Saturday, June 5, 2010

Seek Shelter In Your Vehicle

The weather was iffy for my weekend ride on the New River Trail. I'm happy to report that the whole time I rode, it was dry. However, evenings (all three) were a different story all together. I could tell stories of each evening, but by far the most eventful was the second, the one I spent at the Cliffview Campround just outside of Galax.

Evening was fast approaching, my camp was all set up and dinner was almost cooked. I noticed dark clouds quickly gathering above and I could hear distant thunder rolling down the valley, growing ever louder and closer with each ominous clap. Not liking the sound of Old Man Mountain's applause, I decided to take some precautionary steps and moved my stuff inside the tent.

I had just finished filling my bowl with a hot meal of beef tips and broccoli on rice when the first heavy raindrop fell and on the heels of that first drop a deluge. I grabbed my food and wine and dove in the tent. There I was huddled in my tent in the darkness as a veritable tempest raged unabated outside it's thin, cloth walls. To the not so soft glow of lightning flashes, I ate my meal and drank my wine.

The storm had been raging unabated for more than an hour when the park ranger drove through the campground, repeating an announcement over his PA system, "attention campers, there is a severe line of storms approaching the area with damaging wind and hail. You are advised to seek shelter in your vehicle immediately."

As the ranger drove away, I sat in complete darkness pondering my predicament. My vehicle was locked to the picnic table some 20' away.Bikes are amazing vehicles, whose virtues I could expand upon endlessly. However, I doubt that it would do me much good in a hail storm. I really was left with but one option, nestle down in my tent and ride it out. I was encouraged that my shelter was a brand new REI Quarter Dome tent. I spared no expense on choosing this tent, now it was time to see if my investment was worth it. I lay down, put my earbuds in my ears, closed my eyes and let my Itouch do the talking. Occasionally I would pull out the ear pieces and was disconcerted by the raging fury of the storm. To maintain some semblance of sanity, I put the earbuds back in place, lay back and closed my eyes. My philosophy: out of sound - out of mind.

The next morning, I awoke to silence and crawled out of my tent. A heavy fog blanketed the area.There were two other groups in the campground beside myself. The one nearest was a father and his two grown sons. They each had their own tent and all 3 were flooded. They ended up seeking shelter in their vehicle for the night. The other was a father and his small son. Their tent was completely destroyed. Take note of the big, burned out spot on top, where it had been blown into the adjacent fire pit.They ended up not only seeking shelter in their vehicle, but jumping in it and riding away from the devastation.

As I prepared and enjoyed a few cups of coffee,I looked around at the devastation around me and the tidiness of my camp and was grateful for two things. First I was grateful to God that he saw me safely through the night. Secondly I was grateful that I had the foresight to invest in a good tent.

My dear readers, I beg of thee, heed my sage advice. If you ever venture into the wild, something I hope you do, spend some extra money and get some good gear. Cause I'm here to tell you, it's not a question of if, but when, you will encounter the fury of Mother Nature. Your gear will be the only thing standing between your comfort or your desperation. Oh yea - when the winds blow, the lightning flashes, the thunder booms and the hail descends, it wouldn't hurt to utter a prayer as well.

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