I’m standing in my foyer, soaked from head to brand new Nike Pegasus trail runners. My 4 year-old is curled up on the couch with her pink and green bike helmet on, hiding her face in the pillows. My wife is somewhere in our driveway, no doubt wrestling with the doors of our Toyota Sienna while nature hurls branches and parts of once inflated kiddie pools across the street like so much tumbleweed. Our two older kids are somewhere else too—riding in a friend’s backseat through torrential rains and hail and winds that I will later learn rival that of Hurricane Isaias, which had just glanced Florida last week.
Welcome back, the Midwest is saying in an uncharacteristically sarcastic tone—its vocal cords shifting and spurting like the downed electrical wires that have cut off power to over half a million people across Iowa by now.
As I continue to drip on the hardwood floor, watching for Rachel to make it to the front door, I feel a pulse on my wrist. That new mode of communication that I’ve become accustomed to over the last year or so of wearing my Apple watch. I look down to see the familiar yellow arc traced out into a sparkling circle on the screen. I’ve just closed my exercise ring. And in a derecho no less. Now that is commitment.
I’m pedaling as fast as I can on the bike trail that runs between the grocery store and our house. In the 2 minutes since we left the Hy-vee parking lot, the sky has gone from slightly overcast to Apocalyptic Grey. On the small slice of Friendship Street that connects otherwise loose strands of the bike trail, a woman is on her porch watching the ensuing storm. She calls out to me—yelling over the high winds—asking if we’d like to shelter in her house. “I think we will be okay!” I shout back, neither confident that she can hear me, nor that we will in fact, be okay.
A minute later we are in a tunnel of trees and pass another wayward traveler on a bike headed in the opposite direction. “This isn’t good,” he says.
My watch has been buzzing for the last few minutes. Texts from my wife who has been trying to figure out where Ada—the 4 year-old—and I have gone. I want to text her back but I am afraid to slow down for anything.
The rain begins to fall in heavy chains from the sky. The creaking of the trees around us occasionally interrupted by the sound of exploding wood. On our side of town—the far east side—where new housing developments back right up to cornfields, there aren’t a lot of tall trees. Still, the trees that rise up from the creek beside the bike trail are big enough.
A few blocks from the house, I spot Rachel in the Sienna. I grab Ada, who has been hiding quietly in the trailer I’m towing, and toss her into the van. Somehow she has managed to stay dry, despite the fact that her panicked father never stopped to lower the waterproof covering over the mesh door.
The bike and trailer won’t fit in the van—at least not without some kind of readjustments to both bike and seats. A part of me considers leaving them on the sidewalk, to be retrieved at a later time, but the thought of them being raised and launched through the window of one of the nearby houses convinces me this won’t work either.
As Rachel and Ada pull away, I pedal even more furiously than before. The wind grabs ahold of my shirt and lifts it up behind me exposing my lower back to a thousand tiny pricks of hail.
I couldn’t have pedaled faster had I been in the Tour de France, and a few blocks later my legs have mostly stopped working. I hop off the bike less than a block from our house and try to run alongside it. I feel a tug and look back to see that the wind has flipped the bike trailer onto its back. I wrestle to get the trailer righted again, no longer measuring elapsed time in minutes or seconds, but rather in inches of rain.
The van is parked in the driveway waiting for me—because of course the power is out and the garage doors won’t open. I put the bike down against the house and run around to the back where I hope we’ve left one of the sliding glass doors open.
When the sirens go off, I’m very confused. It’s around lunchtime, and it’s Monday. Normally the sirens are tested on Wednesday mornings around 9 A.M. They could be for a tornado or a severe storm, I suppose, but it’s sunny outside and there are barely any clouds in the sky.
I pull up the weather app on my phone and find the pending storm on the radar. It’s in Des Moines. According to the radar it’s at least an hour away. It takes just under 12 minutes to get from our house to the Hy-vee parking lot, where the Sno-Biz shaved ice stand lives throughout the summer months.
I glance down at the Activity app on my Apple watch. I only have a few minutes of exercise recorded so far for the day. I need to find a way to squeeze in at least 20 more minutes. My older two kids are at camp for the next few hours. My wife is working downstairs. It’s just me and Ada, my newly-turned 4 year-old. I don’t know when else I’ll have time to get exercise in, especially if it’s storming later this afternoon.
I text my wife to let her know we are going on a quick ride. We’ll stay close to home so we won’t be too far away when the storm hits.
I put Ada in the trailer hitched to my wife’s Trek bike. It’s still sunny. We have plenty of time.