This one time, I tried to outrun a hurricane on a Suzuki Boulevard M50 (803cc).. (fail)

 September 1st, 2016... I was in Flagler Beach, FL at 3:45pm. The Hurricane landed not even 12 hours later... at 1:30am. I did NOT outrun it. Oopsie.


This picture on the left was taken 9-1-16 as I was leaving Flagler Beach on Suzi to outrun the hurricane.... The second half is Flagler Beach Pier after hurricane..

I decided to look back at my first blog post ever... I got the idea to start writing about my crazy adventures as I booked a flight to Florida to fetch my Suzuki Boulevard M50, which was semi-retired and being kept at my dear friends house off A1A in Florida. She was moving, so the bike had to come back to MN. And since I had spent the summer wandering and burning up vacation time, I was pushing my luck to fly there and ride back the 2,000 miles as quick as possible. There were 'storm' warnings for Florida and Georgia and coast all the week prior. Looking back, I realize how crazy the idea and the fact that I did it was. Because I learned a lot of things in those couple of days... the biggest lesson? Hurricanes do NOT just 'BLOW' over like a tornado. This is what I thought a hurricane was:  It gets really windy, rains a TON, causes a mess, keeps on going. Instead, it was more like this: It rains. Hard. For DAYS. It is windy... but stays windy, until it doesn't. Which is a sign that its about to get WAY bad. They had predicted the path, I thought I could outsmart the Hurricane and skirt the path it was headed. In hindsight, while it was a crazy experience, I might have listened to EVERY single local that I talked to at my gas stops out of Florida "Hunker down! It's gonna be a big one!" I clearly remember telling people "Psshh.. just a little rain. I don't mind getting soaked when its warm out." Had I gotten $0.10 for every time my words were met with eye rolls, I would've had all my gas home funded and then some. I wonder what all of those people thought as I, a blonde na├»ve MN girl, said those words, waved, smiled, and drove off thinking I could outrun a hurricane. I realized (after the fact) that I had NOT skirted the storm. Instead, I rode DIRECTLY into it as it had changed paths ever so slightly. I didn't die. But I am pretty sure most people thought I was a goner. 


