Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sometimes it's difficult!

It's becoming more difficult to keep riding lately. Take a witch's cauldron. Stir in sheer exhaustion, lousy weather, and a dash of trouble. A potion results that can be pretty debilitating. Fortunately, being the designated wack job of the local motorcycling community, I'm pretty much irrepressible. Not that things haven't tried to get me down. At the same time, there's always gems to be found. One has to dig a little deeper to find them sometimes. The harder we work to discover them, the more we value these gems, I think. I've found a few this past week. It's like two sides of a coin. Heads is adversity and tails is treasure. You control the view by choosing which side to look at.

We've had rain and wind. Then wind and rain. Throw in a little snow for variety. Once in a while I'm seeing other bikes on the road. I know a lot of you are suffering heavy snows. Other things are going on in your lives. Here's a huge tip of my helmet to all of you still soldiering on. You're an inspiration to me.

I saw this in the paper. This not only describes Seattle but a little farther South where I live, as well. Last Wednesday brought one of those dark and stormy night rides. As far as I could see there wasn't much difference in the weather between Seattle, where the trip started, and my home.

Take the ride last Wednesday, for example. For the first time I can remember I ended my ride in an irritable state of mind. What's up with that? It amazes me how it can take an hour to cover the twenty miles between Bellevue, Washington and Interstate 5. I-405 in that stretch is like pouring Niagra Falls into a funnel. I-5 from that point into Tacoma is just as bad. How in the world is there enough traffic to jam seven lanes of freeway? When you're moving 9 mph there's plenty of time to look at the cars around you. Wind and rain are pelting me. Warm and dry people in their automobile cabins look pretty cozy. Remind me. Why am I doing this?

Exit 119 found me heeding the call of a cup of coffee and a sandwich. It's 7 PM and I'm still three hours from home. There's this little island of buildings on the edge of Fort Lewis. My brain's mapping system tells me there used to be a Starbucks in one building and a Subway in the other. A little plan hatches in the grey matter. Grab a sandwich, pack it to Starbucks, and enjoy it with a hot cup of coffee. Subway's closed for remodelling. Walk in the rain to Starbucks. A walk in the rain would have been required either way but it seemed less joyful having struck out on the sandwich. Katie says I'm part Russian. That's from the movie "Hunt for Red October". There's a line where the sub commander says Russians don't even take a dump without a plan. I always have a plan. Not only that, but a backup plan just in case. Plan B was to get a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks. Turns out that Starbucks is pulling them off the menu after a short run.

Why? The official story is that it hurt coffee sales. The smell of the sandwiches is said to interfere with the smell of the coffee. What?

Plan C. Have coffee with an egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread. As a last resort eat someting healthy! Only as a last resort, though.

Six hours and 290 miles after beginning the ride we rolled into the driveway. The bad news was that I was cranky. Hours of fighting wind and rain take their toll. Sharing the road with totally inexcusably stupid people makes for a feeling I can't even begin to describe. How can it be so important to get a car length ahead that these people will risk their life and mine? Why does it seem like 90 percent of the drivers on the road are like that? I will never understand.

The good news was that I didn't have to fuss with intermittent wiper blades. In a car it seems you can never get the timing right because the rain is never the same from one moment to the next. So much simpler on a bike. Easy formula. Rain hits visor. Rain bounces off. What doesn't bounce off slides around helmet and runs down collar.

More good news? I survived riding in the snow for a while. The area around Fort Lewis is nearly at sea level according to the Garmin Zumo GPS. About 30 miles North of Longview the elevation is a little over 700 feet. No snow low. Yes, Virginia, it's snowing at higher elevations. Riding in the snow at night is a trip. Fortunately it was pretty wet. One side note. You think the big trucks throw up a lot of water? Let me tell you. Never ride beside one in slushy snow. You may never be seen again. Oh yeah, the Zumo is a weatherproof as Garmin says it is! Too bad I'm not.

There's been some riding since. Every day but Super Bowl Sunday. Riding's a given. It just hasn't been as fun lately. I feel like I've stepped onto a treadmill. Every time I look away somebody twists the throttle a little more. Or maybe it's a super-charged merry-go-round. My head's spinning enough. I'd love to be able to take one play at a time. Instead, the whole playbook's tumbling through my brain. You can identify, can't you? Once we get Grandma over this hump I promise to slow down. I want to redesign the blog, for example. Heck, I'd be happy with regular posts. It's weird how I miss it when I don't. I feel so disconnected not having time to write here and read the other blogs. Your comments are like eagerly awaited letters from friends. Yes, the big, bad, Ironman isn't totally self-sufficient.

I mentioned Grandma. She has a big bump on her shin. Her long-time doctor said it was just a weird thing happening with the blood vessels. He even sort of drained it a time or two. Grandma trusted him and wouldn't hear of having it checked out further by someone else. She was finally convinced to get another opinion. The other doctor said it was cancer but she wasn't sure what kind. The bump was a satellite from somewhere else according to this doctor. Samples were sent in to try to narrow it down. The results show it to be a melanoma from skin cancer. An oncologist agreed. The plan is to take Grandma in Friday morning. Surgery will be done to remove the growth which is about golf ball size now. A skin graft will be required to cover the spot. Pretty hard for anyone, especially for an 88 year old woman. We'll keep hoping for the best and keep a positive attitude.

