After a little shut-eye, the dark-grey, dawn light outlines a bunch of Gulf Coast trees doing the limbo to the beat of a tropical downpour.
Checking in with Mr. Weatherman, he gives us an evil howl, “Yo, Lizard Breath! You ainâ€™t going nowhere!”
Regardless, our sleepy lizard-brains calculate that if we ride fast and furious, we can just pass ahead of the most recently projected landfall a few hours west, in Pensacola, and still win this motorcycle race against a raging cyclone.
Good news: Interstate 10 in the Florida Panhandle has lots of trees paralleling the road giving us some wind protection.
Bad news: The rain and winds are off and on, but when theyâ€™re on, they make holding a straight line on a motorcycle like riding a bull in a rodeo.
More good news: We finally make it to Pensacola and gas up, a mere 2 hours before the most intense part of Arlene is to make its anticipated landfall.
Bad news: Our earlier tired lizard-brains didnâ€™t include in the calculations that the hurricane doesnâ€™t begin at landfall â€“ that is just the most exciting part. Interpretation: We are gassing up amidst some wildly violent winds and rain that is whipping cats and dogs through the air like shooting animal stars.
Good news/bad news: We are about to hit the most exciting part of the race, passing from Florida into Alabama via the several-mile-long Mobile Bay Bridge. For the studious reader, this also means no trees will be protecting us. Nor hill or dale…or even a beach. We are in for the full-exposure. We are about to become fully immersed within the bathing foment of the black-sky, gale-churning, earth-sea-sky doleful vision of free-flying gumbo.
Does that mean this bridge is where we moon the Gulf beast with our naked lizard butts?
Ummmm…no. This is the part where we park our bikes on the lee side of our Pensacola gas station and finally presume enough humbleness to pray that we will race another day.
But we ainâ€™t no praying, wet lizards!
Hence, a little later while wrestling the elements attempting to keep the motorcycle in one lane, through what seems like an endless car wash with all the sprayers and blow driers blasting us at once, we are struck with a panicky question: “Why the heck is this bridge still open!!!!?”
Too bad we canâ€™t stop and take a photo. But since we are on the verge of being swept up, bike and all, and flown like a kite without a string over the bridge barriers and deposited into Mobile Bay, letâ€™s just say we are too preoccupied for a photo â€“ or any mooning. Nor is there any place to stop, or even turn around, to head back for the lee side of that Pensacola gas station for some impassioned prayer.
Onward through the tempest of Mother Natureâ€™s celestial colonic.
Good news: The bridge is long enough to be entertained by repeated feature-film length “flashes” of oneâ€™s life passing before our eyes. Jeez. If ever we make it to the other side of this bridge, I for one, do solemnly swear to live a life dedicated to the good of all mankind!
More good news: In spite of a wobbly, wind-screaming, bleary-eyed, high-concentration, adrenalin-rush of a bridge crossing, we make it into Alabama.
Unfortunately, no champagne and smiling women highlight our passing.
But within a few hours we are headed north through Louisiana where the sun waves our victory flag amidst a cloudless sky. However ill-advised and poorly conceived this adventure was, all is good as we follow the sunset over the horizon.
Whether humble or not, Lizardmen of the world unite!