La Crosse. The early years. There was a radio commercial for Car-X, a Midwest auto service chain that started out with the chant, "Rattle, rattle, thunder-clatter, boom boom boom!" The remedy when your car began to sound like this? Call the Car-X man, of course.
I heard these same sounds last Saturday. From the seat of my bike. After a nearly perfect morning, weather-wise, it started to cloud up during our stop at the Coon Valley Kwik Trip. And it was clouding up quickly. A more direct route home was in order, but we figured there was still time to head to Bohemian Valley, ride across Antony Road and then work our way back through Barre Mills. Figured wrong, we did. Riding along the ridge on Antony, we were rapidly closing the distance between ourselves and a dark, ominous sky. Thunder rolled across the top of the ridge; you could feel the low frequency rumble in your chest. We put this meteorological excitement behind us for a bit after we turned for the descent down County II, but it was a short-lived respite. The ride along County roads I, M and O was bringing us back towards the storm which was, helpfully, moving towards us at the same time.
Bill had gotten a ways ahead of me as I turned on to County OA, heading towards the FO hill. It was clear I was not going to get home dry. Then, not far from the start of the steepest part of climb up to County F, it started. Rattle, rattle, thunder-clatter, boom boom BOOM! The thunder bounced around the narrow valley like a swarm of pachinko balls while the lightning cracked and sizzled almost continuously. This was neither the time nor place to be sitting up on a bike. Here's where being slow helped. I was just coming up on one of the last houses at the bottom of the hill. There was a school bus shelter at the end of the drive. I pulled up and found the door unlocked*. This was good.
Tucked away in relative safety, I watched as the storm raged for about 15 minutes. First it was the sound and light show. This violent display was followed by a period of intense, wind-driven rain. Swirling sheets of rainwater were being swept up the road, probably all the way to the top of the hill. As much as I wished I could get blown up the FO climb like that, I decided to stay put.
Shirley soon arrived in the car with Hilary and Isaac. It had been a challenge, but after several attempts at getting the cell phones to connect, I was able to tell her of the situation and arrange for a rescue mission. They arrived during a lull in the action and I got my bike into car, much to the delight of grandson Isaac. Sitting with him in the back seat, I made one of the quickest FO ascents ever!
"What about Bill?," I hear you ask. Well, when the tempest broke he was in no-man's land. On top of the ridge, no public shelter. So, he put his head down, fought off hail, torrential rain, buffeting winds, and rode home. As it turns out, he put the Long White Line to good use in those last few miles as it was basically the only thing he could see through the sheets of water pouring over - and around - his glasses as he bent low over the handlebars. We connected a bit later and concluded that, having made it home safely, it was an OK ride.
PS* Many thanks to Paul R. who works in the same building as I do. His house is at the end of the drive where I had found sanctuary. He pulled in just as the rain let up and graciously offered me and the Trek a ride. Probably afraid he'd have to feed me if I didn't get out soon! Anyway, he did not have to take me home, but I very much appreciate both the offer and that he did not lock the door on the shelter.