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A Rumble in the Park

The recent debacle with our trunk-mounted bike rack has left us a bit soured on the idea of transporting our bikes. We wanted to return to Duke Farms to explore more of the grounds, but since we didn’t have an extra 3 hours to spend wrestling with our bikes, we decided this visit would be on foot. In 15 minutes, we were laced up and out the door. Since it was a warm, cloudless afternoon, we opted for a semi-shady walking path. There were signs along the way that offered a self-guided audio tour accessible through our cell phones.  For an hour, we meandered past stone walls, waterfalls and statues. We stopped to listen to information at the various points of interest along the way. When we reached the Mermaid Pool, we sat in the shade to admire the natural beauty before we continued up the path to Great Falls Lake. I stopped to read a sign explaining the waterfalls’ creation and noticed some ominous clouds looming in the distance.

“Those clouds look daunting,” I said to Oregano.

“The sun’s still shining behind us so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Let’s follow the path up to Turtle Lake and see if we can spot any turtles,” he said.

We were crossing over a stone bridge when we heard the first distant rumble of thunder and realized that the sun had become completely obscured by clouds.

“That’s not a comforting sound,” I said looking at the sky’s increasing darkness.  I counted for a few seconds, but there were no more rumblings. We still had some time.

“Maybe we should skip Turtle Lake and start walking back towards the car. We’re about 2 miles away.” Oregano suggested.

The wind picked up and a clap of thunder echoed around us. I counted the seconds again and this time my counting was drowned out by another boom of thunder. The storm was getting closer, but Oregano kept stopping to point out interesting sights. I turned to him, “Let’s go!” I said while hurrying him along. “We’re no longer on a sight-seeing mission. We’re on a life-saving mission. We’re in the middle of a park during a thunderstorm. There’s no shelter out here and we’re surrounded by nothing but meadows, trees and lakes. Now is not the time for the audio tour.”

“There’s a single seater bathroom shack over there. We could always use that as shelter,” he said pointing behind us.

“I’m not that desperate yet. Keep walking!” Drizzle began falling and there was another loud clap of thunder.  “You were a lifeguard. What lightning safety rules do you remember?” I asked.

“Get out of the pool!” he said with lifeguard-like authority.

“Well, that’s a helpful rule. Since we’re on land and fully clothed I’d say we’ve got that covered. I remember something about lying flat in a field.”

“What are you so worried about? You’re the shortest thing out here. Lightning’s not going to strike you. Look how many tall trees are around us. It would hit those first,” he said making a grand sweeping gesture with his arms to indicate the trees surrounding us.

“Is that supposed to be reassuring? I think you missed the mark. Check the map. Let’s see where the nearest tram stop is and hitch a ride back to the visitors’ center.”

We realized we weren’t far from the tram stop and briskly walked through the rain as lightning flashed and thunder boomed. A few minutes later we reached the tram stop and checked the schedule; the next pick up was at 2:15.  I looked at my phone. It was 1:48.

“I’m not going to sit here getting rained on for a half hour. We can make it back to the car in that amount of time. Let’s go,” I said already walking.

We laughed at the ridiculousness of our predicament as people were zipping past us on bikes or running for cover anywhere they thought they might find it. The lane of 100 year old sycamore trees was a blur as we power walked towards the park’s exit.

“We could hide out in there,” Oregano said pointing to the old hay barn.

“That would have been a great idea in 1915 before the roof burned down. Now only the walls are left. The interior is a sculpture garden.”

“Wow! Someone paid attention on the tours,” he said while trying to keep up with me.

After we passed the barn there was a bright flash of lightning, an even louder crack of thunder and the rain fell with more enthusiasm. I picked up my pace and for the first time in 20 years, was walking faster than my husband. I didn’t care about my rain soaked clothes or the fact that I was wearing my sunglasses in a storm. My only goal was to avoid being struck by lightning or a falling tree branch that had been struck by lightning.

At the exit gate, we entered the swarm of people creating a mass exodus. It was like a family-friendly wet t-shirt contest. We reached the car and a torrent of rain fell just as the doors thumped shut. It was 2:10. With water dripping off his nose forming a puddle on the seat, Oregano said, “Good thing we aren’t still sitting at that tram stop.”

If the sky over the visitors’ center had looked like this when we arrived, we never would have gotten out of the car.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

44 responses »

  1. Paprika – are you EVER going to be able to see Duke Gardens without some major SNAFU occurence? Your story reminds me of the trip my parents had with their 4 grandchildren out on Lake Jordan, NC last summer. Imagine being stuck on a pontoon boat in the middle of what seems like Hurricane Irene!!! Not fun – just ask them.

  2. Rolling in laughter. So well written it was like being there.
    (reminds me of one of our tubing trips…oh, it’ll just be cooler with the clouds….don’t worry unless their thunder….paddle, paddle, faster – stay away from the trees….faster…run up the hill…forget putting on shoes….there’s a transport bus…and more people than seats….)

