Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hare and Hound

I'm thinking, "This can't really be happening". Yet, my own incredulous eyes are beholding it.

The day's been totally awesome for riding. The thermometer has indicated 47 degrees (F) as I've been leaving in the morning the past couple days. There hasn't been sun but neither has there been rain. For some reason it's felt slightly muggy today. There's the usual cheerful anticipation as I start putting on my gear. I find myself whistling. My brain has just reached into the archives and pulled something out. Kind of like a jukebox on random play. The song my brain has chosen to whistle is "Blue Skies". You know the words? "Blues skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see". Weirdly enough there aren't any blue skies anywhere in sight. Just how my brain chose to express my cheer at riding, I guess.

The cheer was literally dampened by the time I got halfway to work. Have you heard the exression "loose as a goose"? Try this one. "As full as a Seagull". At least they were full until they flew over me. The flock snuck up on me from behind so I didn't see them coming. I sure heard them laughing as they made their flying getaway, though. Damn birds! All I can say is that I'm glad I ride in a full face helmet. Most of the time I keep the visor down. This was a juicy reminder of why. My poor splattered bike! The right saddlebag always contains an emergency visor cleaning kit and a couple of rags. I know I'm letting myself in for trouble here for telling you I always carry a "Wee Willy". That's the name of the product, honest.

After some cleaning in a convenience store parking lot we were presentable enough to continue our ride. To my dismay, I found I'd missed a big spot on the back of my jacket. I just hung the thing over the back of a chair in the lunchroom as usual. After a while I went in for coffee and noticed the big green stain. Wiped it off and hoped nobody noticed.

We rode over to a mall for lunch. Arby's has a good corned beef Rueben sandwich on swirled rye bread for a decent price. This time of year works out real well for doing this kind of thing. I like to leave at least my jacket on and carry my helmet with me. The temperature is still cool enough for the jacket. This does a couple of things for me. One, people see me with the helmet and know I'm a motorcyclist. They also see I wear protective gear when I ride. The helmet either distracts from or explains the helmet hair. Some people cross to the other side of the corridor when they see me. Riders will approach me. I've met some interesting people this way. Kids almost always notice me. I'm all for starting their interest early and I always return their overtures.

My afternoon at work was kinda rough. We'll just leave it at that. This is about happy things like riding. As usual, after a long day, my backroads were calling me. Like a fish on land gasping to breathe, I was longing to immerse myself and let the magic wash over me.

The first stretch of twisties is the tight, technical stuff. Not many drivers venture onto this road. There's just a few farmers and folks who live out here. I usually have the place to myself except for the flock of turkeys who live out there and a deer now and then. Oh, and the UPS driver who's out there a couple nights a week. He always cheerfully waves at me.

The quiet road "T's" into a little larger feeder road. It's called Gap Road. This one is used by more folks who are coming the back way into Brownsville. It's a little burg with a few hundred residents. If you ever saw the movie "Stand by Me" you saw a little bit of Brownsville. A lot of it was filmed here.

Not long after I turn and head East on Gap Road there's a tight left turn. I always have to be careful to apex way late here since there's a bunch of crack sealant right in the middle of the curve. Then there's a blind uphill corner. Right after the hill is a gravel road that comes in from my left. It goes out to some sort of bird viewing area or something. Sometimes a vehicle pulls off this gravel road. If I don't get past them pretty much right away I can't pass for a while. Which is a bloody shame because it really screws up some sweet corners that are coming up next. You set up to the right of an uphill corner. A quick flick left and you're on level ground for a second. Late apex on the right curve and speed downhill. Not too fast, though, because you need throttle to keep the weight off the front wheel for the next two curves. Quick left, quick right, and steam on for the next one.

Back to the gravel road. As I crest the hill I see a dark pickup pull onto the pavement. "Oh great!", I'm thinking. It's far enough ahead that I won't be able to catch it before the curves. I'm picturing some old farmer with their ageless sense of time. In other words, in no hurry to go anywhere. Boy, was I ever mistaken! This is when I start becoming astounded.

This pickup isn't destined to become a rolling roadblock. Quite the contrary, in fact. The thing's started to pick up steam and leave me behind! I admit to being shocked for a few seconds. Then the competitive urge kicked in. No way some farmer in a big pickup is going to run away from me. So I take off in hot pursuit. I'm watching the truck and see it's not being recklessly thrown into corners. The body of the truck moves from side to side under the G forces but it's more orchestrated than wild. Mind you, there's some corners where I totally expect to see the truck's brake lights flash but it doesn't happen. Remember, there's some serious curves which is why I love this road in the first place.

We keep gaining speed until I look at my speedo and see the needle getting pretty friendly with the number 80. I finally back off some. Not because it's too fast for the corners. I'm proud of my skills honed on racetracks. No, it's become too dangerous for the hazards. People live along here and there's driveways, cattle beside the road with only thin wire holding them in, plus whatever wildlife wants to cross the road.

Just before we start getting into town the truck slows down. At the stop sign I'm right behind it. Yes, the brakes lights do work. The driver is looking to turn right while I want to turn left and find some more twisties. On impulse I creep up beside the truck and motion the driver to roll down the window. The truck is a standard Chevy Silverado 2500HD. Club cab but two doors. There's a small diesel tank with a pump handle on either side in the truck bed nestled up against the cab. The driver looks slightly annoyed but cranks the window. I have tinted glasses and he can't see my eyes. The guy looks like he could be Dale Earnhart's grandfather. ( God rest his soul ) A weathered and permanently tanned face turns toward me. The hair is gray and full and covers the ears. A gray walrus mustache adorns his upper lip. The man is wearing one of those logger type shirts. Vertical small white and black stripes with a zipper in the front that comes about a third of the way down. There's a black Lab dog in the cab that looks to be about two or three years old and it's barking at me.

"I never knew a truck could corner like that", I say to the driver. His face lights up in a smile.

"I've been driving this road for more years than I care to remember", he says. I chided him about his speed. Might have been a little fast for that road. "Just messing with the bike guy", he says back.

"I'm impressed, Mister. Take care and drive safe."

Off I go to finish my trip home. Life's certainly interesting commuting on two wheels!

1 comment:

Steve Williams said...

What a great story about the guy in the truck. What makes it is that you made the effort to connect with him. Sounds like the two of you might be kindred spirits separated by a couple of wheels....

Helmet hair. When I first started riding and noticed my wild hair I wondered what people would think. The riding suit gives it away to most and the helmet in hand really does. In warmer weather I go back to the buzz cut (monkey cut in Pennsylvania) so helmet hair might be a thing of the past. I have to admit I have thought about growing it long again for another ponytail. Since I moved into an administrative position at work I cleaned up my act a little. We recently hired a Dean with a ponytail so the door's wide open in my mind.