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,