I’ve decided not to grouse about the heat, and get on with life this summer, appreciate the lush green and accept sweating my face off. Because it’s been so oppressive, I get up early to bike and walk the Katy Trail, beautiful always, but especially serene just after daybreak.
Occasionally, when I can’t get my morning workouts in, I take an evening bike ride with Spark. That was the case last week as we headed for the Augusta Trailhead. But when we got on Highway 94, a bank of clouds that had looked iffy became ominous, and we turned around, heading back to Dutzow to ride.
Off We Go
Spark checked his phone to make sure nasty weather wasn’t approaching, and we mounted our bikes for Marthasville, where we planned to reassess conditions, which looked just fine. We did hear something that Spark thought was thunder, but I argued it was just a big truck. Soon I had to admit he was right.
At the Marthasville Trailhead, we saw a darkening in the west and decided to ride a couple more miles. Within minutes we realized we’d pushed it too far.
A storm was quickly building and we turned around, stopping again at the Marthasville Trailhead to decide what to do. I wanted to find a place inside to wait it out, but Spark checked his phone again and believed if we rode fast we would be able to make it back to Dutzow before the sky opened.
With thunder rumbling, we pedaled for all we were worth, but with a couple of miles to go it got scary-loud and started to sprinkle — our refuge lay ahead, an old railroad bridge over Tuque Creek. If we could climb down the 20-foot ravine alongside the bridge, and get under the structure, we’d be safer than out in the open.
Any Port in a Storm
Grabbing our bike bags and water bottles, we carefully maneuvered the steep embankment, and found a spot under the bridge where a beam above us kept us minimally dry until the baby storm turned into a doozy, blowing rain sideways, and soaking us, while lightning flashed, and booms resounded. We huddled together, my front to Spark’s back, shirts once sweaty now soaked, as the rain turned to hail, ice plopping in the creek below, far enough away that we didn’t have to worry about a flash flood.
For 40 minutes we stood under that old 190-foot-long bridge, protecting each other from the elements, and hoping the storm would pass quickly. It seemed like forever before we saw the sky brighten, and as the rain let up we considered an alternate exit, one more grassy but full of poison ivy, so back up the steep hill we went.
Now slick with mud, I inched up it on my rear, collecting debris with each scoot while Spark stood upright, grabbing onto concrete pieces of the bridge and rocks to hoist himself forward. I was more scared of him falling than I’d been of us getting fried by lightning.
We were a pretty sorry sight when we got on our bikes for the last couple of miles to Dutzow. Once home, it took us over an hour to clean our bikes and car — our clothes were completely covered in mud too, thrown up off the trail by our tires.
That little ride was quite an adventure — one I don’t think Spark or I will forget. It’s doubtful we’ll ever ride over Tuque Creek again without recalling our experience — one I don’t want to repeat any time soon. We also realized even with our eyes on the sky, we couldn’t have avoided the pop-up storm.
So goes the surprise summer of 2018, already one for the record books.