It started the night I left out from the old man’s farm. About 30 minutes before I saw the Newberry city limits sign it started to sprinkle. It didn’t sprinkle for long before it started to rain. I pulled over under an overhang of a vacant Laundromat and pulled out my rain poncho hoping that the rain wouldn’t last long. Boy, was I wrong!
By the time I crossed into Newberry proper it was raining full on and by the time I reach SR26 I couldn’t see to go any further; it was coming down just that hard. The worst though was the lightning. Twice I’d seen it hit trees only a couple of dozen feet away from me.
I couldn’t pretend anymore that it was going to get better. I had to get off and walk the bike because by that point the water was too deep for me to peddle through. When I got off I found out what it was like to walk in water that goes half way up the back of your legs. The water was rushing towards the drainage things on the side of the roads but there was so much water even those things couldn’t swallow it up fast enough; the roads were flooding. And to make it worse the rain was cold.
As careful as I was I stepped off the side of the road twice and dumped the bike, me, and everything else into deep puddles of water. The second time scared me to pieces because I felt myself being pushed by the water towards the really deep stuff piling up in the ditches. I finally got up and out of the water but not before I was soaked through.
It wasn’t until I passed 4th Avenue that I could see enough through the rain to spot a house but when I got to it, thinking I could at least get out of the rain on the porch, I realized that though it used to be one of those big, old Victorian houses Momma used to like to read about there was nothing left of it but a burned out shell with no roof. There was a storage building behind it and by that point I just wanted out of the rain and lightning.
The storage building is like an old carriage house. The doors on the bottom look like barn doors and there is a small room upstairs but it has been a long, long time since anyone lived in this place. There are no windows downstairs and the one small window upstairs is boarded over with old planks. I would have preferred to stay downstairs with my bike but the floor is nothing but dirt with a little gravel and oil mixed in; water rushes in from under the doors when it rains. And it’s been raining off and on since I’ve been here, mostly on. So my bike is downstairs hidden under a bunch of old canvas paint tarps and I’m upstairs with everything else trying to avoid the leaks in the roof up here.
It took me twenty minutes after I got inside to decide what I was going to do and another twenty to hide my bike and then figure out how to get up the stairs without killing myself. There are steps missing, broken steps, and creaky steps that sound like they are about to break; and I had to carry all of my gear up them which took three trips. First trip was to make sure I could do it without getting hurt; the second trip was with the backpack and the last trip I took up the saddle bags. The sound of the rain hitting the roof was so loud I could barely hear myself think.
I wanted dry clothes but that wasn’t going to happen; when I fell down into the water everything got soaked including my mag flashlight; the headlamp was OK. I put it on and turned it on and that is when I noticed that the roof leaked. First order of business was to stack some stuff in front of the window so no one would see my light. Then I pulled out the plastic that I cut for a tent and laid it across a table and chairs that was up there and it was just like when my brother and I used to play fort under Momma's dining room table when we were little. It didn’t give me a lot of head room but at least I wasn’t getting dripped on.
My teeth were chattering and I knew I had to get out of my wet clothes but I didn’t have any dry ones to change into so I wound up stripping down and praying no one would come up those stairs until I could get something dry enough to put back on. I used my tent rope to make a clothesline away from the roof leaks and laid all my wet clothes out to drip dry. That's when I found out the watch was toast. I had cracked the crystal and the LCD face was broken.
Next I checked my food. I congratulated myself for being smart enough to repack the mooshable stuff into Ziploc bags. The worst damage was to a Ziploc full of crackers that had turned to crumbs and the labels on some of the cans were coming off. I fixed the cans by using a permanent marker and writing what was in them on the top of the can before getting rid of the soggy paper labels.
I decided it was time to learn to use that camp stove so I crawled out from under the table again and carried it over to the ancient, enamel oven ‘cause I was too scared of causing a fire if I tried to light it on the floor. The directions for the camp stove were as hard to understand as some of my AP Chemistry experiments but I finally managed to hook everything up and get it going. I was lucky the waterproof matches really were waterproof because I must’ve lost the bic lighter out of my pocket in one of my falls. While I heated water for soup and hot cocoa I tried to open up my maps so that they could dry.
The map of Tampa was a lost cause; I was upset but not heartbroken. The other maps survived better and now that they are completely dry I’m storing them in a Ziploc bag of their own. The water didn’t take long at all to boil so I shut the stove off and ate my soup and drank my cocoa. It wasn’t long after that that I realized there was light coming in around the window. I moved a little bit of the junk that I had blocked it with and could see that it was raining even harder. I was almost deaf to it by that time and hadn't noticed. The morning was dirty gray and I guess no one saw the sun that day unless it peeked out for a few minutes while I was sleeping.
I was still cold but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about it. I opened up the sleeping bag hoping it was only a little damp and got a surprise. The stuff bag that the sleeping bag gets shoved into is waterproof. I guess that makes sense but I never would have thought about it if I hadn’t needed it. I felt silly for walking around in the buff like those people that used to live at Paradise Lakes back in Tampa … I think they called themselves “naturalists” or something to make it sound more polite than saying they walk around buck nekked all the time. At least with the sleeping bag I could finish warming up.
I had a hard time getting to sleep at first but when I finally did it was a deep sleep. I next woke up when there was a huge clap of thunder so loud it rattled the floor I was laying on. Obviously it was still raining and my clothes were still wet. I fixed myself some dinner and with nothing to do I dozed off and on all night and half this morning too.
I woke up about what I thought was lunch time, crept downstairs and dug a cat hole for a latrine and after taking care of what needed taking care of came back upstairs. I was sitting there bored out of my skull when I got the idea for this journal. I’ve been writing for hours but now the light is fading; hopefully so is the rain. My clothes are mostly dry but now they are crunchy and scratchy and smell the same kind of funny as this building does. I’m going to fix dinner – or what I’m calling dinner – and pack everything back up. If it stops raining within the next couple of hours I’m going to head out and see how far I can get.
P.S. (Later, don't know what time) – rain has stopped and I’m all packed up. I’m leaving even if it isn’t the best idea I’ve ever had because I heard some men walking around right after it got dark. They had flashlights and were going across to what looks like a fire station that is kitty corner to where I’m at. I’ve said my travelling prayers and I’ll write more when I get to the next safe place.