Storm clouds over “my dream house.” Sadly, it’s really not mine:
(continued from yesterday)
Once we got down to the intersection with FR81, we had a decision to make. Should we take the highway back to Alpine, about 10 miles but on pavement, or try to squeeze in one more unpaved segment before returning to base camp. The decision was easy – go up and over the mountain on FR81, hit 249, and then go east to emerge on 191 only a couple of miles north of Alpine. The only problem was we were riding right into a storm.
Wait, that’s not a problem for us! We stopped a few miles past the neighborhoods, where the 81 started to climb, and put on our rain gear. The question wasn’t “if,” it was “when” it was going to rain. It turned out to be a good decision to put on the rain gear since we had only gotten a mile or so into the climb when it grew very dark, and we were pelted with pea-size hail! Oh, here we go, I smiled. We knew we were going to get into it, and we wouldn’t be able to call ourselves “adventure riders” if we didn’t have a little adventure now and then.
The rain started soon after that, but it wasn’t very heavy. The hail continued, though, as we climbed up. Water was running fast down the erosion channels on the side of the mountain and crossing the road. We were splashing through mud, it was almost as dark as night, and the water on my helmet visor was making it difficult for me to see. Fortunately, I know this road very well, and we kept climbing fairly quickly. I was afraid it was going to be a crashing thunderstorm on top, but it wasn’t too bad. I glanced back over my shoulder, though, and the whole valley that we had just left was invisible behind a gray curtain of rain mixed with hail. They were really “getting it.” We were, however, riding ourselves out of that part of the storm. It wasn’t raining very hard at all as we came down the other side on 81, and soon we intersected with 249 for the last time this day.
We weren’t far from the end of the road, and then a couple of more miles on the pavement and we’d be in Alpine. However, I looked ahead and saw some dark gray, oddly-shaped clouds, and saw lightning, the kind of lightning that forked and threaded its way across the sky.
The clouds were scary. I have enough experience to know which clouds are bad lightning clouds, and those were it. It was really crashing and stabbing around us, and when we came to a pullout with one of those forest service concrete block buildings that housed bathrooms, I stopped. “Let’s get out of this, NOW!” I shouted to Hal above the violence of the storm. We guided the bikes over next to the wall on the north side of the building, and we stood under protection on the west side, away from the fast approaching main part of the storm.
Sheltering from the storm:
The bikes were getting wet, but I hoped we were reasonably safe on the west side of the little building. There was no way we could ride in that kind of a storm, and we were just going to have to wait it out. It was lucky we did, though, because a lightning bolt hit the ground about 500 feet from where we were standing, behind a small group of trees.
Where the lightning hit:
It didn’t hit a tree, just the ground, but we could feel some of the heat, and feel the rush of air pushing past us from the collision of super-heated air from the lightning and the cold air that surrounded us. The loud crack from the immediate thunder was deafening. Hal and I pressed closer to the building. We probably should have gone into the bathroom, inside the building, but it was too stinky.
We waited there for about 45 minutes for the storm to abate. We watched how one particular area to the northwest seemed to take a lot of hits from the lightning. It was only a couple of miles away. I tried to capture some of the lightning with my little point and shoot camera, but the lightning happened so fast and I couldn’t anticipate it. Hal and I were getting hungry by then, and the main part of the storm was slowly moving off toward the northwest.
Once the clouds started to look flat and gray, I knew most of it was over. At last, with the thunder fading slowly in the distance, we thought it was safe enough to get on the bikes and ride back to Alpine, and we did. It was still raining, but not too heavily, and when we pulled into the parking lot where we were staying, we were not too wet.
I looked down at my trip odometer, and my goal of riding 100 miles or more for the day was met. We’d done 104 miles, had a great adventure, and now we were “home” and safe. We put up the bikes, got them wiped down and covered, then got out of our rain gear.
The rest of the day was spent driving in the car back to Springerville to get a couple of things at Western Drug and General Store, and then to Subway for a sandwich. I also discovered that Subway now has Keurig coffee, at least at that store, and I was in heaven – warm and dry after a great adventure, with a hot cup of coffee in my hand!
We drove through Springerville, and then Eagar, since we hadn’t really explored those towns before, just passed through on the main streets. They are both nice little towns, and I found a few buildings that I’d like to come back and shoot with my cameras.
I want to shoot this lumber yard with my camera. Lots of the wood salvaged from the Wallow fire seems to have ended up here:
The photo above shows a giant building with all sorts of big, wonderful, complicated machinery that I have no idea what it does! I would ask permission to shoot there first, though. We did stop to shoot photos at Nelson Reservoir, and then we went “home.”
I can’t think of a more perfect way to spend a riding day! It was a great start to a very short trip.
Tomorrow: Day 2