Riding a motorcycle at night — in the remnants of Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina had pummeled New Orleans all weekend. On the Monday evening immediately following this event, I was scheduled to teach at the local tech school, twenty miles away. It was no secret some bigtime rain was headed toward north Georgia.

Helmet ThoughtsSince the subject was ‘motorcycle cooling systems,’ I would need to bring a bike for demo purposes that actually *had* a cooling system (most of the shop rats were air-cooled or didn’t run).

My minimalist Transalp (aka Frankenalp) received the nod

It would be easy for the students to quickly strip down this bike to expose all the ugliness of water hoses, thermostats, radiators, coolant reservoirs, and the water pump itself.

Everyone drove a car to class that evening. I arrived on Frankenalp before the rain actually hit but once class commenced it stormed like a cow pissing on a flat rock. I noted the students’ distraction, and read their minds: “That fool gonna be miserable riding home in this mess!”

One of the students, who didn’t yet own a bike, kindly offered to throw my bike in his truck to spare me the unpleasantness

Not a chance! I told them I had predicted since Saturday that I would have a rainy ride that night. Not a biggie (if you aren’t riding some damnfool barhopper chopper).

“I anticipated the dreaded vacuum feel of an impending tornado, and imagined wispy little funnel extensions hanging from the low cloud ceiling.”

Riding a motorcycle at night

Lesson completed, it was decided to call class a little early, so I battened down the hatches of my Aerostitch riding suit and headed for the parking lot. It was storm-black outside. Rain blew sideways and cars crept slowly through deep areas of standing water to avoid hydroplaning.


It was a giggle to launch into the maelstrom. I was able to see well enough, if not perfectly, through the fog-proof helmet visor, and snug and dry inside my magic suit. I wore ventilated textile gloves, so it wouldn’t matter when they eventually soaked through, and waterproof boots.

Lightning flashed everywhere as I worked my way through the little towns. I enjoyed imagining the motorists’ comments, mumbling about that sucker who had got *hisself* caught out in the rain on his bike.

Halfway home, the rain slacked off to a heavy drizzle, but the sky caught an eerie glow and the wind quickened. I anticipated the dreaded vacuum feel of an impending tornado, and imagined wispy little funnel extensions hanging from the low cloud ceiling.

This could make for interesting headlines:

“Motorcyclist Ascends in Spiral Hollering Rapture!”

The sky brightened more in a surreal fashion as I entered my home county, the clouds’ undersides resembling sculpted cake frosting.

A light gray sedan showing only one taillight eased on past me. As it proceeded into the gloom ahead — car’s outline disappearing into the monochrome of road and mist, — I fantasized following a ghost rider on another bike.

A second car passed, a deputy on patrol, his interest apparently focused on the faulty taillight. Just as I exited, a lightshow of red/blue strobes commenced, flashing erratically like some techno-wizardry in this amazing night.

I continued the last few miles to my driveway, hoping my ghost rider friend only received a fix-it ticket.

The final scamper up my long, winding gravel drive was a humorous challenge of zig-zags, as I dodged and swerved to miss every little frog — their white underbellies flashing me their position — each out to enjoy an evening designed especially for them.

And me.

Great ride.

Pete Tamblyn © 2008