The weather report was sketchy for our regular Thursday night ride in Fort Jackson. There was a big, not very threatening cloud right above us shortly before the start of the ride. It looked like it was going to pass, and it finally gave us some relief from these rough temperatures. We had a great turnout and it was cloudy but dry when we left the gate.
This is my first time in awhile riding in cooler evening temperatures. It made a huge difference. I was able to push my heart rate much higher than I have in months. I was able to ride faster and stronger, keeping the wheel of riders who are usually much stronger than I am.
By the time we reached the back of the fort, we had already ridden through a few drops. It was nothing heavy and, in fact, felt pretty good. We were at the crossroads trying to decide which direction to go. The popular choice was to go out Johnson Rifle, which is a 4.5 mile straightaway that took us further into the fort, where we would turn around and come back. It looked like storms could still strike, so I suggested taking the Wall, which is shorter and tougher, but closer to the heart of the fort. Needless to say, not many like the Wall’s 12% grade. We went down Johnson Rifle and it was clear the whole way.
After heading there and back, we were back at the same crossroads. It was almost as if we had never left. There were a few drops and cloudy, threatening skies all around. We weren’t sure if they would pass, but it really didn’t matter. We had to exit the fort, so we headed down Dixie to the front of the gate. We flew down Dixie. It was probably a PR for me. Maybe it was the potential for rain, maybe the faster company. It felt great.
Usually after Dixie we will take a more challenging six mile route out of the fort. This time we opted for the quicker exit, which is about a three mile ride on Fort Jackson Blvd. As we turned onto Jackson, we knew we were in trouble. The picture above was our view and it looked worse than that. Black skies were straight ahead and there was no other way out.
We hauled it, hoping to beat the storm. It looked bad, but it was hard to tell whether it was close or far away. We saw some lightning in the distance, but it was a good ways to the left. The rain came down hard. We were reassured that the lightning was so far away and kept on, until we saw some more to the right, and closer. The rain was torrential at that point, so we took refuge in a gazebo.
The iPhone radar looked like the storm was either going to pass quickly, or keep going for awhile. Without great Internet reception, it was tough to tell the storm’s track. We waited. Then waited some more. It wasn’t letting up. After awhile of it continuing to come down, we realized that daylight was another obstacle to consider. It was running out. The lightning had at least subsided and were only a mile or two from the gate.
We decided to go. It was pouring down torrentially. We were drenched immediately and kept going. I think we went pretty fast, but couldn’t really see my Garmin with all the rain in my face. I couldn’t see much of anything actually. Finally we hit the gate where I was parked. I was able to quickly stash my bike and try to dry off, while my riding partners had to keep going to ride home. It continued to pour for about 30 minutes, so as bad as it was for me, it was worse for them.