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