Day of Contrasts
All too soon this morning the alarm went off. One of the first things I do after kissing Katie good morning is look out the window. It's a habit common to people whose day is affected by the weather, I guess. Today my yard, which is mostly dandelions, is white instead of its usual green and brown. Frost in May. I look over to the thermometer to verify what my eyes have seen. The LCD number shows 31 degrees (f). Over the first cup of coffee I decide that the only concession I'll make to the cold is to add a sweatshirt under the Roadcrafter jacket.
It's fair to say that it's nippy outside. The temperature isn't as cold as what I've ridden in over the Winter. Despite that, the cold is very bracing. I think about it as I ride. In the winter a person steels themselves to the fact that it's cold. I think we build up a tolerance to it. It occurs to me that it's almost like being a heavy coffee drinker. The caffeine doesn't affect you as much since you're used to the dosages. Quit drinking it for a few months, however, then go back to it. A smaller amount of caffeine gives you a bigger buzz. That's how it is today. We've had a long spell of warmer days. Suddenly the temperature drops to freezing again. I feel the invigorating effects, you know. Yee freakin' haw!!
After riding a few miles with the faceshield of my helmet down, the inside of it starts to fog. There's a vent in the front of the helmet that's supposed to direct outside air in to help with this problem. Maybe the excitement of riding's causing me to breathe more heavily, but the shield's fogging nevertheless. I'm doing about 60 mph when I pull the shield up. Wow! The freezing air, made even MORE freezing by the wind chill factor, hits my face. I feel every muscle in my face contract and my forehead hurts. I'm glad I'm wearing a full-face helmet so people can't see my face. I must look funny with my face all scrunched up. Have you seen those old beer commercials? The ones where the guy drinks Brand X beer and suddenly it looks like he just ate the most sour thing imaginable. The announcer calls it "Bitter Beer Face". That's how I feel.
Interestingly, by noon the temperature was up to around 60 degrees (f). There was still a chill North wind blowing but the sun was shining nicely. For the ride home I put on lighter gloves and opened a couple of vents on my jacket. The Darien is awesome for Winter riding but I think the Roadcrafter is more versatile for Spring and Summer. I'm just lucky to have been able to purchase both over the years. Tomorrow the low is predicted for 32 (f) with a daytime high near 70. What a contrast, huh?
Speaking of contrasts, I experienced another one that was totally unexpected.
Partway down the highway I make a right turn. Sometime before that I noticed a bike coming up behind me. It was some ways back and just slowly gaining on me. Glad of the chance to exchange a morning greeting with another rider, I slowed before my turn. I wanted to give the bike a chance to catch up to me. Sure enough, the rider caught up. He was on a beautiful blue Goldwing. I waited for him to get even with me. Then I offered a cheery wave. No way the rider didn't see me, as he pulled over left a little to go around me. Not a wave, or even a nod. I'm pretty sufficient unto myself and don't really care a lot if the other rider waves. I mean, I like the brief time of kindred souls sharing the moment. It's just that the tone of my day doesn't depend on being acknowledged. This morning, however, I felt totally rebuffed.
I guess it's because I've come to expect this kind of thing from riders of certain cruisers. Riders of almost every other kind of bike DO wave, almost without fail. The fact that he was on a 'Wing and didn't wave despite being right next to me is what threw me. Since I don't know where the guy was in his space I won't be too critical.
The sunshine at lunchtime beckoned me so Sophie and I went for a ride. We hadn't been to a certain bike shop recently so we decided to go look around. Sophie gets into it once I assure her I'm not looking for her replacement. I think she's naturally insecure about those things. This shop has a huge inventory of Honda and Kawasaki bikes. I just hate going in there most of the time. Whoever owns this shop subscribes to the car salesperson theory. There's always fresh new salespeople to swarm over anyone who comes in. Still, it's a great place to see the new bikes as well as the interesting used bikes. Just have to swat the salespeople away.
