3b2a9a4afd.jpg

    I understand after a ride like that taking pictures with the phone was probably a bridge to far….

    Can’t wait for Salt to Saint……..from my armchair.

  10. Comment by Vickie in Batavia, IL | 09.17.2013 | 10:07 am

    Wow! Nothing like the perfect ride to serialize – what a series of cliffhangers. Great storytelling, but mostly I’m very glad it worked out OK in the end.

  11. Comment by Heidi | 09.17.2013 | 10:48 am

    Ha! The cat stepped on the keyboard and there went my response. Here’s hoping I don’t end up posting twice…

    What an adventure! Mo’ Nature can certainly get snippy at times. So glad you both made it home safely. I’m with @Jacob; if I knew the IT Guy was on his way, I would have pulled off the road, if it was possible. (But I realize that that might not have been the case. And I also realize I’m a big sissy.)

  12. Comment by Kukui | 09.17.2013 | 10:50 am

    About halfway through this post my coworkers started wondering why chin dropped and then stayed there…

    Wow! I’m so glad that entire series of events ended in a good way for you guys.

    Good luck in the Salt to Saint, Fatty and The Hammer! You guys are amazing!

  13. Comment by Liz M. | 09.17.2013 | 10:57 am

    Good luck this weekend, Hammer and Fatty. Hope it is uneventful and smooth — although I’m sure Fatty will provide us with a dramatic account no matter what!

    My thoughts are very much with the folks dealing with flooding in Colorado (and maybe elsewhere; we have only been hearing about CO in our news). Best wishes to all and stay safe.

  14. Comment by Jerry Pringle | 09.17.2013 | 11:02 am

    Thanks for the story and the experiences – I feel like we all were there with you! So glad everyone’s ok. Love the cliffhangers. Have a great race!

  15. Comment by Daniel Weise | 09.17.2013 | 11:34 am

    Sure am glad you are here to write about this! Flash floods and mudslides are nothing to mess with. Stay safe and race smart this weekend. Can’t wait for the write up as I’ll be having withdrawal for my next fatty fix after the caliber of this last series!


  16. Comment by Bee T | 09.17.2013 | 11:35 am

    Wowsers. Shivs are awesome but kind of useless in the off-road stuff. What if this story had started on cyclocross bikes?
    Hurray for a rescue and I hope that everyone remains ok! We have been watching mud and floods around my own family’s neighborhoods, too.

  17. Comment by andy@wdw | 09.17.2013 | 11:38 am

    “This rain went to eleven.”

    Ha! Are you sure the clouds weren’t more of a pastel black? I love a good Spinal Tap reference!

    Seriously though, I’m so glad the planets aligned just right to keep you and The Hammer safe. But please, next time you’re in rain like that, just get off the road. If you can’t see, then cars can’t see you. Better to get home late than to not get home at all.

  18. Comment by bob | 09.17.2013 | 11:53 am

    Sometimes you just get lucky.

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.17.2013 | 12:03 pm

    luck? or blessing from on high?

    I’ll take either one. – FC

  20. Comment by Eric L | 09.17.2013 | 12:05 pm

    Lisa, you have one helluva son there.

    Three rousing cheers for Mr. I.T. Guy for being calm, cool, appropriately equipped and most of all willing.

  21. Comment by leroy | 09.17.2013 | 12:36 pm

    Glad it worked out!

    I thought that “If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must go to Mohammed” was just an expression.

    Sounds like the mountain came to you.

    And brought friends.

  22. Comment by Joe | 09.17.2013 | 1:56 pm

    Wow. So glad to hear you guys made it out okay. I cheated and checked your twitter after installment one to get a sneak peak at what was to come but had no idea it was such a close call and fortunate turn of events.

    I had to drive in rain that “went to 11″ a couple weeks ago and while we didn’t get mudslides or anything out here (not much in the way of hills in these parts) it did mark the first time I’ve ever seen cars park under bridges to wait out the rain.

