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Tour de Chesapeake Bikers Share Surprises
By Catherine C. Brooks

     One thousand bikers, members of Tour de Chesapeake, bustled to eat breakfast at Thomas Hunter Middle School, Mathews, Virginia, on Saturday, May 18, 2002, under partly cloudy skies. After the early breakfast and safety demonstrations for the younger members, they divided, going in various directions. With maps in hand, each took the tour of their choice, following routes ranging from 15 to 100 miles, mapped to accommodate the younger cyclists to the most stalwart men on their bikes. Scattered clouds sheltered them from the hot sun as young and old peddled over the two-lane highways with local traffic creeping in the rear and automobiles going past in the opposite direction.

     With the entire group well on their way, black clouds suddenly opened like an umbrella. Within seconds, the wind blew with a mighty force and rain pelted, sparing nothing in its path. Though the wind subsided, having left its signature with microbursts at places of its choice, but the rain continued. Bikers took shelter under trees, in barns, in shops and in some homes. Several gathered under a large tree when the sky darkened, expecting rain. Then one noticed a barn a short distance farther, ďLetís get under the barn,Ē he muttered. 

     The cyclists ran with bikes at theirs sides, taking shelter with the doors ajar. Then all heard a roar. They looked out of the opening between the double doors and watched natureís mighty force topple the old tree with what had seemed protective branches only minutes earlier.

     In another area of the county, with bikers ahead and behind the section of Route 611 where Wade K. Brooks and family reside and operate Garden Creek Woodworks, the gust struck a huge maple approximately 150 years old. The tree broke off just above ground and covered the highway with its weight pulling down electric and cable lines. All traffic, traveling north and south, turned around and retraced their route for a detour while Brooks allowed bikers to ride through the yard with many taking shelter in his shop. Few let their treasured bikes out of their hands while some picked them up to spare the grass. Brooks told them to roll the bikes through the yard; after all, the family ran tractors over the area. 

     One hearty young man drove to the top branches in his four-wheel-drive truck, stopped and ascended. He went to the back of his truck, pulled out a chain saw and began cutting limbs on the side of the road over which he needed to pass. Approximately 15 minutes later, he replaced the saw, having thrown the cut branches on the opposite side of the road, climbed into the truck and drove on his way.

     About the same time the tree toppled, a fairly new barn in the Sears yard sailed into the air. It was through the woods from Route 611 to the northwest on Route 609. The metal roof piled up against the side of the house, a beam flew upward and passed through an upstairs window into a bedroom, two sides formed a v-shaped structure with no front or back while the balance of the building, now in splinters, tractors, antique furniture and other small implements covered the yard. The painted platform sat virtually bare.

     The bikers, with few exceptions, did not let wet clothes and shoes with water sloshing on the inside detain them. Although the day had brought surprises in the weather, making it necessary to serve the barbecued chicken lunch inside Lee Jackson School rather than at Williams Wharf on East River, the bikers stayed on tour. Citizens of Mathews pulled together and gave from their hearts to make as perfect a weekend as possible for their guests.

     We have just begun our summer months. Thus we can expect thunderstorms and more winds. Take caution and avoid unpleasant surprises:

  • Donít stand or park your automobile under a tree. If lighting doesnít strike, wind may blow limbs or the entire tree on you or the car.
  • If at all possible, go inside while thunder seems far in the distance because several people were killed in Virginia last year by lighting that seemed miles away.
  • Avoid using the telephone.
  • Donít make contact with water pipes or faucets because they conduct electricity during a thunderstorm.
  • If swimming, get out of the water as soon as you hear distant thunder.
Life is precious. Why risk losing it because you donít take caution. 

© 2002 Catherine C. Brooks All Rights Reserved


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