 My most recent adventure (9/1/2016) was a somewhat unplanned one. I kept my first bike ever owned (2006 Suzuki Boulevard 803cc) at my friends house in Flagler Beach, FL for the past couple years.  My friend called to say she was relocating to TX (in 3 weeks) so that left me with 2 weeks to come up with a plan on how to get the bike back to MN. Since I took half the summer off to wander, I figured my boss would kill me if I asked for more time off.  I called around for transport rates, and after finding nothing less than $800, I put a new plan into action. "Operation Fetch Suzi". I booked a one way flight from MSP to Orlando, for Thursday before Labor Day weekend. That gave me up to 4 days to ride the 2,000 miles back to MN. As the date grew near, the forecast in FL was getting dimmer and dimmer. First, a 'stalled' wet weather pattern was predicted.. then a tropical storm watch... then a tropical storm warning, and then "potential for the first hurricane to reach land in FL in the past 11 years." Set to happen on Thursday. The same day I was scheduled to fly to FL and fetch my bike. Thursday morning, I boarded the plane at 7am to Orlando. The forecast now said the tropical storm was going to hit FL Thursday at 12pm. Precisely 1 hour after my flight would land. I was preparing for the worst.. I mean, I have zero experience with tropical storms, let alone potential hurricanes! So I downloaded the Red Cross app, the local sheriffs department apps, and ER shelter apps. I signed up for weather warning texts. I mapped my route for the fastest path back to MN (specifically getting out of FL!). The plane landed, and now the forecast was a tropical storm warning (aka it's happening) for 2pm. Crap. I left MN at 65 degrees and what I 'thought' was humid. I landed in FL in pea soup humidity, hazy sun, and 97 degrees.  I was pretty determined and confident that I could get out of FL before the storm hit. I was wrong. I headed straight north to Jacksonville, thinking that would buy me time to get up and around the storm, which was now a perfectly hurricane shaped spinning circle wider than the entire state of FL, and not far off from making landfall in the panhandle of FL. I checked the weather about 100 times. I made it just outside of Jacksonville when I came up and over a hill and saw THE blackest, darkest, creepiest sky I have ever seen, just ahead of me. The air pressure changed drastically, and I literally felt the air in my lungs struggle to take a full breath. I took that as my cue to pull over and take cover (at a gas station). More than one local told me I might as well get a room in town because I wasn't leaving for at least 20 hours. Psshh. Its just a little rain, 'some' wind, and it'll pass. Just like a tornado warning, I thought. Wrong again. While I was rain proofing the bike, the wind starting whipping tree parts, rather violently, all around me. The sky turned green and the 'feel' of what was to come was eerily taking over. Just as I walked into the gas station, the rain went from moderate to insanely heavy downpour. Whipping through the parking lot at an angle. The power flickered off a few times. The locals were asking where to take shelter within the gas station if the winds blew the windows out. Hmm. Didn't think about that aspect as I choose a table in the corner, surrounded by huge panes of glass. After over an hour, there was a break in the storm action, I looked at the radar again, and decided I could make it out RIGHT NOW and skirt the 'worst' of the storm. The wind let up enough to have half control of the bike. The rain lessened to a mild downpour.  That was the best weather I had the rest of the night. I made it to southern GA and the rain was pouring so hard I couldn't keep my glasses clear. The windshield was now just slowing the pummeling, sideways rainfall from hitting my face at 90mph. It was getting dark out, I haven't seen any vehicles in over 30 miles. It was getting dark quickly and the rain was not letting up. I like skating and the feeling of floating, just not when I am on 2 wheels. I stopped to look at a map to see where I could gt a hotel room for the night. Fargo, GA was the nearest town; Sweet! 48 miles. I couldn't go over 35mph or I was hydroplaning and blinded by the huge rain drops kamakazying at my body sideways in the wind. The water was coming down harder than I have ever seen rain fall. And straight at me. Every angle. The wind was pushing me all over the road and making it ever more difficult to remain upright. I still haven't seen one single human being and start to wonder if my 'getting off the freeway to block some wind' was really a good idea. My boots were so full of water, I could feel it sloshing over the TOPS of my feet when I shifted. Turns out raingear isn't waterproof in that type of rain. Finally, I saw the sign: "Fargo 4 miles". Thank goodness!!!! Never thought I would be excited to see Fargo, Georgia. It was short lived. I get to Fargo and wanted to cry. There was one gas station, with one of 8 pumps working, and half a light bulb flickering and ricocheting back and forth in the wind just above my head. I looked around at my Stephen King inspired environment, and see 6 eyeballs over in the dark at the corner of the gas station. I waved. The eyes wouldn't talk nor make eye contact with me. It's pitch black outside. It's 9:30pm and I've been riding in the rain for over 4 hours. Rain that never got lighter, only more aggressive and heavier.  