Monday, August 29, 2005

Waco, Texas

7:30 p.m.

The folks here at Hampton Inn were kind enough to let me "continue my internet session" that was interrupted by my hasty departure from Memphis. They even set me up at a small table in the dining area and furnished me with ice water. I have to say, I've been pretty satisfied with the people at Hampton Inns!

Turned on the TV as soon as I woke this morning, to confirm whether my plan to drive west were still advisable. Just north of Louisiana, Memphis was expecting to be hammered by Katrina late today. When I left at 8:00, the sky was solidly overcast, but it was not raining, mild winds blowing out of the east. Waved to the city on my way out. "Graceland" would have to wait (but Paul Simon's song still played in my head.)

I felt I had a good jump on the storm. Rode west on Interstate 40, crossing the Mississippi into Arkansas. Soon I started to hit bands of rain, which had me confused. They must have been crossing south of Memphis and then intersecting highway 40 in eastern Arkansas.

At first, I refused to accept these weren't just isolated storm clouds. So I didn't put on my Gore-Tex gear, since it adds bulk and the air was too warm.

Driving toward a wall of dark gray brown cloud, there was an almost ill feeling in my abdomen. I didn't know what I was in for. Clearly the clouds were massive and the potential for lightning had me on edge. But I stubbornly (and naïvely) pushed on, hunkered down and gritting my teeth.

Consequently, I was drenched once again, as wave upon wave swept across the highway. Between waves, the sky would grow lighter and I would hope I was finally breaking through. This went on for 150 miles. Needless to say, below my helmet, my front side was soaked to the skin.

Several times, trucks pulled into my lane to pass other trucks, even though they must have seen me about to overtake them. When this happens, I would suddenly be engulfed in a swirling cloud of rain, spray and buffeting winds, momentarily unable to see the truck, the road, or anything else, for that matter. I'd love to put their drivers in my place!

Around Little Rock, the rain diminished, though it didn't stop. That took another 50 to 100 miles. Throughout the day, my focus alternated between sky and highway. Not much else mattered.

I had to laugh (and take a photo) when I saw a historical landmark sign proudly proclaiming the Arkansas town of Hope is President Bill Clinton's birthplace.

It was a really big sign.

Roughly 400 miles after leaving Memphis, it appeared I had left Katrina's clouds behind. But the wind had turned to the north and building thunder clouds were now crossing my path. But these I could deal with. They are distinct clouds. You can see their limits. No problem. With the sun, came heat, lots of it. In the 90s as I reached Texarkana, Texas. So, what was I doing at Starbucks ordering a coffee? Pure habit.

Whenever I stopped, I could see Katrina's clouds sweeping out of the east. A strong wind was pushing bands westward. I didn't stop long, as I had no idea how far this storm might reach. I was on "auto-pilot" as I plunged into the Dallas labyrinth. I was watching for a Hampton Inn, so I might use their wi-fi. (Of course the momentum carries me on. If I find the motel, it's purely by accident.)

I had spent about 15 months in Dallas 27 or 28 years ago. Apart from downtown, nothing looked familiar. Found myself in South Dallas, "not a place I should be." Finally consulted the map and saw that I was not too lost. Easily found connections to the interstate leading to Waco. (I thought I would drop in on President Bush at his Crawford Ranch. Good bet he's there, I'd say.)

If you have any messages you would like delivered, please let me know.


mike pion said...


Good to see you riding and writing again. I was wondering where you went and hoping everything was ok. Sounds like you had an interesting day - its been many years since I had to ride under those conditions and for the most part I've become a fair weather rider. Keep us posted.

Drew Kampion said...

Just how many miles did you travel in that day between Memphis and Waco? Isn't that, like, 750 miles??? -- Drew

Anonymous said...

You're nuts, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. Glad you're OK. Enjoyed photos between VT and TN. Thanks again for lunch. Take care, or aren't you tired of riding thru rain and lightning yet? Judith