It seemed like a great afternoon for a bike ride. The weather was overcast and cloudy with a cooler 80 degrees compared to some of the really hot July temperatures we have been having lately. We were eager to ride one of our favorite local bike paths just 30 minutes away on the Oak Savannah Trail. (Indiana Dunes-NPS) But as I was setting up the bike rack, the sky seemed a shade darker than it had before and the earthy, fresh aroma of rain hung in the air. “Tut-Tut, it looks like rain!” I had a feeling that this might just be too good to be true. We looked up the weather forecast again for Hobart, Indiana, and noticed that there was a small chance of rain showers. This was followed by a future radar search which looked like a green rain cloud would be passing through the towns on the map just above where we were going along the lakeshore. We considered abandoning the mission altogether but decided it wouldn’t hurt to drive there and reevaluate the weather patterns.
On the drive to Robinson Lake parking lot, there were a few sprinkles that would come and go as if flirting with the idea of rain but not really meaning it. When we arrived, the sky was overcast but it seemed to have passed us so we looked up the radar again and decided to ride 15 minutes out and check again. We were only 10 minutes away from our car when it started to sprinkle so we pulled over and looked up the radar. This time we saw some orange and red blobs within the green cloud shifting on the radar but it still looked like it would be passing above where we were on the trail. We continued on with intermittent droplets that soon became a light rain shower that was no threat to us. The plan became to get in a shorter ride before the potential storm and turn around at the 30-minute mark. When we hit 30 minutes around 6.5 miles, we made our turnaround point, pleased that we had exercised caution and that all was going according to plan.
Then the rain came down and it wasn’t messing around anymore. Without a shelter nearby we kept to the course, steady on, hoping that it would finish its little tantrum and pass through. To our utmost disappointment, we were faced with a roadblock at a railroad crossing on the return trip. We waited it out for a few minutes chuckling at our misfortune before realizing that it wasn’t going anywhere and we would need to backtrack to our turnaround point for an alternate route back. Except that while we were heading back, the rain became a downpour and we couldn’t see through our glasses. We pulled over, unable to continue with nowhere to go while standing by our bikes in the middle of the bike path in a dense forest of Black Oak Savanna prairie. At this point, there was heavy rain with the distant sound of thunder and no sign of lightning. The radar looked like the rain would continue for another 15-20 minutes so we removed our glasses and continued to pedal back to the former turnaround point where we could cross the train tracks at another intersection. We were fooled by the sound of a train and did one more return to our first RR roadblock where we discovered that the train hadn’t moved at all.
There was no other option but to commit to Plan B and ride our way through the storm via Oak Ridge Prairie Park. We made it back to our turnaround point to cross the tracks and were faced with another train! This obstacle made us laugh because at least the train was moving and not stopping to park. Here we stood, completely soaked in the pouring rain without our glasses while watching a train creep along as we sighed…that’s life! When we crossed the tracks for the alternate route, unexpectedly, the sun revealed itself, and the arch of a double rainbow awaited us to cycle through the mist of sprinkles. When we were back on the Oak Savannah Trail, we stopped to catch our breath and wring out a soaked T-Shirt.
The last 5 miles felt like a breeze with the pits in our stomachs settling once and for all that we made it through the rain to our final destination. This was our first time cycling in a pop-up shower and we were lucky that it all worked out. However, it did give me some time to think about if this were ever to happen again, especially on a longer ride, and how we could be better prepared if ever caught again in the rain.
FYI: Caught in the Rain While Cycling!
1. Avoid cycling altogether by checking the weather and looking ahead at the radar of where you will be traveling to. (duh)
2. Stay Alert: Look for sudden weather changes on the ride and watch for lightning.
3. When the storm hits unexpectedly, try to find shelter. (In a sturdy building, a pavilion, or under a bridge-if no flooding)
4. Sheltering under trees is not recommended. (Lightning strikes trees and other tall objects, and branches can also fall down).
5. If shelter is not available: call for a ride/hitchhike, descend elevation if you’re on a mountain, or get off your bike and crouch in a low position- do not lay down.
6. Judgment Call: Try to ride out the storm or reroute to a safe area. Beware of road conditions and potholes under puddles.
7. When Everything Else Fails: Reduce your chances of being hit. Avoid stand-alone trees or tall objects like electrical poles. Look for a lower plane that’s not filled with water to wait out the storm.