A Terrifying Night: My Experience Riding from Lubbock to Pensacola
In 2016, I rode my bicycle from Lubbock, Texas to Pensacola, Florida. The first two days were long rides, each over or very near 100 miles. My third day was from Seymour to Bowie, and it was a pretty uneventful day. When I got to Bowie, I went to a small restaurant to eat and decide if I would get a hotel or camp out.
The next day was going to be a shorter day, and a look at the weather forecast showed a slight chance of rain around 9:30. I decided to go to Bowie High School and hang out under the canopy of one of the entrances. Once the rain ended, I decided to go down between the school and a small lake where there was a small covered picnic table that had space to put up my tent.
The rain was not bad, and it passed quickly, so I set up and placed my bicycle and trailer up on the metal enclosure. It was really nice, and I was under the canopy, so I left the top cover of the tent open to feel the nice breeze. The ride was over 100 degrees that day, and it felt good to feel that breeze come through.
I fell asleep quickly, only to be surprised to hear pounding on the metal canopy and a very loud clap of thunder at almost the same time as a flash of bright light from a very close lightning strike. Before I had time to react, rain started pouring into the top of my tent. This storm had ramped up quickly, and rain was coming at me horizontally. I immediately found a plastic bag to put my phone in because I thought I might need it.
Over the next few minutes, the flash of lightning and loud claps of thunder started coming by the dozens. I was officially very scared at this time. Here I was near a small lake under a metal roof exposed to water pouring into my tent.
When I realized that this storm was going to last awhile and decided my life might be in peril, I decided to call 911. I could barely hear the operator answer, but I quickly told her what was going on and where I was and asked if an officer would come get me. Within minutes, a policeman was in the parking lot honking for me to come. I had to run about 50 yards across the open field to get to the car. I was worried about the constant strikes of lightning but knew I had to go.
The policeman took me to the police station, but he had to go the long way as a crossing was under water and getting worse. He said he couldn't remember the last time they had flooding so quickly and that I was lucky to escape my spot because most of the flooding ended up going to the lake I was close to.
I spent the rest of the night in the lobby of the police station. The AC was running all night. The lady who was at the desk said she kept it like that to stay awake. I told her it was working for me too as I was soaked and felt very cold. They wouldn't even give me a towel to dry off because those were for prisoners.
When the sun came up, an officer offered to take me back to where my tent and bike were. It was not a pretty sight. Everything I had in my trailer was soaked because it got knocked over and got covered with water.
I took everything out of my trailer and hung everything up on the rafters of the canopy and just hung out for a few hours to let the nice breeze dry them out some. The ride this next day was a really bad one because I had only slept about an hour before the storm hit. I read later that the storm had over 5,000 strikes of lightning in the area. I believe most of them were within a half-mile of my tent.
Looking back on that night, I will never forget it. Despite the fear and uncertainty, I'm glad that I made the decision to call for help when I realized I was in danger. And while everything in my trailer was soaked, I learned to appreciate the small things - like the nice breeze that came through my tent and the A/C in the police station lobby. Most importantly, I learned to respect the power of nature and to always be prepared for unexpected situations.
Here is my next post: The Great Bicycle Debate: Bike or Bicycle, Cycle or Ride?