Saturday, July 30, 2011


Las Cruces, NM

CRRRAAACK! The thunder rumbled through the nearby valleys for many seconds after the initial burst of sound that woke me up. It must be pretty late in the night, I thought.

I glanced at my phone - 9:30pm. Maybe not so late after all.  I guess it was still three hours since I'd fallen asleep.

I hit the button on my laptop to wake it up so my phone would keep charging. It falls asleep after two hours and stops charging my phone, and the phone still had a little way to go.

The tent lit up with the flickering of more lightning, and I saw my stuff strewn about. I hadn't really organized things much after hastily setting up the tent and throwing everything inside to try to beat the rain. Apparently the rain had stopped while I was sleeping though, because despite the almost unbearably loud thunder, the rain hadn't gotten to me yet.

BOOM! It seemed like a much longer break between lightning and thunder than it should have been, considering how loud the thunder was. It started as the kind of high-pitched, whip-cracking snap that was so loud it hurt your ears, and then it rolled into a low grumble that you could feel in your chest.

I hadn't really wanted to camp here, but rain had forced my hand. I'd normally have just put on the rain gear and kept riding, but on a curvy road with turns that I wasn't comfortable taking faster than 30mph when it was dry, and a pretty sheer cliff on one side of the road, I had made the split second decision to camp instead. I figured I was tired enough that I could get to sleep pretty early, and I deserved it after riding over 500 miles the day before.  Even if it was 3pm and I usually don't camp until 9pm.

More flickering, and this time the crack of the thunder only waited a second or two before piercing the tent. A few drops of rain started to fall.

After setting up the tent and getting everything inside, I'd spent the first couple minutes taking a towel to everything in the tent. I wasn't quite fast enough with the rainfly to keep the inside of the tent from getting wet, and all of my stuff had sat on the bike getting wet while I set up the tent. Once everything was dry, I watched a few episodes of West Wing while the rain picked up. When it stopped a few hours later, I glanced outside, but the general cloudiness and the occasional rumble of thunder in the distance made me decide it wasn't worth packing up the tent and trying to ride on.

The rain was coming down harder now, and the thunder no longer sounded like it was coming from the other side of the ridge that the road clung to. I was lucky to have found a spot to camp at all when the rain started - nothing more than a few extra feet of flat ground on the inside of a sharp turn that passed the road from one ridge to another. Not many cars went by, but at each one I could hear them slow down for the turn, and I was sure I could also hear them wondering what a tent was doing right there.

I tried to go back to sleep, but every time I got close, I'd catch a flicker of light through my eyelids and brace for the impact of the thunder.  It was usually louder than I expected.

I could have ridden further if the rain hadn't stopped me - I was far less sore than I'd expected to be, and under the clear sky of the plains, I had mentally planned on riding past my original stop point, to see how far I could make it today.  It was only once I got into the mountains and the clouds started to darken that I wondered if plans would have to change.

My stomach growled, feeling almost as loud to me as the thunder was. I glanced at my phone - 10:00 now. I guess I could forgive my stomach for complaining, it had been almost 12 hours since I'd eaten. I wasn't about to try to get food out of my saddlebags, as the downpour had started in earnest now. Sorry stomach, morning will have to do.

I unlocked the phone. Despite saying I had a sliver of signal, I knew that my phone would refuse to send any texts. I'd made that effort earlier, and after the third failure, just gave up. No phone signal, which meant no blog post. That's what I get for putting it off until I got some miles on the road.

I drifted off to sleep, the thunder interrupting my sleep periodically, and had dreams of buffets and the bright flash of someone taking pictures.

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