    Every overpass had at least five or six cars parked under it and the majority of the cars who stayed on the road had their emergency flashers on while driving very slow. By far the most nervous I’ve ever been driving in non-blizzard conditions. Can’t imagine being on a bicycle in anything close to that.

  23. Comment by Jeff Bike | 09.17.2013 | 2:39 pm

    Welcome home, Dry your bikes off, get a hot shower and have a nice cup of hot chocolate.

  24. Comment by rich | 09.17.2013 | 2:58 pm

    Wow, so glad it worked out and you’re all safe….things definitely could have gone the other way..

  25. Comment by UpTheGrade SR CA | 09.17.2013 | 3:03 pm

    Man, you guys have all the fun out there in the center of the continent. All we get in Santa Rosa CA is months of cloudless skies, 70 degrees and gentle breezes, its so comparitively boring ;-)

    That said, don’t bring any of your apocolyoptic weather with you for Levi’s Gran Fondo, we’ll just suffer our boring weather and make up stories to tell.

    You know you’ve just jinxed the Fondo, right? – FC

  26. Comment by Mike from Melbourne | 09.17.2013 | 4:04 pm

    Epic ! I’m really glad you survived to tell the tale. Good luck for the Salt to Saint

  27. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 09.17.2013 | 4:11 pm

    Wow. That was SOME STORM! It’s not every day you see Youtube videos of guys wakeboarding off of the back of trucks in parking lots!

  28. Comment by Sunny | 09.17.2013 | 7:50 pm


  29. Comment by AnthonyR | 09.17.2013 | 8:16 pm

    Loved the multiparty adventure story.
    For the Levi’s Fondo Fattys, I have a unused Large men’s jersey available for whomever wants it. V8 I believe. Ordered it with a medium during my weight loss period and ended up fitting the smaller one. You can email me at anthosr at gmail if interested. I actually have a couple slightly used older version XL jerseys I could part with also.
    Unfortunately I won’t be riding the Fondo this year after going over my handlebars this past weekends and ending up with a broken collarbone. Disappointing, but it could have been worse. So I also have a Gran course entry that needs a home.

  30. Comment by AKChick | 09.17.2013 | 10:59 pm

    So glad you two are okay and that everything fell into place! That is so scary. Not sure if you believe in a higher power, but I’d have to say someone was watching out for you two that day. I’m grateful the ending was a happy one.

  31. Comment by Bozidar | 09.18.2013 | 12:44 am

    The end is quite good, although the previous installments got a bit boring. What I am wondering is why you would even start on such a huge ride with any chance of rain on the forecast? It seems that the area you rode in is prone to flash floods which is NEVER a good thing, especially not when riding a bike.

    Thanks for your feedback! I’m heading over to your blog right now to learn how to write posts that aren’t boring. – FC

  32. Comment by Laura | 09.18.2013 | 6:19 am

    I loved the ’short installments’ approaching and as usual your stories are engaging and in this tale, gripping. I am glad that all ended well!

    Thanks! – FC

  33. Comment by slo joe | 09.18.2013 | 7:43 am

    FC, enjoyed the “cerealization” and suspense for sure.

    Me has to ask a question: “With help on the way, why didja continue riding in horrendous conditions?” Why not just wait by the side of the road out of harm’s way? Sounds like those big ol’ steel boxes had very limited visibility and ye was riding in very windy conditions, etc.? Wasn’t like a rando ride where you had to be at Y place by X time, aye.


  34. Comment by Pat in Westminster Co | 09.18.2013 | 10:18 am

    Think of it as practicing at being miserable. Next time something sucks it wont suck as bad………unless it was more miserable. Then its back to practice at being miserable.

  35. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 09.18.2013 | 1:14 pm

    That is incredible! The universe truly put everything together for you that day. I’m a little choked up thinking about how fortunate and awesome that string of events was. So glad you are all safe and well!


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