Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Stormy weather

I hate storms. Always have, always will. Probably a left-over from my teens when I had to cycle to school for 18 km one way, every day. Living in Holland along the coast meant lots of wind and plenty of storms too. Somehow we always seemed to have a strong headwind, both on the way up and on the way back. Storms make me unsettled. The last weeks we’ve had plenty of stormy weather and it’s beginning to have its effect on me.

It all started in Italy, which saw us hanging on the tent in the middle of the night when a sudden storm shook us up with 180 km/hr winds! There wasn’t much we could do except hanging on there until the winds died down a bit, which was 2,5 hours later. We then quickly threw the tent down and fled into a nearby building. The weeks after we had strong winds too, luckily not 180 km/hr ones but strong enough to be a nuisance and give sore arms and neck after a day of riding. The strong winds continued all the way through Spain too. On the highlands they were so strong that Mike’s XT needed to drop back a gear and rode 200 km in 4th with the throttle almost at the stop.

In Portugal it was a bit better but today, back in Spain, we were hanging on the handlebars for dear life again. The road we were on, the A8, is beautiful but high in the mountains with huge fly-over style bridges connecting the mountains. The warning signs were on, advising 80 km/hr due to strong wind. They weren’t kidding. Just 5 minutes later Jeanette’s Held tank bag blew apart… literally! That’s how strong the wind was. Lesson learned: straps are better than magnets to hold a tank bag in place! Just seconds later Mike went skidding over the road as his front wheel lost contact and made him hop steadily over two lanes of traffic with the rest of the bike following helplessly. It scared the hell out of him, as well as the cars behind him which luckily kept their distance.

Strange way to park a car...
The Triumph is lots better in sidewinds. Actually lots better than me too! I had problems staying in the seat but the Bonnie simply kept it’s line. On days like this you learn to love a bike like that. It’s amazing the tent and other luggage didn’t simply blow off the bike (thank you Rok straps!)

Today wasn’t a travelling day then, more a test day. How good is our bike gear after 400+ km on the road in insane conditions, of which 320 where in the streaming rain. How waterproof is the helmet, the jackets, pants, gloves and boots. The long and the short of it is that I didn’t stay dry… Ah! I hear you think, the Rukka gear failed. It didn’t. I did! Everything stayed perfectly dry. The storm collar and double cuffs worked perfectly, until I made a dumb mistake. Instead of taking my jacket off when nature called I simply pulled it up. Too lazy I suppose. As the jacket was wet, the water running off it leaked into my pants… One wet crutch and lesson learned. The gloves were perfectly dry too, until we stopped for a photo and I put my soaking wet hands back into the gloves… handy! The Alt-Berg boots stayed dry, despite walking 600 mtrs through a field full of muddy puddles and riding 320 km in the rain, as I hadn’t done anything dumb with them!

Sheltered spot, sitting out the storm...
At the end of the day we remembered the wet days in Canada, with our previous jackets, gloves and boots… Everything was soaking wet then. We vividly remembered being freezing cold due to boots filled with water and being wet right up to our underwear. Today we had more rain and yet we stayed dry… well, apart from my own stupid mistakes. Still, despite ‘wetting’ myself I still wasn’t cold, all because the gear we now have works. The difference in how we experienced the day is almost indescribable.

The only casualty of the storms is Mike’s Hilleberg Staika. Weakened by sunlight the fabric tore in one of the storms. It’s ironic that a tent designed in a country that enjoys 24 hr sunlight every summer, which is the time when most people are camping, is so vulnerable to sunlight. The storm has picked up again while I’m writing this. Time to go to bed and hope the iPods volume can overcome the wind noise.

The next morning the storm was still raging. We had some route planning through France to do and found ourselves in a campground with a proper camp kitchen! Only the second campground since Zabi Raj in Poland that offered this luxury. The other one was of course Cepo Verde in Portugal. So we decided to stay a day. Work on our photo file that was by now becoming a monster project and sit out the storm.