I Was Not Prepared for This

Or was I?

After entering South Dakota, as few miles in, I decided to stop on the side of the road to take a little break. At that moment I wasn't really tired and felt like riding for quite a while longer. It had become dark and I couldn't really tell what the landscape looked like. I had pulled into the small dirt drive and found that there was quite a bit of semi-tall grass and I could tell that there was small lake there. I looked and there was a sign displaying that this was a wild bird refuge. As long as I was not hunting I was fine. I pulled in and was feeling fairly cozy with my new surroundings so I decided to stay for a bit. I got out the Taylor, travel guitar, (Donated by Pickers Supply in Fredericksburg, VA) and sat down on the ground, leaned back on my dad's sleeping bag, and began to play. I actually finished some lyrics to a previous song that I had begun to write some time ago. "Set Me Free" felt like a pretty nice song. I'll upload a sound file to my site here sometime soon.

After a while I was feeling even more cozy, I looked up to the sky and all the clouds had disappeared. The stars came out very bright and I could see the milky way. Something that you don't often see closer to the cities or large towns. I laid there and watched as the stars got even brighter. I could see an occasional shooting star and even saw a few satellites as they passed across the sky from the south to the north.

While I laid there I decided to go ahead and enjoy my surroundings by setting up the tent and hanging out for a while. There was a pretty good breeze so I thought that I could escape the wind for a while inside the tent and relax even better.

I set up the tent and even decided to use the cheap little metal rods that came with the tent. I had thought of throwing them away several times before but refrained, thinking that I may need them down the road somewhere. I put the rods down into the ground in each of the four corners of the tent to secure it from being blown over by the wind.

    I climbed inside and laid down for a while. The sound of the wind seemed to comfort me to the point where I actually fell asleep. 

While I slept the world outside was changing. Transforming into a nightmare in the working. The clouds must have came back. Not catching me the first time through they decided to come back and finish the job. To catch me off guard while I wasn't paying attention.

Sometimes not sleeping too sound causes me to awake from time to time from my naps from the sound of passing vehicles on the highway and sometimes even by the headlights as they passed by. Time had passed and it all began at around 3:00 AM. This time I was awakened by a light. It caught my attention because it didn't seem to be that of passing headlights, and the fact that I didn't hear any cars or trucks made me wonder. Again, another bright flash from outside the tent caused me to wonder because again, I heard no sound. I paused for a moment and held my breath and could hear a faint rumble. Maybe a passing car or truck from many miles away?

I clambered through the opening of the tent as the bright flashes eventually seemed to continue without even pausing. I stood upright and looked around and was amazed at what I saw next. In every direction I saw the bright flashes. Lightning from distant storms seemed to be surrounding me from every direction. The lightning was so far away I could barely hear any rumble from the thunder. At that moment I felt fine and safe since the storms must have been so very far away. Trying to decide on my next course of action I wanted to focus on which direction the storms might have been traveling. I looked straight up in the sky and could tell that the clouds were all moving in a northeastern direction. The major part of the storm seemed to be on a collision course for my current location. I looked to the direct south which was the direction I was headed and there was lightning there as well. I looked to the north where I had come from, thinking that I could retreat enough to stay away from this new menace. There was lightning there as well.

    The intensity of the flashes began to grow. I pointed the camera to the sky several times as it captured the light from the constant flashes. No immediate lightning bolts were visible as they were behind the clouds.

 The rumble started to increase and get louder and louder. There was nowhere for me to go where I could find shelter this time. There was not a gas station or rest area or even a town for miles. I decided that might need to stay there and hope that it either missed me or I was able to withstand the storm. I immediately began to remove my gear from the bike and test my theory of whether or not all my gear would fit inside the tiny two-man tent. Wow, I was amazed that it all did fit on one side and still have room enough for me and the sleeping bag on the other side. Of course not able to extend my legs all the way that was okay for the moment.

