Learning things the hard way

I got a very healthy reminder last night. A reminder that what I’m doing isn’t a game.

As you saw from my last post, I was cycling head first into a storm. It all started beautifully riding south out of Larned. Larned looks like this:


At first, I rode straight west from Larned. It was a beautiful evening – on one side of the road, and there was a storm brewing on my right. I knew that ten miles ahead, I was turning off this road, unfortunately to my right. I had read reports about some storms but it said chances were about 30% – and from experience I knew that summer thunderstorms usually don’t last very long.



Below: that’s where I was headed. A small town called Rush center (population 64).



Below: after I made the turn towards the storm.




There were tons of semis on this road.






As it got darker, the storm also got scarier. In the beginning, I was stoked and excited about how incredibly beautiful everything was, but as I kept riding, it started to dawn on me that I was surrounded by nothing but corn and soybean fields. Nothing else. No wooded areas, no houses, no gas stations and no towns. Except for the trucks, I was by far the tallest point for miles and miles – and the lightning bolts was getting closer and closer.

Eventually, I stopped taking so many damn pictures and realized that I was about to be in trouble. It was almost completely dark, I could feel rain in the air, and I really didn’t want to be out in the open when lightning was striking around me. I started pedaling like a madman – towards the storm (I knew there was nothing behind me for many miles). After ten or fifteen minutes, I could see a collection of trees in the distance – maybe two miles away. I had decided at this point to not try to make it to where I was going, all I wanted to do was to set up my tent and get inside  it before shit got really crazy. 

As I pulled into where the trees were the rain started pouring down. Heavy cold drops that had me shivering within a few minutes. Behind the trees was a big shed used to store tractors and equipment. I tried all doors but to no avail. I knew that if I tried to put my tent up it would get wet instantly, but I didn’t really have a choice. At this point I was a bit worried about the whole situation. I really don’t have much camping experience and I didn’t feel super comfortable about camping alone in the middle of nowhere in pouring rain, heavy winds and lightning striking around me.

The wind didn’t make tent set-up easy – the rainfly kept flying off before I could secure it and the ground sheet didn’t lay flat. Eventually I got the tent standing OK and I hustled to get my heavy bags in each of the four corners so the tent wouldn’t lift off. As I myself –  soaked from head to toe – climbed into the tent I found a huge pool of water in the center. I used a bowl to scoop as much water as I could out of the tent, then put my poncho on the floor with my mattress on top of it.

After talking to my dad on the phone for a couple of minutes I calmed down and accepted the situation. I wouldn’t be riding the remaining 40 miles and sleeping under a nice gazebo in a safe city-park next to a pool. I’d be spending the night in a wet tent badly set up in a  stormy field 20 miles from where I had just come. 

What to learn from this? Always check the weather in advance. Respect the fact that Kansas (and the other places I’ll be in the next month) are not Virginia or Maryland. There aren’t people everywhere, there aren’t gas stations everywhere and there very few places to hide if stuff gets nutty. I’ve also learned to give myself plenty of time to set up my tent before the rain starts – it’s definitely better to set it up a few minutes too early than a few minutes to late. The latter will earn you the privilege of sleeping in moist conditions.

In the end everything worked out though and the next morning I was on the road again feeling a little bit more alive than I had the morning before.

My spot the morning after:


1 thought on “Learning things the hard way

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