At twilight, Brad was in the lead, keeping us in a well-buffered staggered formation. Suddenly, the sky turned off. No night light or glowing stars on our ceiling. I was riding sweep as I watched the mountains in Nebraska State Forest get sucked into the black hole.
Mother Nature sent out her second assault of heavy winds. Really heavy crosswinds attacked us from the east, then to the north...we were surrounded. The platoon's only chance of escape was an old barn less than a mile away. She then sent her third round of artillery in the form of heavy rain. Brad, the squad leader, pulled over. A tornado, hurricane, tsunami, or whatever, was blasting 70-mph winds at our large motorcycles donning plastic sails. The decision to turn around came quick. The problem was, as the wind kicked up, we had trouble maintaining stability. The winds got so strong we couldn't move the vehicles. We had to bunker down alongside 385 about 40 miles north of Alliance. The rain was coming in sideways. We had to hold the bikes up from the kickstand side or they would have flipped. Junior's bike toppled to the ground with no one able to come to assist him.
A robotic voice (*) blared from the mighty Victory: "This is a severe thunderstorm warning...tennis-ball- to baseball-sized hail...damaging winds greater than 58 with gusts reported at 70 mph...tornadoes spotted...take shelter. Stay off the road and away from windows." Umm, stay off the road? We had no choice. No shelter, no light poles, trees, ditches-nothing.
We kept our helmets on to prevent any hail, cows, or wicked witches from pummeling us. There was no way we could have made it to the safety of the barn. All we could do is hold on to our bikes. (Note: Robot voice again): "Severe weather is expected until 9 p.m." It was only 7:30. This is what touring is all about. Pure adventure. Luckily, the hail never blasted us. Hail that size could break bones.
An hour later, the storm relaxed a bit. We didn't know if we were in the outskirts of it or in the eye. Who cares?! Let's get our asses back to Alliance.
We made it to Alliance and found a cheap place with a vacancy. The front desk girl gave us a sweet deal and empathized with our situation. We got a room all the way in the back, put our bikes on the leeward side of the hotel and headed out for some much needed booze and food. Our options were a McDonald's and a Quicky Mart. Hmmm? An establishment that sells hard alcohol, beer, gas, and guns in the same place that sells slushies. It's like you buy a bottle of Jack and get a gun for free.
Any store that is operated by two hot high school chicks selling porn, wrapping papers, and ammo is a cool place for me. All that was missing was a stripper pole, which I figured was in a repair shop being fixed from overuse.
Day 9 Nebraska to Sturgis
The next morning we left the Cornhusker State and headed into South Dakota. The roads were littered with bike trailers and newbies who dropped their rides at stop signs. We weaved our way through the scenic back roads between Rapid City and Deadwood. The riding was amazing-picturesque and steeped in America's history. The Wild West's traditions and secrets were to be found everywhere, from Deadwood, to Lead (and the giant mine), and Spearfish. I never made it to Mt. Rushmore or Devil's Tower but figured I had already had enough close encounters during the trip and just decided to hang out with the boys.
Another storm came, but this time, we found a little shelter underneath an I-90 overpass outside of Sturgis with the company of 100 other bikers. We blocked the whole street. More bikes fell. Cars could not get through, and the party began. I just hope that none of the newbie kooks tried to make any babies while under the bridge. When my sister's baby finally escapes the womb, I will make sure he takes a motorcycle safety riding class.