On the way back I swung around by the University of Oregon. I saw that our second season had begun. Oregon has two seasons. Winter and Road Construction. Everything was torn up for miles. At one point I had to wait for a while while flaggers directed the traffic. A guy on a chopped v-twin with apehanger bars as high as his helmet worked his way up to me. The bike had no rear suspension and I watched the rider bounce up and down. Finally he was beside me. Looked like a desert rat. Tall, thin, missing a few teeth, and covered in scraggly facial hair. The helmet was DOT legal at one time. That is, before someone carefully scooped out the foam to make it fit tight to the head. The standard denim vest with the patch covered the black t-shirt. He was wearing gloves, though.
The dude actually wanted to be friendly. That blew me away more than the Goldwinger that didn't. You have to picture the contrast between the chopper rider and me. Here I am on the ST1100 with full Aerostich Roadcrafter gear. A full face helmet. Next to an ape-hangered chopper with a desert rat who loves loud pipes. The dude commented on how the ST must be a smooth ride. I told him I commuted a hundred miles a day and just couldn't see myself doing it on a bike like his. He told me that it was something I had to work up to. My answer was that I didn't have time to spend re-tightening all the bolts and fasteners that shook loose. He admitted that it was sort of a pain. So we're actually having something of a pleasant conversation.
That is, until my attitude peeked out. I told him the biggest reason I had for not riding a bike like his was that I just couldn't bring myself to be so rude, what with the loud pipes, and all.
Damn, did I say that in my "out loud" voice?
I figured if I pissed him off I pissed him off. Somebody's got to stand up and tell the truth. Besides, in a fight, I know a few moves gleaned from military and police training. On top of that, who has the most padding here? It's easy to be brave wrapped in a full face helmet, gloves, and a Roadcrafter suit!! I'm actually sure I pissed him off. Very shortly after that the flagger turned the sign and the desert rat tore off. I suffered the most because the raw fuel coming out of the straight pipes made my eyes water for a while.
The afternoon at the office drug on, and on, and on. I noticed that across the street a guy was mowing the tall grass down. That strip gets mowed about once every six months. The same guy comes and uses a regular mower that throws the grass out the side. I debated going over and moving the bike which was parked next to the curb over there. A long while back I had talked to this guy and threatened him if he ever threw grass and rocks at my bike. I told him that I understood he needed to mow. All he had to do was come over and tell me and I've move the bike. No harm, no foul.
Today he was mowing but leaving a huge swath around the bike. When I went out to get on the bike to ride home the man came over to me. He had remembered the conversation from earlier.
"I wasn't going to mow over there until the bike moved", he said. "I didn't want to get my ass kicked!"
Oh it's good to be a "bike" guy and instill fear in other people, no?
Going through Brownsville I stopped to take a picture of the hack rig above. I've seen it parked here other years. I can't remember what the bike's called. It's a Russian copy of the BMW airhead boxer. There's even the hammer and sickle logo on the tank at either side. Just thought I'd share the picture. By the way, this is the main street through Brownsville.
I'm seeing a lot of bikes on my rides, now. Relatively speaking, anyway, compared to none in the Winter. For the last couple of days I've seen a guy I call the "Old Mariner". This is the third season I've seen him. It looks like he works in Albany, the town I live in. His home must be in the countryside South of town because I always see him when I'm almost home on Old Hwy 99. The reason I've given him the nickname is because of the bike and his gear.
The bike's probably from around 1980. It's a GL1000 in that brown color Honda was so fond of back then. There's a stark white Vetter Windjammer fairing adorning the front. It looks big and heavy but Craig Vetter built good stuff so it can't be that bad. This guy has work clothes as in a denim jacket, brown duck pants, and tan work gloves. He wears the gloves when he rides. His helmet is a bright red three quarter face with a bubble shield. The man is older and never fails to wave. The bike looks like the only purpose it serves is utility transportation. It reminds me of an old man and his equally old boat. They just keep floating despite the passage of time.
When I got home my youngest son, Clinton was here waiting for me. He's a bike nut, too. Wonder where my boys got THAT? His GS500 Suzuki was in the driveway. After riding all the way home I had to go ride with him. What torture!!! Now we're both stuffed with spaghetti. I'm finishing this post and Clinton's visiting with his mom. Life is good.
Miles and smiles,