I rolled out of the parking lot, the sun beating down relentlessly, the temperature registering over 100 degrees on my bicycle computer. I had ridden down here the previous weekend in similar heat, and though there had been a two day respite, the record breaking heat dome had returned with a vengeance. I was confident that I would manage the next two days, yet I was not looking forward to being “burnt to a crisp” by the unyielding sun. The first fifty miles of my journey would be on a bike trail, a jaunt through the heart of the Buckeye State with its rolling hills, scenic farmland, and picturesque small towns: Xenia, Yellow Springs, Cedarville, and London. About the time I arrived at Cedarville, although the air was still heavy, I was grateful for the clouds that had begun to gather, sheltering me from the intensity of the sun. It was about 3 p.m., and with any luck, I would be able to leave the bike trail in London and make it up to Kenton, where I was hoping to find a motel room for the night.
The bike trail north from Cedarville was flat and smooth, and I rode on, mile after lonely mile, not even seeing another soul. I thought to myself, “What other idiot would be out riding in this kind of heat and humidity anyway.” Nevertheless, along with the cloud cover, the wind was thankfully beginning to pick up, making the exertion from my labor at least bearable. The quiet of the afternoon, now several miles from any town, was hypnotic; I peddled on with a monotonous rhythm, lost in random, mindless rumination. I thought to myself that it was rather odd I wasn’t hearing any birds singing as I had earlier along the country trail. Oh well. Suddenly I was jolted from my reverie by the sound of thunder and a distant flash of lightening. I noticed that the wind, which was coming directly from my left—the West—had become more powerful. While I wasn’t too concerned about getting wet, I knew it would be foolish riding a metal bike, exposed to the elements, in the middle of wide open terrain. I immediately picked up the pace. The mile marker I had passed indicated I was still over five miles from London.
The sky continued to darken and the winds periodically heaved in anger, threatening to knock me off my mount. By now I was hauling it, peddling with every ounce of strength I could muster. About a mile from town the rain began to fall, lightly at first. I knew that I could make it to the trailhead in a matter of a few minutes, but would there be any shelter? As I rounded a slight bend in the trail I could see a rather imposing metal building jutting up from the flat terrain. A country road and a covered picnic shelter signaled that I had reached a small park at the trailhead. Just in time, I thought! No sooner than I had dismounted my bike, the tornado sirens all around London began to shriek out their warning. The rain was suddenly coming down in torrents, driven almost sideways by the gale force winds. I looked up in the sky and saw not one, but two funnel clouds beginning to form, no more than a mile away. The metal building, which I now saw was a senior citizens center would not offer much protection if hit by a tornado. I pondered my options, and decided I would stay put; I could always dive into a nearby ditch. My bike, helmet, and gloves were now blowing out from under the shelter. I quickly gathered and secured them, and put on my raincoat, as the roof over the shelter offered only scant protection from the driving rain. Where only ten minutes earlier I had been sweating profusely from the heat and humidity, with the abrupt change in weather, I was now shivering violently under my poncho. The wind was intense and incessant, so much so that I feared that it would literally tear the roof off the structure under which I stood. With the shrill siren crying in my ears and the ominous clouds violently glaring down at me, there was nothing to do but wait. I was literally in the eye of as severe a storm as I had ever encountered.
The winds persevered for over an hour, never quieting even for a moment. While the swirling clouds had passed, and the imminent threat of a tornado seemed over, I was forced to stand against a huge wooden pillar in order to maintain my balance. Needless to say, my journey for the day was over. Once the intense rain had finally abated, I rode five or six more miles in the drizzle hoping to find a place to stay for the night. There was debris everywhere, and the main road was even strewn with glass and metal parts where apparently there had been a car wreck.
I did find a cheap motel to stay in for the night. While watching the news that evening I discovered the storm was one of the worst to hit Ohio in decades. Almost one million people in the central part of the state were without power, a direct result of the storm’s fury. While my plans for the day had been altered, needless to say I was incredibly grateful for the Lord’s grace and protection!