Yesterday morning I awoke and got on the road, but not before checking the weather forecast. It was looking very grim...a strong band of thunderstorms with "straight line winds and hail" were in store for me. It was cool and there was a light overcast as I left Tuscaloosa and headed west on I-20.
It was mostly just drone along on the interstate to get to Vicksburg, where I could get a national park stamp. I was just here in March, getting a stamp to finish up my 3rd IBA National Park Tour. So it was deja vu as I pulled up to the light and turned right into the park. The same park ranger gal was there and I commented on her longevity there at the park. She was there two years ago, as well, when I stopped here for a stamp for my 2nd NPT. The last time I was here 4 months ago, I had plenty of time and rode the loop, making many stops along the way, including the USS Cairo. I'd visited this park several years ago after having read a couple of books about the detail and history of the park, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so in March 2009 I did it again. This time, though, I had 700 miles to cover to get home, and this would be a stamp-and-run and I would take a pass on the long slow ride through the park to get to the other side where the USS Cairo stamp is.
With that stamping business complete, I continued west on I-20 into LA and then got off the interstate to cut diagonally on secondary and local roads down to I-10. This is a nice route and the roads are mostly good. Only a small section of dirt and gravel where they're doing road construction in Jonesville, but after that it was smooth and mostly new blacktop.
When I got to the I-10 interchange, I needed gas and knew there would be a good stop at the next interchange. When I got off and pulled up to a gas pump, I noticed how black the sky was to the west. By the time I'd pumped my gas and gone inside to use the restroom and buy a snack, the black wall had moved closer. I sat there a minute and observed the clouds and could see how rapidly they were moving east, toward me. Next door was a Burger King, so I rode over to their parking lot, dismounted, and brought my jacket, helmet, and wallet inside. I went back outside to get a warm pullover, since the restaurant was cold enough to hang meat.
I decided to go ahead and take a real meal break and wait it out. By the time I'd ordered my food, the winds had really picked up and I could see folks struggling to walk or even stand up outside in the parking lot, the winds were so powerful. The rain came moments later, followed by serious lightning and thunder. A couple of guys came in, and quickly made the connection between my helmet sitting on the table and the motorcycle outside. They got their food and sat next to me and we chatted. They were amazed that I was riding by myself, and even further amazed that I planned to ride to Houston. When one of them asked me where I was coming from, I could see that blank look set in when I told him I was coming from Johnson City TN by way of the Carolinas, as he was unable to process that fact. They seemed genuinely concerned for my safety when I stood up and started to put my jacket and helmet on. By that time the winds had stopped and it was just a light rain with no lightning or thunder. I knew that I'd soon ride out from underneath as I headed west and the storm continued east. They still tried to dissuade me from heading out, saying that I would get soaking wet, but I assured them that I was used to riding in rain and had all the right gear to stay warm and dry.
It didn't take long to get out from under the rain...and by Orange, TX the roads were dry and by Beaumont TX the sun was peeking out and I had to stop long enough to fish my sunglasses out of the tank bag to put them on.
I arrived home at 7:37 PM after a really great trip!