  3. Clearly the ghosts that inhabit the place are torturing you and Oregano. And we get to witness! Thanks for a great story, Paprika!

    • Glad you enjoyed the story, Elyse. I hadn’t thought about ghosts, but I’ll keep my eyes open next time we go. I hope the third time’s the charm, so that this doesn’t turn into an entire series of posts about our mishaps at Duke Farms.

  4. Did you get to see the poppies again? Sigh. Your story was a nail biter. I did assume, of course, that you survived to write it. But I wasn’t sure if you were dictating it to the nurse as you and Oregano recovered from lighting bolt attacks. 😆

    • We didn’t see that field of poppies again this time because we were in a different area of the park, but there were lots of other fields full of wild flowers. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and thought it was suspenseful. Let’s hope next time we have an uneventful visit to Duke Farms.

  5. rosemary and basil

    We finally were able to read the post! Laughing our heads off!! Loved your whole rendition!
    You are both so adorable!

  6. This post was terrifying to me, Paprika. I was waiting for you two to either cross paths with the Blair Witch or turn up at the doorstep of a transsexual from Transylvania.

  7. Way to persevere! Your experience reminded me about the summer that I took the twins to Mt. Gretna Lake and paid $30 for the three of us to enjoy the lake and tiny beach. We weren’t there an hour before a storm started up. I would normally consider that a total disaster, but the boys still talk about the cool day they had crowded under the snack shack tent with fifty other people, during the thunder and lightening, and then swimming in the light rain that continued for two more hours. Definitely memorable!

  8. Too bad there was no hay in the “barn.” A good roll in the hay could have been a romantic way to endure the storm. 😉

  9. I dunno, but I’m thinking something about that Duke place doesn’t like you very much.

  10. LOL, bad weather is such a bummer when you have plans that involve being outside… And there is crazy rain at the moment! Yesterday we were driving to the movies, and as we got off the motorway we got stuck in a big lane of traffic stalled due to a giant lake in the bend of the road that a crazy downpour put there. You just don’t expect that sort of thing. Everyone had to reverse backwards up the lane in a big file, was quite tense! Sorry for rambling, your post just reminded me of rain 🙂

    • The real bummer about this situation was that there was no rain in the forecast for the afternoon and it was a beautiful sunny day. It caught all of us by surprise.

      Sounds like your weather has been as crazy as ours. Glad you were safe in all that chaos on the motorway.

  11. Wet but fun and you still got some great pics

  12. What a nailbiting story, Paprika! With every sentence, I feared that lightning would strike near you… and I was sitting on the edge of my seat, as I read…. But I knew that, in the end, you both had to be fine, or you would not have blogged about it with such good humour. 🙂

    Nonetheless — phew!

  13. If you check the weather report before going the next time, you will have about the same percentage of a thunder storm as you would if you didn’t check the weather report.

    But I’m not too cynical about the capacity of weather men.

    • You’re absolutely right, Ronnie! The people we met while rushing to leave the park were saying that they hadn’t heard a word about severe thunderstorms. Maybe next time, instead of checking the forecast and radar, I’ll just bring a backpack filled with gear for all types of weather.

  14. The next time you try to tempt mother nature bring along a three-iron from a friend’s or neighbor’s golf set. Should you encounter lightning, quickly run to the highest point of the surrounding landscape and hold the club high over your head. It is common knowledge among golfers that even God cannot hit a three-iron.

  15. Was this the storm with the beautiful double-rainbow? As Robert Plant said, “This is the mystery of the quotient – upon us all, a little rain must fall.”

    • If there was a rainbow we didn’t see it. The rain poured down for the entire ride home from the park. It would have been amazing, and well worth the soaking, to see a double rainbow in that beautiful setting.

  16. You guys sound like Tony and me. Yesterday we went fo a hike. I brought a map, but forgot my glasses. We got lost which would have been really scary if there had been a lightening storm because we ended up atop “Bald Mountain.” The mountain lion warnings made the whole hike feel like the Wizard of Oz.

    Oh, and do not feel bad about the bike rack. Tony and I watch two women trying to put their bike rack on for an hour while we were eating at an outdoor cafe near a bike shop. Of course I thought of your hilarious post.

    • It sounds like the four of us should never hike together if we plan on coming back in one piece. I think it is hysterical that you had the map, but not your glasses!
      We went on a hike in Colorado a few years ago on vacation and saw mountain lion warning signs. It was a very short hike!
      Thanks for making me feel better about the bike rack 🙂 Sounds like you and Tony had lunch and a show.

  17. I love getting rained upon! I could live without lightening, though. Hope you got all dried out (your car seats too). Sounds like it was a fun day regardless.

  18. Sounds like you had a soaking, new experience. 🙂

  19. All’s well that ends well!


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