I decide to gas up and get the H out of there and on to the next town to seek shelter. The route I looked at was even more desolate, which I wasn't up for after partaking in a SK novel scene once already. I turned back a couple miles and headed to Valdosta, GA. Its a big enough town, they MUST have a hotel that is not a backdrop for a horror film. Back on the road, there are rivers everywhere. Water is so high on the roadways that it was difficult to see the lines. The wind was picking up and I was pretty sure it was eventually going to 'pick me up'. It would blast me from the right, then the left, then the back, and repeat. I felt like I was in a boxing ring, with the lights off, the fire hydrants on full blast, and not sure which way the next attack would come from. My glasses are fogging so much that I would wipe the left lens enough to kind of see where I thought the road was, then immediately wipe the right lens to try to see, only to have the left one go useless again.  I saw ZERO vehicles, (let alone bikes- which I had only seen ONE of ALL day so far), in the last 4 hours.  I see a sign ahead and slow down from 25mph to 12mph, in attempt to see what it said. Valdosta: 48 miles. It's 11:00pm. Pitch black. Raining just as hard as it was 4 hours ago. Getting windier, and now coming from the south - aka straight at my left side. My top speed in those 48 miles was 31mph. And I was hydroplaning like crazy at that speed. It's getting colder out, I am 100% soaked, my boots are getting heavier by the minute, my rain gear gave the white flag hours ago, there's zero traffic, lots of potential for wildlife either running or floating in my path. This is the first time I thought "maybe this was NOT such a good idea".  I was getting cold, shaking ridiculously, going at turtles pace, and  multitasking between wiping my glasses, dodging flying objects, trying to see where the road was, and staying afloat. Each mile brought a new adventure with it - tree parts flying, water over the roadway (in the pitch black of night), animals - dead and alive, everywhere... And I haven't seen another light of any kind in hours. Not a vehicle light, not a house light, not a street light. Nothing. It's so windy, I had to really work to keep the bike upright... my biceps were starting to quiver in agony... my helmet was getting pushed so hard by the wind that my head felt like it was the star of a pinball show. I had no control of it, nor my bike, anymore. But I had no option but to keep going - I sure as heck wasn't going to seek 'shelter' in the backwoods of GA - I'd die for sure between hillbillies, eyeballs in the dark, snakes and animals that eat three of my type for breakfast. I squint...holy crap! Is that a glow of lights ahead? I finally see the 'bright lights' - ok, I now see the ONLY lights I have seen in the past 6.25 hours. I've never been so happy to see a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere in my life.  I managed to find a hotel and made it there after taking 14 wrong turns in the little town of Valdosta GA because its so dark, raining so hard, and so windy that street signs were both missing and/or bent over from the gale force winds, I cant even see a sign until I am 2 feet away from it, and that's only if its not swaying 4' to the left and right in the wind. I make it to the hotel. I get off the bike for the first time in 2 hours not sure where to park so it wouldn't blow over. I'm stiff, soaked, my boots have water past my ankles, my hands look like weathered grapes. My face is pruned. My butt is pruned from sitting in water for so long. I take my left boot off, tip it upside down and wait the 10 seconds for the water to drain out. I do the same with the right boot. I didn't have to open the hotel door, it was stuck blown open because of the horrendous winds. I apologize to the guy at the front desk as soon as I walk in, as he had just mopped. And I was going to re-mop for him... with my boots and soaking clothing. I felt like a sponge that soaked up more than it could handle, and someone was stepping on me, making the water fly out of every angle with every step. I get a room, naturally on the second floor. I unpack the bike in the pouring, side angle rain and wind and slosh everything up the room. The room that, while clean, smelled of stale smoke and wet dog. Add in my scent, and it was a recipe for immediate nausea. Outside my window, the light poles are flying side to side in the wind, the rain was literally flying sideways in the air, and there was a huge river in the parking lot, moving at record pace. Not going to lie, I briefly thought it might be fun to get a tube and see how far and how fast I could go in the 'nature made' rivers in the streets. I parked the bike in the most 'out of the direct winds' spot that I could find and hope that she is still upright when I wake up in the morning. Just as I had that thought, the power goes out. It comes back on after 10 minutes, during which time I call the boy to check in. He congratulates me - and I ask why. He said "You just rode a motorcycle through a hurricane. The first hurricane to hit land in FL in 11 years". I laughed, not really believing him. Sure enough, the power comes back on and the TV rolls back to the weather channel with a huge banner on the screen: Hurricane Hermine (they pronounced it 'her-mean', ironically) makes landfall in the panhandle".

Hermine, huh? She sure gave me a run for my money over the last 8 hours. I couldn't decide who won, me or her, so I settled on:
Hermine:  0.5
FA:   0.5
(instead of her 1, me none - I felt like I should at least take participation points for the effort)

So after riding over 8 hours in pouring rain and gale force winds, I make it to Valdosta Georgia. In the morning, I check the map. Daytona Beach, FL to Valdosta, GA: 207.5 miles, 3 hours & 10 minutes. Are you kidding me???? That sure was a lot of work to go 207.5 miles. And yet, I still seek the next adventure. But first, I have to go the rest of the 2,000 miles back to MN. Make that 1,792.5 miles back to MN. I learned that hurricanes are not similar to tornadoes in any way. At least I earned the title of "Hurricane Survivor" on 2 wheels.






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