When there is No Place Else to GO!

By Gary Brandt

Senior Road Captain


We have all either been in this situation or we will be at some point in our riding lifetime… You are heading down the Interstate or some other limited access highway and there is fast developing storm in front of you… This past Memorial Day a group of Top Cats, who also happen to be Rolling Thunder members, were traveling between Buffalo and Cleveland. The weather reports were for clear skies all day be-tween both cities. The interstate that serves this corridor also happens to be set up as a turnpike. This means very limited exits for the entire 300 mile section we were to travel on. Distances of 20 to 30 miles between exits were common.

When our group of 3 bikes was around 100 miles east of Cleveland, the sky suddenly turned black almost directly in front of us. There were no exits in site and to make matters worse we were in a construction zone that removed most of the shoulder areas.

Within minutes it became clear that we were going to have to get rain protection on quickly. It just so happened that the construction zone ended just as the rain began to fall, with an overpass ahead. The group pulled under the overpass, as far to the right as we could.

Within a few minutes we were ready to go, and all seemed fine. Suddenly we were under a major thunderstorm with winds strong enough to move us sideways and a wall of water that hit us as if we were standing out in the open. Almost immediately our dan-ger level increased dramatically as cars and trucks started pulling over. The rear bike in the group turned on the emer-gency flashers.

It was over almost as fast as it started. But we were in far more danger then we realized. If you look at the picture you can see that there was a cement barrier keeping us close to the bikes and thus the roadway. We were sitting ducks. All it would have taken was one vehicle to not see us sitting there due to the decreased visibility, and all three bikes and six people would have been history. Even the picture shows the lack of visibility as the car coming up on the overpass can barely be seen. So what could we have done to make this a safer situation? The cement barrier made it more difficult to be safe initially, but actually gave us the opportunity to use it to our advantage. If we would have grabbed our rain gear and walked around to the other side, we would have had significant protection. The issue was we were so focused on the storm, and where it was moving etc, that we forgot to even think about it. In fact, we didn‟t even have emergency flashers on at first. This was an after the fact thought. If there was no barrier, we would have moved far off of the road into a safer place, but we were a perfect example of a group not properly accessing the situation and taking action right away. Lesson: Stay alert. Think the situation through. Use all protective options available… and tell your story afterwards to all who will listen!