2020.08.16 – Unstable Weather

Rio Grande Gorge looking north

Today’s weather is reminding me a lot about my road trip last year. Lightning strikes on both sides of the apartment, unstable air, and that uncertainty. It reminds me a lot about the scariest day I have ever since riding a motorcycle, the day I went between Santa Fe and Durango.

After stopping to take in the Rio Grande Gorge I headed west on US-64. The plan was to take 64 to Navajo City and head north from there. As you can see from the photo, storms were starting to form to the west. After a few checks of the Radar to make sure the forecast had them well out of my way, I took an educated risk to continue forward.

About 10 or so miles westward, the thunderstorms were on both sides of me and I pulled over to see if turning back was an option. It appears the strikes were only about 10 or so miles away, and that was too close to comfort. One check of Weather Underground showed that in that short 10 minutes since leaving the overlook, my only path to safety was cut off.

I knew there was a ranger station in Tres Piedras, and just kept going, while keeping an eye out on how the storms were moving. Meanwhile, there was constant lightning strikes off to the north and south of me. The last place you want to be when the skies are that active is on a motorcycle – needless to say my fur was standing up.

So much for cover or a ranger to talk to at the ranger station. That station was not open on Saturdays, which shocked me. I have learned that local advice is often the best when dealing with conditions like this. There was another group of bikers at the same ranger station trying to make a similar decision to mine. We chatted for a few minutes while we checked weather maps, forecasts, and road map. One thing was clear, the storms were just popping up from the unstable air. Waiting at the ranger station was going to do me, and the other group. no good. While I was programming the GPS with waypoints (so I know where I could go for cover), that group headed out.

I shortly left, and the whole time I was wondering if the ominous clouds would stay away from my path. And until I got to the other side, there was pretty much going to be no cell connection to provide radar updates. It was pretty much a commitment at this point. Luckily I avoided anything other than rain – and even then, it wasn’t even hard enough to break out the rain gear.

While the weather cooperated from the west side of Carson National Forest, it was clear more storms were going to hit that afternoon as I continued forward. The air was muggy and the sun kept heating things up. Instead of going north at Navajo City, I took the road more traveled, Highway 550. And the last 10-15 miles of that day was in yet another thunderstorm. This time with literally no good place to pull over for cover.

Needless to say, I don’t have many photos from that day from between the Rio Grade Gorge and getting a beer. And a few beers were on order after that ride.

The one thing that is really bugging me about today was seeing so many cyclists and motorcycles out this morning when there was active lightning strikes in SF. While in the city it likely to hit a building, I know most of these people are off to the parks or heading across the bridge. And furthermore, it wasn’t like this just popped up, this was going on since 3 AM today.