September 28 – October 6
That first night, the weather reports were calling for a 40% chance of rain, which as Joanna reminded me just before I crawled into the tent, meant a 60% probability it won’t. Reassuring words aside, I was still a little anxious what with the trustworthiness of the tent in question and the upcoming challenge of a big mileage tour, so I had a hard time getting to sleep. This was just as well as it did start raining about 10:00 pm and within 30 minutes, sure enough the tent stared leaking through one of the seams, directly onto my head (of course).
I tried to repositioned myself but after many minutes of fruitless effort, realized that it was only going to get and worse and so, having thought ahead for exactly this contingency, pulled out the 8 x 6-foot tarp I’d thrown into one of my rolling bags and draped it over the top of the tent, fixing the problem for the time being.
I had to get up one more time to re-position the tarp and eventually drifted off to sleep, the relentless drumming of a torrential downpour reverberating inside the tent. Around 2:00 am I awoke to the rain continuing its onslaught and when I stretched my right leg outside of the sleeping bag onto the floor of the tent, I discovered I was literally floating in about 4-inches of water. That’s right, the inside of my not so secure domicile was a floating nightmare.
This was good and bad news. The latter is obvious; I had a mess on my hands and a worthless tent. The good? I was no longer anxious about anything, my path now clear. I was going to be up all night and the entire next day would follow some logic I no longer had any control over. It was still raining steadily so I gathered as much as I could and shoved it into one of the rolling bags and then dragged it through standing water on a now muddy grass to the area outside the field trying to locate someplace dry.
I won’t go through the rest of that early morning here, just to say I found shelter under the portico outside a bank of the school’s classrooms. I’d return to the tent to collect the rest of my wet gear which I fruitlessly hung up around me, knowing it wasn’t going to dry out anytime soon. By sunrise I’d connected with Bonnie and she agreed to join me in taking a shuttle to our next destination, Morganton where I would attempt to dry out.
I returned to the tent, broke it down, wrapped it up into a soaking soggy mess, and then deposited it next to an overflowing trash can. After breakfast and the departure of the rest of the riders (start time delayed due to wet conditions on the road) Bonnie and I jumped in the van that took us straight away to Morganton’s Collett Street Recreation Center. For the time being I’d now be camping indoors and at this location, that was right next to the parking lot where all of the extracurricular activity would take place.
After the luggage trucks arrived, I collected both of my now very heavy rolling bags full of wet stuff and entered the Center’s Social Hall. I claimed a spot on the wooden floor up against an exterior wall with electrical outlets nearby and rolled out my Thermarest pad, sans the soaking wet foam topper. I’d spend a goodly part of the afternoon and 5-dollars in quarters at a nearby laundromat running my stuff through the dryers there.
Returning to the Center, I organized my gear, allowing some of it to continue drying and walked back up to North Stirling Street to meet Bonnie at Toasted and Rolled, one of the few places open on a Sunday afternoon. This is a new venture, combination ice cream shop and bakery specializing in Costa Rican breads and pastries. I ordered a big cup of coffee and a strudel like pastry they call a relleno. It helped to get me on track to a better rest of the day.
Later, before dinner, I consumed a few 5-dollar draft beers from a local brewery and listened to a pretty good band in the park’s parking lot that comprised the center of the support tents and booths (registration, mechanics, merchandise sales, etc.) that would follow us from camp to camp.
My start to the tour had not been what I’d intended but as when disaster strikes, be it big or small, when you can get on the other side of it and remind yourself that it could have been worse, well that is the best time of day. I’d ordered a new tent on-line from REI and it would be ready for pickup at our local outlet in Charlotte on Tuesday. Joanna agreed to collect it and meet me at that days stop in Archdale.
I settled in that night indoors and would do so for another night. Being incredibly tired from one of the longer days of my life I had no trouble dropping off and slept well until the next morning, when I climbed on the bike for the first of many days of riding. My tour had officially begun.
Collett Street Recreation Center: https://www.morgantonnc.gov/index.php/government/parks-recreation/recreation-facilities/collett-street-recreation-center
Toasted and Rolled: https://toasted-and-rolled.business.site/