"We're Not Gonna Let A Little Hurricane Stop Us, Are We?"

by Bob Lilley

As the years go by and the kids get older and more involved with social activities, I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to get in some decent road trips on my Cavalcade.

A friend with an ’84 Aspencade and I have been fortunate enough to get away at least once a year for a five to seven-day trip. We usually get going in September or early October. Depending on the weather for a particular region, we pretty much decide which direction we’re going to travel the morning we head out.

A few years back however, we actually planned to visit the Upper Michigan Peninsula in September. Between our jobs, kids, wives, and whatever else tried to get in the way, we actually blocked out a much anticipated week-long stretch of time in the beginning of September and began planning our route, supplies, camping spots, etc.

It seemed like the days trickled by so slowly and neither of us could wait to get going. Eventually, the big day arrived. Wouldn’t ya know it, Hurricane Floyd shows up the morning we’re supposed to go. I awoke at 3:00am and flipped on the Weather Channel. Now, I’m not sure if my judgment had become clouded by my enthusiasm to get in the saddle. Or, if my ability to comprehend a radar precipitation map was just way off that day. But, I concluded that although the weather looked pretty bleak outside, about an hour or so traveling north and west would put us under sunny skies.

I got suited up and hit the electric garage door opener. As the door lifted, I was greeted by some fairly heavy rainfall. But the winds still seemed relatively calm. I thought “Hell, I’ve ridden through worse…. I’ll just meet Doug and we’ll re-check the weather at his house.”

I kissed the wife goodbye, who really didn’t kiss me back ’cause she was pissed at my exceptional level of stubbornness to start this ride come hell, or really high water. I zipped up my rain suit and tucked behind the big Cade fairing and headed towards Doug’s house.

The ride that morning was unusual in that, although it was raining very hard, the rain was very warm, there was no traffic and the breaking daylight lit up the big gray thunderheads with some beautiful tints. The clouds were so low overhead it seemed as though you could reach up and grab’em.

When I pulled into Doug’s driveway, his wife was on the phone with my wife and they were both yelling at him to utilize the common sense I had, apparently, not been born with and cancel our departure. Naturally, we ignored them and headed inside for some bacon and eggs.

“Douggy my friend, looking at the Weather Channel tells me that an hour or so north and west and we’ll be out of this crap. Whattya think?”

“Sheeeeiiittttt, not even an hour!”

Thus, upon discovering that our meteorological skills were in top form and in-sync, we downed the coffee and hit the road.

I vaguely remember¬† telling my wife that “I’ll call ya when we hit good weather, should be no more than two hours.” Of course this timetable would’ve been 100% accurate based on my interpretation of the satellite pictures. When you consider that I was leaving from Easton, Pennsylvania and the pretty green precipitation colors the weatherman had shown me earlier that morning only stretched out to about Harrisburg, I was convinced it was going to be a great day.

We decided that since hurricanes tend to move to the northeast, we’d blitz due west before heading north. As we traveled out I-78 towards Harrisburg, the wind was really picking up. At first it was fun letting the wind blow the ‘Cade back and forth between the white lines, the physics of counter-steering automatically and effortlessly correcting my angle and direction. But then the wind started getting really choppy. Like one second there would be absolutely no wind and the next second a gust would damn near clean you off the saddle.

We stopped at a gas station in Harrisburg and sure enough, the weather map showed that any minute now, the sun was gonna bust through and we’d be blessed with dry pavement. Of course technically, it was still rainin’ and blowin’ like hell so we decided that the weather could not yet be classified as “good” and therefore we could not yet call the wives to tell ’em we were safe. We pushed onward.

As we approached Lewistown, it became clear that the weatherman had been feeding us a stream of intrinsically pure bullshit all morning. Just in case, we ducked into another gas station and checked the weather. Low and behold, the little green cloud thingy’s on TV were now covering Pittsburgh, Erie, Cleveland and pretty much any place else we could see.

It was too far from home to turn back and certainly the weather was too bad to call the wife.¬† Let’s press on.

Well, pretty much this story continues until we eventually hit an absolutely beautiful, deep blue and cloudless sky. Of course we were in Detroit and about twelve hours had past since we had reached the conclusion that we’d be out of the soup in two hours.

As I remember it, the first call home went something like this: “Hello Honey, it’s me, we just….”You sonofabitch, you said you’d call when you hit good weather.” “But Hon, I just DID hit good weather.” Click!

Anyway, from that point on the ride was absolutely spectacular; daytime highs of 68 to 70, little to no wind, crisp autumn nights around 40 degrees. Camping at Fort Wilkins State Park on the northwestern tip of the U.P. produced a night sky with more stars than I’d ever seen in my life. The absence of city lights and being pretty much surrounded by water allowed the stars to come over the horizon just as bright as they were 90 degrees up. Most memorable!

As for Doug’s wife, whatta trooper. About six hours after we had left, the basement at their house had about five feet of water in it. When Doug called home to check in, she told him “all is well, enjoy the ride.” And boy did we, probably more so than rides past because of what we endured to get there.

When I get a minute, I’ll share the story of our ride to the Great Smokey Mountains one November; the weatherman said it was going o be warm……….

Bob Lilley, ’86 GT