“In the field behind Lee’s auto shop, I tied two corners of my tarp to a trailer, and stuck the other two in the ground, and bedded down beside it to watch the stars. Lee told me that if the weather got bad, I could hop in his “parts car,” an old Honda, with no tires, sitting in a puddle, beside a huge oak tree. I didn’t think twice about the offer.
Within an hour, it started raining. I collected my stuff and crawled beneath my tarp, stargazing be damned. Then the wind picked up, and my tarp began blowing around. Bolts of lightning flashed around me, followed closely by thunder. My tarp began flapping uncontrollably in the wind, and I began getting pelted by huge raindrops. And just like that, I made the decision to get into Lee Hamlet’s parts car.
With my sleeping bag and pad and tarp in arms, I hopped into the front passenger seat. I woke up at 3 a.m., because the storm was intensifying. I thought about finding real refuge—like in someone’s house—but it was too intense to get out of the car and run for safety. I couldn’t see more than a foot in front of my face, and even then, I couldn’t tell which way to run.
Lightning bolts started to appear more frequently, so frequently that I could no longer count the time delay between flashes and thunderclaps. I could see bolts striking the ground not far to the south.
The wind picked up and went from strong to violent. It began to shake the car. I started wondering if Lee’s parts car, my only refuge, was safe at all. After all, it was essentially a Heavy Rusty Metal Thing, and it had no tires, and it was sitting in a puddle, beneath a tall tree, in a large field.”
Excerpted from “The Cyclist in the Cyclone,” by Jonny Waldman, from Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac. Reprinted in Utne Reader, July/August 2012