That’s me on an amphibious car-boat belonging to the Sudbury Fire Department, floating on 4.5 feet of floodwater.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Around 2pm today, I headed out on the Allis loop. For those of you who aren’t in HUCA, the Allis loop is a route that John Allis rode twice a day to train for the Olympics. It’s a good ride and takes about 2.5 hours. I figured that I would get back to Cambridge in time for the Mock Trial board meeting and dinner later that night.
Three quarters of my way through the route, I ran into an enormous pool of water. I’d written “cross river before turn” on my directions. Well, that was the river and it had flooded over the bridge. The flooded strip was about 60 feet across but really didn’t look that deep.
At that point, I could either continue through with 10 miles left or ride back 30 miles. I picked the shorter alternative.
So I lifted up my bike and started walking through the pool. The water got deeper. Then deeper. My socks were soaked. Then my shins. Then my knees. I stepped out of the water and onto the thin wooden road railing peaking out of the water. I held the bike in front of me and toed my way down the railing over the deepest part of the floodwaters.
I got back onto the bike.
On the other side, a fisherman stopped me. He had his line down over the side of the road. I asked him how bad it was, and he said, “Oh you’re fine, there’s just one more like this and I think the road’s good from here.”
I believed him.
Sure enough, another flooded strip of road awaited me just a few minutes later. This one was wider, deeper. Oh, come on. How deep could it be?
I got off the bike, picked it up, and started walking.
Feet, shins, knees, thighs. 40 more feet. I clenched my phone in my teeth and kept walking. My arms started shaking from holding the bike above the water. I counted the species of spiders floating in the cloudy brown water around me.
I came out of the other side and rode a few minutes. Half a mile later, I saw a woman standing next to her pickup, parked next to a third pool.
The fisherman had been wrong.
“This looks bad.”
“Oh don’t worry, sweetie, there’s two more like this and then I think this road’s clear. Don’t worry about it.”
I trusted her.
Plow through or go back? Either way, there were 2 more flooded streets to push through. I decided to go forward.
Feet. Shins. Knees. Thighs. 50 more feet. Waist. I couldn’t hold the bike above the water anymore. The water soaked into the bottom of my jersey and seeped up. I was dry from the neck up, the cell phone was still clenched in my teeth, and the bike was half dry. Everything else was soaked.
Came out of the other side. I was pissed.
Rode another half a mile. Another flooded strip. This section must have been 100 feet across. Off the bike, phone between my teeth, picked up the bike, started walking. The water was freezing. The bike was getting heavy. I was very cold.
All I could think of, though, was that when I was young, I thought that water could get into your body through your belly button.
Well, my belly button was under water.
Now I was very, very pissed.
I rode for maybe a quarter of a mile. ANOTHER FLOODED STRIP. The pickup truck woman had been wrong too. This strip was at least 200 feet across.
To my right was a house on top of a hill. I couldn’t see what was on the other side, but wondered if the hill passed over the flooded area. I headed up with my bike.
About half way up the hill, I heard a woman call out from the second floor of the house.
“It’s all flooded!”
“I can’t go around?”
“No, this hill is surrounded by water four feet deep, you can’t get out!”
“Do you want me to call the fire department?”
She and her husband brought me inside their house. The two were the epitome of a classy New England couple. They gave me towels and sat me in their dining room. They made me a latte and gave me little caramel cookies. They printed me a map of a detour route and fussed over the directions. They helped me wash the dirty water out of my bottles and refill them. They gave me a fleece sweater and sent me off on the amphibian car-boat. They did all this, voluntarily. I couldn’t thank them enough.
While we waited for the amphibian car, the couple explained that it had been so long since they’d had visitors, that seeing me walk out of the flooded street was like seeing the survivors of LOST pull out of the wreckage. They also explained what the fisherman and Ms. Pickup Truck had gotten wrong. From what I’d heard so far, it seemed like I was walking out of the deepest, most flooded area. The couple explained that I had actually walked right into the worst-flooded area in Massachusetts.
If Massachusetts were the shape of a bowl, I had stumbled into the very bottom of it. The hill we were standing on was an island surrounded by floodwater.
“Well that’s awful, this area must flood all the time!”
“No, it hasn’t flooded in 6 years. And not this badly in 10.”
After half an hour, the amphibian car roared through. None of the firemen could understand how I’d gotten stranded in the middle of Sudbury. They started talking about the snakes and muskrats they’d seen swimming around the flooded areas…
Once we landed on the other side of the 100-foot-wide flood area, I realized I had two options for getting back. The first was to call a taxi, and the second was to ride. I called a taxi. But because the area had flooded so badly, no taxi would be able to get there for another hour and a half.
So I could
1) Wait for 90 minutes in wet clothes as it got darker and colder OR
2) Ride back to warm up and let the wind dry me off.
I started riding back. The detour, though, was 35 miles out of the way. I guess the good thing was that I got to see some of the most beautiful parts of Massachusetts. By the end of the ride, I had gone through the backroads of so many towns… Belmont, Lincoln, Sudbury, Concord, Bedford, Lexington, and Arlington.
By some stroke of luck, I pulled back to my dorm at 7:30, just before the dining hall closes. I ate whatever they had left and just as I finished, I heard the fire alarm go off. There was smoke coming out of the third floor kitchen. My room is connected to the third floor kitchen. But of course.
Nothing burned down.
Those in Mock Trial deserved an explanation, those in HUCA now think I’m a fool, and I’m sure those in Texas will get a kick out of The Flood That Owned Me.