September 2006

I woke up this morning with my feet in one and half inches of water. Luckily my feet were in my sleeping bag, and the lower part of my sleeping bag was wrapped in a 30 gallon plastic trash bag. So though my feet were in a small lake, they were warm and dry. I had pitched my tent on a slight slope, such that my head was higher than my feet. At the time I didn’t realize just how handy it would be.

When I went to sleep the night before, there were lightening flashes in the sky to the North. They appeared earlier in the evening, announcing a storm that had passed through Nebraska, where a tornado had touched down. The sky flashed silently in the distance as my new friend and I talked about motorcycle rallys and places to ride. He got a call from his wife in Omaha. She had been trapped in a Walmart while the storm passed by. His son was at the movies when the storm hit, and everyone was herded into the lazer tag zone in the basement.

Just before going to sleep I could see black masses of density in the clouds to the North when the lightening flashed. Like an X-ray announcing the water source. I figured it might rain.

The guy in the tent next to me was named Jim. He was probably 20 years older than me, and looked like Mr. Clean with a grey beard. Muscular and rugged, but smiley and friendly. He warned me that he snored. I didn’t think anything of it until I awoke to the sawing of logs in the middle of the night. So I had learned to wear my earplugs.

This time however, I was awoken at 3 AM by the sound of rain pounding on the tent. It was coming through muffled but loud despite my earplugs. Which meant it must have been really loud without them. My anticipation of rain had been confirmed. I turned on my flashlight and immediately saw that little trails of water were starting to stream into the tent. My pillow consisted of an ice cream sandwich with my sweater in the middle and my folded pants on the bottom and my towel on top. Since my pants had been on the bottom, I noticed that they were wet. Of course, they were my only pair. My leather paniers were in the tent. The water was streaming under them as well, and collecting at the bottom of the tent near my feet.

I realized that I had some 30 gallon trash bags in my paniers so I took them out and started organizing everything and wrapping it in plastic. My paniers, my motorcycle jacket, the bottom half of my sleeping bag, all protected by plastic. I used to think thermarests were for wimps. Now it was like a life raft, and the only thing keeping me dry as water flowed all around it.

CRACK! There was a lightening strike close by. I was near the top of the hill and wondered if lightening could strike tents. My motorcycle was just outside getting the first real soak of it’s life. I turned off the flash light, laid my head down, and enjoyed the fact that despite the water running by, despite the wind that occasionally pushed all the air space out of the tent shoving the walls into my face, the thin little fabric shelter giving to me by my parents for my 15th birthday was protecting me 25 years later, so I could close my eyes and go to sleep.