Yesterday brought the need to swerve around a big piece of plastic that blew on the wind across the freeway. There's a whole unique dynamic to a proper swerve. I'm going share a little about this in the next couple of days. Today I took a picture of a rat bike. The Yamaha belongs to a real intrepid commuter. I'll share that, too. I committed to getting two more posts out this week. Hope to see you here. I also promise to be a little sunnier in disposition!

Miles and smiles,



Steve Williams said...

The worst weather I ride in doesn't begin to compare to the what you deal with on a regular basis. And I already am feeling what you are feeling and have found it difficult on more than one occasion to pull the Vespa out of the garage. It's me sitting in the automobile cabin all warm and cozy. I just don't see any riders at all, ever, around here when the weather is bad. Just me now and then.

But then the magic occurs like it did yesterday and riding just seems like the reason to live. I suppose we have to steel ourselves through the psychological challenges that may be greater than the weather...

The fun will come again.

I'll say a prayer for your grandmother.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Charlie6 said...

I hope your grandmother comes through ok and with no lingering issues.

I wish I had the guts/skills to ride in the snowy weather you ride in.


Redleg's Rides

irondad said...

Steve and Charlie,
I'm combining the reply because you both mentioned similar things.

Firstly, thank you for the support with Grandma. Cancer's a scary thing.

Secondly, the bad weather thing. I've seen pictures of the Vespa, Steve, in and among some snowy roads. I like to think I have a little more hardcore attitude than most. On the other hand, I'm on a 750 pound bike with a full fairing. Weather protection's not bad and the bike's a little more impervious to the elements than the Vespa. You may be on the same plane relatively speaking.

As to the snow, Charlie, it's a calculated risk. I didn't set out to ride in the snow. I'd seen the section of freeway on the way up the previous day. It snowed in the same spot but was really wet. I also knew there wasn't ice under the snow. That helped me understand what I was dealing with the next night. I rode in snow and slush for about twenty miles.

I just didn't want to leave the impression that I set out to find bad situations and then ride to show off. It does help the skill level to have countless miles in a bike saddle. Being a trainer doesn't hurt either. All these things weigh in when I have to make a decision to continue or park it.

Take care,

Charlie6 said...

Dan, you did not give the impression at all that you set out to do something dangerous...fear not.

I had some dicey moments in my work's parking lot of all things today and would like to know if I can "borrow" for my own use the designation you had in your posting of "designated wack job for the local motorcycling community".


Heinz & Frenchie said...

That weather and the ride you described would put a Saint in a bad mood. Don't see how you do it, hours in that mush has to take a toll on your determination.

Sorry to hear about your grandmother, all of us will be thinking of her on Friday and sending our best wishes for her recovery.

As the others have commented, Spring is just round the corner. Hang on for a few more weeks and the reward will be yours. The pleasure of nice weather will be even more appreciated when it arrives. We never take our climate for granted and thank our lucky stars every day.

Scott Thigpen said...

Noone is always in a good mood and a blog can be a great way to get it off you chest.

I hope everyone comes out ok.

irondad said...

Borrow away. That means I won't be the only one out there!

Heinz and Frenchie,
Thank you for the well wishes for Grandma. This time of year Florida looks better all the time!

Thanks for understanding. You get it.

Gail, (sheridesabeemer)
This is a reply to a comment you left a couple of posts ago.
Thanks for the link. I checked out your blog. Made me want to bookmark it and come back later.

Take care,

Bryce said...

Dan,there comes a point in every
person's motorcycle journey when oneh as to stop. Stop riding in certain climatic conditions. Steve Williams
is correct/ Don't ride when it's
knowingly lousy. If you were a young rider I might understand. However you get it in your craw that you're going to ride and that's it. OK, so be it.
If arrive at your destination irritable as an old bear, and can actually blame it on your trip home, then that's your choice. However idiots on four wheels are
part of driving with or without
lousy climatic conditions, whatever they may be.
As to your Starbucks problem theb ig problem is simple who the hell
wants to pay over $4.50 in any
currency for a coffee? That's just downright stupid! The coffee isn't that good!

Now as to your Grandmother; my own mother is 91 and I can well understand your concern. If it is
a melanoma and it has metatizied from elsewhere in the bdy then get her checked out in detail, while she is in for surgery. I have cancer, Type II-B Lymphona, in remission, however every 12 weeks return for what is basically a booster shot. And every time I go in, extensive blood work, and a CT
scan every two visits/ Make sure
your Grandmother's doctor is aware
of her blood status. And the removed mass ideally should be
inspected as to the contents of same by a pathologist.

My most recent visits for chemo booster was February 1st, a Friday when we got a foot of snow and freezing rain here in Southern Ontario. Ah, no motorcycles were seen anywhere, snowmobiles in places, yes. And I am usually out of touch from the world for up to ten days afterwards. I read but don't make comments, usually.

irondad said...

I pay $1.45 for the coffee I drink at Starbucks. Still high but it serves its purpose for me.

Katie says the same thing. I decide to do something and there's not much arguing. One day my stubborn nature may backfire!

Grandma's going in for a PET scan this week. So far so good.