Fat Tires, Mud Bugs & Tornado Sirens

Labor Day Monday started in rather sluggish manner because of how we were feeling from the weekend. My husband had climbed the mountains both Saturday and Sunday, while I “only” did them the day prior. As I mentioned in a status update, that ride up the mountains was the most painful ride to date. So, my legs weren’t feeling up to par when I woke up that morning. To top it off, we had the light rains of tropical storm Lee above us. The gloomy skies, though, were a welcome change since we’ve had little rain this summer. Even so, less light tends to mean we move a little slower, and such was the case that day. However after a little while, we looked at the radar and then each other, “Want to go get muddy?” Oh yeah. Even tired as I was, who could resist that kind of fun? A check of the trail status revealed that the ride was a “go”; the trails were open. Perfect.

Now, you know that I’m still fairly new to mountain biking, and there is one thing I sure do enjoy, and that is riding in the rain. Getting covered with mud from head to toe makes me feel like a kid, again. Plus, my enjoyment of the trails is also heightened when there are fewer people on them. It’s as if you have the woods to yourself, and it reminds me of being out in the woods of our family farm when I was growing up. (Where the woods were “my private place”, a place where you get to push the world away and enjoy the solitude.) A smile creeps across my face as I type these words out, envisioning and remembering what I experienced. In both scenarios, the woods are really special when it is raining.

Anyway after more slow movements and a pretty healthy dose of skillet hash browns with onions no less (yum!), we headed out to the trails. We had checked the weather page before we left to get the latest information. Alabama had a tornado watch window on it, but all we had over here in Georgia was green on the radar.

We pulled into the parking lot and found that we were not alone. There were a handful of other “crazies” enjoying the day’s weather, as well. One of them was a dad with his young son, who couldn’t have been much more than 6 years old. I smiled in amazement because there aren’t many dads who would do that, nor are there many moms who would let dad take their son out in that weather. Must be an explorer family…or a simply a logical one — realizing that we don’t melt when it rains!

After a couple quick preparations, we were off. This particular trail system goes immediately into the canopy of trees, and under that canopy, the rain is dissipated. So, little of it actually hits you. Not to worry though after completing one of the flatter, easier trails (just to “warm up”), we stopped, looked at each other and giggled like little kids. We were a mess, and we’d only just gotten started.

One of the issues though with riding in the rain, though, is the possibility that one of the trees will drop a branch, or worse, fall entirely. It wasn’t something that we thought about prior to the ride. However, we were pedaling on a main section that leads to another batch of trails when I heard a tree crack next to me. Boy, I hammered on my pedals to make sure I didn’t get hit. A medium-sized branch dropped and just missed me. I stopped, went back and pulled it off the trail and out of the way. “Phew!” That was close.

After cavorting in all the trail fun, we were on our last trail for the day and had planned on heading home after we were done with it when we heard a faint sound in the distance.

“Hey, what’s that?”

Both of us were listening keenly when the sound became louder…and unmistakable. It was a tornado siren.

Oh. Crap. !

A pit hits you in your stomach when you hear a sound like that, and you’re away from your family and out in a vulnerable area. Then, we questioned it a bit. Hmmm, maybe it’s just for the flash flooding that might be occurring elsewhere in the county? (After all, they’ve done that once previously, a couple of years ago.) However a moment later, the rains became very heavy, and we heard some thunder. Uh oh!

It figures. We were on the furthest part of the trail. So, we hammered it as fast as we could. The heavy rain was hitting my eyes, and I could hardly see at times. I was not enjoying this part.

Thankfully, we made it back to the parking lot. The rains were still quite heavy, but we didn’t hear anymore thunder. Hmmm maybe, this was a warning for another part of the county? (After all, they hit the sirens for the entire county even if a storm will only hit a tiny corner of it.) At this point, we did not race back home but took an easy pace figuring that since we’re on the south end of the county, we must not be in the path. The sirens were no longer running, either. (Well not at that time, they did go off at least 6 more times during the rest of the afternoon.)

As we drove home, the skies really opened up. I didn’t think it could get any worse. (I was wrong.) Deluge. Torrential. Imagine some rain god up in the sky holding a massive aquarium full of water…and then he dumps it all out in one fell swoop. Yep, that much.

When we got home, we looked to see what the news stations were saying, and they were dominating the air waves with warning after warning for various parts of the Atlanta area. Our eyes grew very large (gulp!) when they showed the path of the tornado that had just come through our county. Let’s just say it was too close to where we had just been – far too close.

Oddly enough, we only heard a light sound of thunder once. That was part of the reason we assumed the storm must have been far away. Guess we won’t repeat that assumption. Well…not that I plan on riding during tornadic weather ever again.

On the lighter side of things – the mud stains of the day have permanently colored my jersey, and I’m STILL knocking out grit from the shoes I use for mountain biking, in spite of my best efforts to remove it all. Ah, fond memories. Regardless of those sirens!