TWITTER: @sirbacon123

28 June 2010

The Speed Of Lightning

I spent much of my Saturday afternoon writing this blog.
Only I wasn’t at a computer, I didn't have an iPad or even a pad of paper.
Rather I was on a bike trail with my brother-in-law and one of my neighbors.
When the weather is nice, as it is now, there are a ton of trails near my house where you can hike or walk or as we prefer, ride a mountain bike.
I am far from an expert, but I do enjoy the opportunity to get out and burn some calories.
I’m not sure we are ever going to run into Lance Armstrong, but some of these trails can be quite challenging.
We started uphill, as we always do, then made a choice to head east, down a series of trails, which leads to an area where we could really push the limits.
Well that was the plan.
About five minutes later, or halfway towards our destination, it looked like someone from the paparazzi was taking our picture.
Flash!  Boom!  Flash!
Enter Mother Nature.
And as our luck would have it, we were located right next to an area were a bunch of power lines called home base.
Not the ideal place to be during a thunder and lightning storm.
Considering we had no other option, we kept going – as quickly as possible.
At times too quick.   
I took one corner too fast, which became my first spill of the day.
Fortunately it came on a dirt trail that had been softened up by the drops of rain.
I got up right away and kept going.
The good news is my iPod didn’t skip a beat.
The other good news was our path was taking us in the direction away from the storm, so as long as we moved faster than the speed of light, we would be fine.
Eventually -- probably five minutes, but it felt like fifty -- we got to the challenging area of trails we were looking for.
At that point, we saw another bolt of lightning.  
This time it was so close you could see the little lettering on the bolt that showed how many volts it was.

It was definitely time to head home.
We waited for the thunder to follow to see how far away the lightning really was.
We counted to four, so my biking buddies said that meant the lightning was still eight miles away.
One of the comedians I was riding with joked, “it’s a good thing, because we only live 7.8 miles away.”
Stick to the comedy guys, because your math and science sucks.
According to
  • When you see the flash, count the seconds until you hear the thunder. 
  • Divide this number by 5. 
  • The number you get is the approximate distance of the lightning in miles.
So based on that information and my 700 score on the SAT math, I can now tell you that at that exact moment, the lightning was...
... carry the one...
Holy Electrical Storm Batman...
Eight-tenths of a mile away!  That's like 4,224 feet.
I’m glad I didn’t figure that out until I got home.
Of course, I didn’t get home for a while.  At that point we were still a good 15 minutes away.
All I kept thinking was, if I get killed by lightning, who is going to write this blog?
We headed down the trail towards home, made it to a local middle school, then a local high school, then a local elementary school -- lotsa schools in my neighborhood.
At one point, we were cutting through a parking lot and I zigged when I should’ve zagged and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.
Fortunately I landed on the most padded part of my body,  if you know what I mean.
And once again, my iPod didn’t stop.
Hey Apple, if you need me for a commercial, call my agent.
Well eventually I got back on course, pumping as quick as I could, as the rain got stronger.
Fortunately, the lightning became less frequent, or perhaps the anxiety in my head blocked out the flashes of light.
Then it was left here, right there, up that hill, cut through that street, yada yada yada... we made it home.
Well I’m guessing you figured out by this point that I made it home safe.
Kinda like the movie Apollo 13.  

Did they really need to put on the opening credits that the movie was based on a book by one of the Apollo 13 astronauts?
Thanks for ruining the ending before the movie even started.
Now in case you were wondering, and I was, what do you do when you are riding a bicycle during a lightning storm?
The quick answer is, DON’T.

According to the experts:
  • Avoid any metal objects such as bicycles and golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or tools.
  • If on a bicycle and lightning is within 5 miles, STOP riding, get off of your bicycle, find a ditch or other low spot and sit down. 
  • There is no safe place in the mountains during lightning.
In the baseball world, that would be referred to as Strike 1, Strike 2 and Strike 3.
I think I got off pretty easy with a sore behind.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir Bacon,

I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for keeping a fellow job seeker entertained and at times amused.

What finally got me commenting on your blog is a small math error in today's post. You say you and your friends counted to four. Assuming those were the seconds in your equation than the storm was 0.8miles and not 1.6miles away making the story even more exciting and your escape from the seemingly certain lightning strike all the more impressive! ;-)

Keep writing and good luck in finding meaningful, long-term employment.

Sir Bacon said...

Thanks for your note. I made the correction.

It goes to show you anybody can get a 700 on the SAT. You should see my verbal scores.

I appreciate you following my journey and I wish you well.