Every so often, the winds here in Utah can get pretty extreme. Salt Lake gets weather from both the north and from the South so our weather can change from one extreme to the next in a matter of hours.
Yesterday was one of those days. At 7AM I rode to work and it was 50 degrees. 50 degrees!! It’s the warmest its been for a ride into work this year. It was quite a pleasant ride, and I arrived at work in great spirits. And then the wind started.
By 11AM, it was obvious we were headed for a severe wind storm. The trees outside were whipping back and forth and the flag pole on the corner threatened to blow over. I checked the weather around noon, it said gusts were upwards of 35 mph, but I suspect that was a conservative estimate. I had already put in a request to leave early, but it seemed unlikely to be fulfilled. I went to my supervisor and told her I needed to leave early before the wind got worse, especially before it started raining. She allowed me to leave at 1:30, so I packed up and headed out into the wind.
As soon as I walked outside it was obvious that the wind was very strong and there was debris flying everywhere. As I started walking towards my bike, I noticed something was wrong. My bike looked funny. At first I couldn’t figure out why, and then I realized that it was leaning the wrong way. In the opposite direction of my kickstand! I rushed over to my bike. The wind had knocked my bike over. Luckily I park next to a post (marking the motorcycle parking area) and so it hadn’t been knocked on its side, but it was the only thing keeping it up, was the tip of the handlebar, and the brake and throttle cables. I couldn’t believe it. It was perfectly positioned to avoid a hard fall on its side. It still took a bit of work to get him “upright” and back on the kickstand, but I was able to knock him back into the right position.
I began inspecting Bubba for any damage, carefully looking over the cables, testing the throttle snap and the brakes. Everything seemed to be in order no significant damage. The mirror though had been knocked loose and was swinging from the arm that holds it. It swung back and forth reminding of the way a hubcap rocks after a wreck, and as I repositioned the mirror and tightened the nut a wave of gratitude washed over me. I was lucky, this could have been much worse.
I was lucky…. This thought ran through my head again and again especially as I began to gear up and load the bike. We were hit with another gust of wind that threatened to knock Bubba over again. I started debating if I should just take the train and bus home and leave Bubba overnight in the parking lot. I had brought my cover… but I couldn’t, I couldn’t leave him alone, knowing that it was likely he’d be knocked over again. So, determined, I hopped on, waited for the most recent gust to subside, and headed out.
The Ride Home
I could feel the wind pushing me as soon as I took off, but I figured if I went slow I’d be OK. Once I turned onto the main road the wind was at my back so things went more smoothly. I was still wobbly when a gust came up, but at least it wasn’t pushing me into other lanes. I had decided to skip the freeway, knowing that with those speeds and the flying overpasses it would be particularly dangerous. I rode north (with the wind) for as long as I could, and then turned East. I chose a smaller two-lane road through a residential area, and mostly felt sheltered. Apparently it’s their week for the “neighborhood clean up” where the city comes by and collects just about anything you put on the curb. There was debris all over the road, at one point I almost hit a foam bed pad. I was dodging trash and still battling the wind at every intersection and the larger gaps between houses; I got hit with blasts of wind but I was prepared and I hunkered down and controlled the movement of the bike.
I had hoped that once I reached the city the wind would be less, but as I approached downtown I was greeted by even heavier winds, and a cloudy dust filled skyline:
I leaned in closer to my tank and rode on. I could hear and feel grit hitting me and was thankful for my full face helmet and locking visor. The roads were busier now, but I was more familiar with my surroundings. I gave thanks for hitting every stoplight, it allowed me to move more slowly without holding up traffic. I started to relax, the ride hadn’t been too bad; I’d ridden in much worse. Finally I was in the “home stretch”, I got hit with a strong blast as I approached my turn, it reminded me that I still needed to be vigilant. I did make it home without any significant incident and decided to pull my bike up against my car so it didn’t blow over in the driveway.
After about an hour I headed out to cover Bubba before the snow started, and he had coating of yellow dust all over him. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, normally when this happens it’s ash from a fire, but then I realized… it was pollen. The wind was blowing so hard it was knocking loose pollen from all the trees. I vowed to wash Bubba as soon as possible and rid him of all the “tree sperm”, pulled the cover over him and made sure the strap was tight. As night fell, the winds subsided, and snow began to fall. Bubba rested well under his cover and a fresh blanket of snow.
More Photos from the Storm
Another photo of downtown. (300 S and Main)
Flag in the Wind
Even Semis had a hard time, including this fatal accident on I-80