I climbed inside and began to wonder. What was that I read in the manual of the tent? A disclaimer or some comment about water? I briefly glanced at before I threw it away. Yes, now I remembered. It mentioned that the tent would NOT repel water. The material would NOT hold out water or rain. I immediately started thinking of options. I could tell that the storm was getting closer by the sound of the thunder and the wind was picking up and changing direction rather quickly. 

I thought of my tarp that I had and quickly grabbed it and pulled it out. Would it be enough to over the tent completely? Would it hold out the water and rain? Would it be able to withstand the high wind? All these questions and many more were going through my head as I began to realize that I was not prepared for this at all. 

I wanted to take more pictures and possibly get some video but the storm was encroaching upon me much faster than I could get ready. I grabbed the tarp and pulled it out and over the tent. Lucky at seems that it covered the whole tent. I grabbed and pulled out the metal rods and put them all in the four corners of the tarp instead. Pulling the tarp out until it was tight on all four corners and pushing the rods into the ground as far and hard as possible. The wind began to pick up and was pulling and jerking on the tarp quite violently. I crawled in under the tarp and into the tent myself and zipped up the door. 

I then quickly started reaching for all the plastic bags that I could find and began to put all of my valuables and electronic gear in them and wrapped them up tight. This also kept me from being able to use any of my  recording devices from this point on.

Quite worried about the motorcycle I couldn't help but leave it out to withstand the elements all alone. I grabbed a jar of dried beef that I had in my bag. I removed the large metal lid and crawled back outside the tent just enough to reach and place the lid under the kickstand of the bike. Realizing that the ground would get wet I figured that I must secure the kickstand so that it would not sink into the ground and cause the bike to fall over. I crawled back in under the safety of the tent and tarp combo.

The wind grew even stronger and I could hear and feel it pulling and jerking and tugging on the tarp. At first, to try to get comfortable, I had taken my shoes off but put them back on in fear that I might need to move quickly if something were to happen. 

Suddenly I heard a quick slap and could tell that something had come loose. One corner of the tarp had come loose and was violently flapping in the wind, threatening the rods that had the other three corners secured. I clambered out of the tent. The rain had begun to come down pretty heavy at this time so I moved rather quickly. Amazingly I found the rod, still stuck in the ground. The tarp had just popped loose so I re-secured it and repositioned the other rods to compensate. I climbed back inside and dried myself off with a towel and remained there for the duration.

    The rain was now coming down extremely hard and the wind and lightning was blowing and flashing constantly. The rain made a deafening sound as the heavy drops pelted the tarp. I closed my eyes for a moment and was almost blinded by a close, bright flash of light, immediately deafened by the crash of thunder that came with it. Even with my eyes closed the flash blinded me through my eyelids. Afraid that the lightning bolt had hit the bike I remained inside. With the jerking of the tent I thought that a tornado might have been forming. This storm definitely had all the proper conditions to create such a devastating force.

So many things were crossing my mind at this time. Would I be hit by lightning? Will my bike be destroyed by the storm? Will the rain get in the tent and ruin my equipment? Many more questions and concerns were saturating my head and my thoughts as I felt so very small and vulnerable at that moment. I had become concerned about the fact that I had parked right next to a small lake. I had no clue how close I was to the water's surface and what might happen if it was to rise.

For several hours the storm continued. The rain pelted the tarp and tent. The wind tugged and jerked the tent every which way. The thunder and lightning persisted, blinding and deafening with every strike.

For the first time on my trip I was actually concerned and a little shaken. I was just shown how vulnerable and human I actually was and I realized that I might not be invincible after all.

I eventually fell asleep and the storm died down to just rain and then, somewhere in the night, had ceased.

The morning came, the clouds opened, and I crawled out from under my tiny shelter to look outside. The world was still there and I wasn't in the land of Oz after all.

I had survived. But this time with a slightly different outlook. However, I had surprised and impressed myself at my ingenuity and creativity to make it through the night without everything still in tact and in perfect shape. 



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