The News Article:
Blasting west out of Iowa and across the Nebraska border I grinned wickedly at the remarkable change in the weather. Shortly I began to ponder the differences in regional dialects and what they mean to weather forecasts. Sounds strange, I know, but even piloting the big Valkyrie cruiser down the highway under the breathtakingly glorious sky, words and weather were all I could think about.
Motorcyclists, being intimately exposed to it, give the weather a fair bit of attention. For some, a bad forecast means they just don’t ride. For me, changing weather simply determines what kind of gear I am wearing and just how fast I can go. In spite of enduring decades of riding extreme conditions that in no way resembled the earlier predictions, for some reason I still pay attention to the forecasts. Today I was focused on a particular term.
See, here in Texas, we use the term “scattered thunderstorms” in our weather forecasts. We use it a lot, essentially for the entire spring, fall, and a good deal of the summer. We occasionally toss the term about in the winter too, just for good measure. Basically, in Texas it means, “We’ve absolutely no idea what the weather’s going to do, not even a guess.” I’ve encountered everything from 100+ degree heat and extreme drought to sleet, snow, and fog under that particular forecast. The only thing I seldom encounter is an actual scattered thunderstorm.
They use the term in Iowa too, except it means something completely different. In Iowa, “scattered thunderstorms” roughly translates to, “Raining cats, dogs, mice, and kitchen sinks anywhere there is a motorcyclist that is NOT currently wearing his rain gear.” Iowans, being very thorough, naturally, have an implied corollary too. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially it is, “As soon as he does stop and put the gear on, of course the rain will vanish without a trace and the sun will promptly come to roast said motorcyclist until he removes the rain gear. Lather, rinse, repeat until exhausted.”
It seemed I was just getting into the rhythm of the whole mess, which means I was feeling vaguely like a nearly drowned cat suddenly tossed into the desert, when I ran out of Iowa and promptly discovered via my weather radio that Nebraska uses the “scattered thunderstorms” term too. Once again, the word means something totally different. It wasn’t long before I discovered I like Nebraska’s definition the best. It’s pretty simple, and right up a motorcyclist’s alley. My soul and the forecast that was calling for “scattered thunderstorms” were saying exactly the same thing; “There’s not a drop of rain or wisp of cloud within 500 miles. Faster! Must go faster!”
Hmm. I was headed for Colorado. On my route it’s just over 330 miles across Nebraska. Three hundred and thirty miles…with fuel stops and the like that’d be about seven hours of solid running on a motorcycle. Looking into the brilliant, flawless sky, I thought about the forecast again. Seven hours? Heh. “Faster! Must go faster!”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Flying, free, alive.
I’ll bet I can make it in five.
I’ll see you on the road.
My Blog Post:
Flying west...racing the sun.
I gained on it today. It won, but I gained an hour. I'll try again tomorrow. It's always up for a friendly race.
I'm in smalltown, Nebraska. I can't even pronounce it. It's got a couple extra "a's" and wayyy too many "l's". Great run today, although I dealt with a lot of rain.
A weather term: "Scattered Showers"
In Iowa, this roughly translates into, "Raining cats, dogs, mice, and kitchen sinks anywhere there is a motorcyclist that is NOT currently wearing his rain gear."
There is a corollary of course:
As soon as he does stop and put the gear on, of course the rain will vanish and the sun will promptly come to roast said motorcyclist until he removes the rain gear.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
In Nebraska, "Scattered Showers" means, "There's not a drop of rain or wisp of cloud within 100 miles. Go faster!"
I'm afraid I caused a bit of a ruckus in a steakhouse this evening, but I think that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say, none of the blood was mine and even though the local constabulary does know my name, I'm not the one that got run out of town "on a rail"...or maybe that was "under the jail"...I was never really clear which.
Three lessons dispensed:
1) Pick on someone your own size (and gender).
2) Be polite to the people around you...especially the Texan that just asked you nicely.
3) Polite does NOT mean tipping over the table that said Texan's freshly delivered steak dinner was deposited on.
The second dinner was very good, and free to boot.
West or south? That is the question. South (and then west some more) will take me quickly to the mountains. Just west will take me to some roads I've never traveled before.
Hmmm. Mountains? Or new places? It may be time to flip a coin again.
Index Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Afterword