The sky was turning black to the north as I rode my motorcycle at approximately 4:35 PM on June 29, 2012 in temperatures of 101 degrees. The sun was beating down on me as I rode home after a tough day, but cumulus nimbus clouds near my home were shooting up into the sky 8 miles away. I knew I was going to hit hard weather before I arrived home and it was going to be painful. I left my home earlier without a cloud in the sky and the heat was intense, so I left my helmet on its hook. All I had was a leather jacket and my Gargoyle sunglasses to protect me from what was coming.
As I approached Beckett Ridge, the sun was blotted out by the quick-moving storm moving south-east quickly. Lighting struck a mile ahead and I could see the distant hills embroiled in a mist. That usually means heavy rain. But not this time. This time the visual obstruction was something worse.
These kinds of things are not felt within a car the way they are on a motorcycle which is the primary reason I ride a motorcycle every day. Life is experienced much more sharply from a motorcycle seat. And most of the time, it is an exhilarating feeling. But when passing through massive storm cells on the open road, it can be very painful, and this was going to be one of those times.
Ahead about a mile down the road I saw the traffic lights and roadside signs begin to kick around violently. My location was without a breeze of any kind and was still a stagnate 101 degrees. The traffic light I was sitting at didn’t move a bit. So I knew I was looking at an oncoming weather front that moved just ahead of the terrible storm. I braced myself by holding onto my handlebars with extra strength so the oncoming wind would not push me off my motorcycle as I ground my teeth together to endure the invisible wave.
The phone on my hip began to vibrate. It was my wife. She knew I was riding home, yet she called over and over again. I knew she wouldn’t do that unless there was a very serious situation. My first thought was that somebody had died. But I could not answer because I had to hold on with all my strength as the traffic light I was stopped at suddenly went horizontal as the wind grabbed hold of it and ripped it about its mooring like a toy. My wife wanted to tell me that a terrific gust of wind had struck our home and toppled trees. That that vacuum from the sudden drop in pressure had blasted open windows, and displaced attic seals. She wanted to tell me that she thought our house had been hit by a tornado and that it was headed straight for me.
On my motorcycle I could not answer the constant attempts to call me because the wave of air hit me hard. Debris caught in a powerful gust of wind struck my face as my Gargoyle sunglasses deflected the hundreds of tiny pebbles away from my eyes. Cars around me pulled off the road as dust, parts of cloud, sheets of rain, and many small particles blasted south like millions of individual projectiles. I held on, gave my big motorcycle gas and just plowed through the wind directly.
I was still angry over the health care ruling by the Supreme Court the day before and the storm I found myself in seemed to be an appropriate metaphor for my feelings. The defection by Justice Roberts hit me in a similar way as this storm did, like a gust of gut busting wind coming from nowhere in the intense heat carrying with it millions of tiny dangers. My wife was calling me to get me off the road, to find shelter someplace. But I was not in the mood to avoid danger, but instead headed straight into it with my motorcycle defying logic.
On the backside of the wind gust was a 35 degree sudden drop in temperature that could be felt within 5 seconds of first being hit by the wind. The gusts of wind wanted to knock my motorcycle into the other lanes of traffic. So I leaned into them to stay straight on the road. The more this happened, the faster I went. At one point I had moved my speed up to 70 MPH to offset the force of the wind counting on my forward momentum to help keep me on the big bike. Being aggressive has a way of helping maintain control when danger is near. I was able to go faster the closer to home that I got as more cars left the road to wait out the storm. Small pellets of rain were beginning to fall and they felt like a thousand bee stings anywhere I didn’t have protection for my skin.
As I pulled into my driveway I could see some minor damage to my house and the results of downed trees. The area around my house was a debris field of broken limbs lying across the road and leaves torn from their branches. At one point an entire branch laid across the road completely blocking my path and rather than attempt to go around it, I plowed right through as my motorcycle cut through the branch like a saw, which surprised me. I expected a violent bump, but instead it was the branch that yielded. That was the kind of mood I was in as I parked my motorcycle in the garage calmly to find out who had died.
I was relieved to find out that my wife was simply worried about me, although needlessly. The damage around our home had made her worry what would happen when I hit the same thing on the open road. We’ve been in violent storms before on that motorcycle, but now that she wasn’t with me, she wasn’t thinking the way I was, which was turning to attack mode to deal with the crises.
As I looked the damage over from the fallen trees I simply thanked the storm for knocking out of my yard all the trees that were too weak to survive. I realized that it had been a while since we had a good storm, and many of the area trees had grown heavy with branches they could not structurally support under difficult conditions. So when those conditions arrived, the trees and their branches simply broke.
I realized that the same thing had happened to our country over the health care ruling. The weak branches of our society will be ripped from their growth. They will be knocked from the trees that support them, and they may not survive. I realized that unconsciously this is why I ran over that branch in the road instead of simply going around it. I had contempt for the branch because it had broken—because it could not withstand the heavy wind—because it allowed itself to grow unstable, like our national economy.
When confronted with the crises I leaned into the wind and plowed through it the way I do everything. People who behave like this are those who survive. Those who simply yield and break find themselves victims to the storms of this world. I explained to my wife that I would not have gotten off the road even if I saw a tornado in front of me, because I was not about to be turned away from my destination by the force of another condition. As I said it, I knew I wouldn’t drive straight into the heart of a tornado, but I would certainly do the absolute minimum deviation from my path to avoid it.
Like the branch, I did have contempt for those who pulled off the road seeking safety in grocery store and bank parking lots. They were like that big branch I ran over, yielding to the force of nature and becoming a victim to a force greater than they are. But during my ride home I did see hope. Traveling south, the opposite way as me, was another motorcycle rider who waved to me as he passed by laughing like a child on their first amusement park ride. He was caught up in the wind gust and riding it like a surfer does an ocean wave, and he was having the time of his life. He wore World War 1 style flying ace goggles with a business suit soaked to the bone and a neck tie flailing about over his shoulder. The dangerous trip home was worth it just to see that guy on the road with me laughing at the storm’s menace and embracing the adventure of a volatile day. It was worth the pain and danger to see that there are still Americans out there who embody the characteristics of “bravery.”
It’s in the storms of life that we discover what we are made of. That’s when we learn who are destined to become broken branches and downed trees. Who will pull off the road and hide, and who will barrel on through. And who will live and who will survive—by enduring tragedy. The health care vote by the Supreme Court was a giant storm that hit our nation. And it was painful to watch and listen to. But the bad guys have been caught in the wind, and those who are weak and have grown too big to endure have found themselves lying on the ground like so many downed trees.
As I looked at one of my downed trees I suddenly had the thought that I was looking at the Obama Presidency—a large tree that had grown quickly and without proper support. A large wind had exposed its weaknesses and it had broken under its own weight and was now a failure laying about in my yard. And such things are not useless entities that had completely failed in their life. The tree in my yard will make excellent firewood, just like the Obama Presidency. This winter, that tree will burn well in my fireplace. And the memory of Barack Obama will also be used for firewood to keep the fires of liberty burning long after the storms of the day have passed.