By Chris Quimby
Special to The Weekly
The first big weather event I remember is Hurricane Gloria, which kept her strength enough to reach Maine and make her presence known in 1985. I don’t remember much horror, though. I mostly felt flattered that she chose to stop by.
Every few years after that, I had people ask me if I felt the tremors of this or that earthquake, which I either never had, or perhaps had wrongly attributed the rumbling of to the recent personal consumption of some Mexican food.
The most memorable weather episode in my memory, though, was the Ice Storm of 1998. At the time, my wife, Heather, was pregnant with my now 15-year old son, who is now much too big to fit inside a mother.
We are no longer limited to the weather patterns of the Northeast, however. Since commencing my Spokes and Jokes quest to cycle from Maine to Texas beginning on April 28, we have been in 11 states, including our current one, Tennessee. And, in case you’ve been grounded from television, radio, internet and social interactions, you’ve heard of the violent storms that have rocked some parts of the southern states.
I’m sure this is of great concern to some of the people who love me. In fact, my mother brought me up with an accelerated version of a Safety First Policy. It was more like, Safety First, Safety Last And Also All Throughout The Middle. I used to go to the Belfast City Park completely covered in bubble wrap.
OK. That was a joke.
She is not the only one that must be praying that I don’t meet a tornado. Truth be known, the thought frightens me, too, but many thoughts do, some completely unworthy of the honor. It doesn’t help, either, that I was brought up watching The Wizard of Oz in the age before VHS or DVDs. It came only once per year, like Christmas or visits to the pediatrician, and helped me visualize the effects of tornados on cyclists.
It’s likely, though, that the movie’s depiction of the event is not entirely accurate. If it happens to me, it will likely be preceded by me taking one mighty inhale before I release an impressively and passionately long Girl Scream.
It’s difficult for me to even watch videos of tornadoes on Youtube. As my daughter recently expressed after viewing footage of a storm in Oklahoma, it’s hard to wrap your mind around the reality of such powerful and swift destruction. If she didn’t know it was real, she said, she would assume it was just some fantastic CGI effect added to a movie.
I’ve been checking forecasts each night to help me plan where and when I should bike. As of this writing, a large area of severe weather is slowly moving in our direction.
Please know that we will make wise decisions. The weather patterns that precede and accompany tornadoes are dangerous enough in and of themselves to persuade a cyclist to keep his ride in the garage. It is not likely that we would be out there when the wind starts its funnel of destruction.
But that may be little solace for those back at home who watch the news. It’s easy to look at an image of the continental United States that’s 6 inches wide and see a storm in Alabama and process mentally that “it’s only a half of an inch away from them”!
Suffice to say, though, that Tennessee is more than a half-inch from Alabama, and Maine is more than four inches from Texas for, if that were not the case, my backside would not feel like this.
We’ve actually been almost miraculously fortunate with weather during this trip. We’ve only had one day in which I had to stop biking because of rain. That’s pretty good considering we traveled over 1,200 miles in a month.
Meanwhile, I’ve learned through Facebook that Maine suffered a miserable stretch of wet conditions in the middle of May. I won’t lie to you that I found it difficult to not gloat about our fortune, as if it was by my own doing that the sun continued to shine.
Your values change when you start biking down here at this time of year, though. The idea of a light rain with the sun behind the clouds sometimes seems more enticing than that heavenly body beating down its power upon your exposed, stinky flesh.
But make no mistake, on a bicycle, I get annoyed enough with winds that reach 20 mph and that aren’t at my back. I sometimes have a constant battle with air currents whereby they try to encourage me by force to return to areas I’ve already been.
“No, wind! I was already there! I’m going this way!”
I hope that my friends and family in Maine enjoy wonderfully blue skies with singing birds and chirping crickets. And, if you are burdened with worry for our safety, please talk to The One in charge and see what He might do to provide.
He’s proven quite helpful so far.
Chris Quimby is a standup comedian, author and graphic designer who is undertaking an eight-week adventure, Spokes and Jokes, with his family, cycling to Texas with their logistic support and performing in venues en route while staying in the homes of hosts across the nation. The family’s blogs of the mission can be viewed at spokesandjokes.com.