It was a dark and stormy night. No, seriously, it was a dark and stormy night. My lady and I had arrived at the end of a month-long motorcycle sojourn through Spain, and were doing our best to prolong the experience. We had detoured up into the Pyrenees for one final flirtation with the beautiful, remote mountain passes.
Only hours earlier, we had stopped at a pastoral outlook when I noticed the sky darkening with unnerving speed. The glorious Spanish sun had been suddenly eclipsed by dark, wind-driven clouds cresting the peaks and channeling down the valley in anger. Even the cows had stopped chewing their cud, cocking their heads to the threat.
I unfolded the map to assess our location, and determine a suitable destination. The village of Berga, 32 kilometers distant, was all there was. As my finger traced the winding route through the mountains, large drops of rain began to fall. Intent on beating the storm we mounted up. But, as the wheels started to roll, the skies opened and let loose a deluge.
As we descended the mountain, the sluicing rain rapidly morphed into marble-sized hail. My face shield fogged up so badly I had to flip it up to see any semblance of detail, inviting the lashing of ice directly to my face. And then the lightning started. There was no lag between blinding flash and ear-splitting thunder clasp, accentuating the alarmingly close vicinity of the strikes.
There we were, carefully tiptoeing the motorcycle down the winding, slippery, unfamiliar two-lane road, splashing with torrents of rushing water, through hammering hail and blasting wind. With no place to find cover, we were forced to soldier on. As night fell, I realized our headlight was out. I managed to use the white ridges of ice forming from the gathering hail on the roadside to gauge where the pavement ended and the drop of the sheer cliff began.
The unrelenting rain eventually penetrated our rain suits. Each pull of the clutch, each stab of the brake, each shift of the transmission was met with the slosh of water trapped inside boots, gloves, pants and jackets. The thoroughly exhausting, all-consuming ride demanded every ounce of experience I had garnered in over 30 years of riding.
Finally, 90 minutes later, beaten and numb, the lights of Berga loomed. We arrived in front of a small hotel. As I entered, the guests loitering about the lobby fell silent. They tacitly parted, creating a path to the desk. With each step a little gush of water was expunged, leaving a trail of puddles on the tile. The night clerk looked at me, pitifully. I asked if he had a room. He said yes. Never before, in the history of my travels, had the reward of a hotel room been so welcome.
In a daze of exhaustion and relief, we dragged our sorry selves up to the room. As the tub filled, we stripped the drenched riding gear off our tortured, frozen bodies. I emptied the mini-bar of its stock of brandy and joined my lady in a luxuriant, steaming bubble bath. The harrowing experience was over. We had beaten the mountain. The danger was past. Our bodies began to thaw—helped along by the brandy—and we started to laugh. We knew we had just experienced one of those poignant, life-affirming moments that would be remembered for many years to come.
We talk about that ride quite often. The experience continues to rouse a strange, almost perverse, sense of accomplishment. That night we raised the bar as to what we consider trying or difficult. We reached a new zenith in personal endurance and fortitude that has carried over into our daily lives. Now, when burdened with seemingly overwhelming challenges, with the inevitable trials and tribulations of life, we simply recall "that night in the Pyrenees," to put it all into perspective.