Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lonely roads.

We've dug out of our ice and snow. Actually, we were right on the lower edge of the affected area. While the Portland area to the North was still struggling, we were thawed out. I use the word thawed only in the strictest sense. I'd chosen to severely limit riding attempts in the snow. Last Tuesday the mercury sat at 33 degrees ( f ). Technically it wasn't freezing. At least without wind chill factored in. Sophie needed her battery charged. She's sitting idle more now that Elvira's around. I can't believe Sophie's battery is still the one that she came with. It will be 8 years come February. Testament to a bike that gets ridden a lot, I guess.

Being two days before Christmas the roads around shopping areas were pretty crowded. We headed in the opposite direction. Not much traffic in the country. That works for me. I'm one of those people who needs a lot of elbow room. I haven't seen another bike being ridden for quite a while. In one way I feel an inflated sense of pride being one of the few. In another way, it's kind of lonely out there right now. It's nice to have another rider to wave to once in a while. There's an extra warmth to the wave when cold weather riders pass each other.

Speaking of waving at motorcyclists, there's an article in the December Reader's Digest. A guy wrote about his effort to say "hello" to everyone he met for a month. Whatever. The author made an interesting observation about traffic and motorcyclists. Here's a quotation:

"In general, highways are the worst places for hellos. When I waved from behind the wheel, other drivers would give me a dumb stare. Cell phones certainly contribute to this ( you can't wave when both hands are occupied ), but a bigger factor is our inability to see each other. Either the vehicles are too big or the windows are too dark. As a result, we share the road with faceless machines that are much easier to ignore or be aggressive toward. There is one noteworthy exception, however, and that is motorcyclists. Every one I waved to seemed genuinely thrilled to be noticed. The threat of death makes bosom buddies of us all."

For a short paragraph, there's a lot of stuff to think about. I'm not sure why he found motorcyclists "thrilled" to be noticed. Maybe it's because riders were startled to see a driver actually not in a coma.

Anyway, back to the ride. This was one of those supposedly short rides that turned into 67 miles. That was just the first leg. How does that keep happening?

I chose not to use the electrics. Stubborn pride makes me want to be able to brag about being spartan. I hate messing with wires and controllers. Mostly I just add a layer under the jacket. Fleece has become my cold weather friend. For this ride I pulled the Aerostich Darien off the hanger. With its thick fleece liner nothing gets through this jacket.

Cold weather riding has its own special charms. My visor was pulled down but not latched into place. Despite the vents built into the Arai helmet, I have to keep the visor open just a bit for defogging purposes. The visor got so cold I could literally hear it creaking in the wind. When it was time to stop the air flow quit. Which means I have to open the visor for clear vision. I love that moment in the cold. There's this big rush of freezing air into the helmet that literally takes my breath away. For a few seconds I can't breathe. It's a sensation that's disconcerting and delicious at the same time. One of those little moments that reminds us we're alive.

On the way out and the way back I stopped by the college campus where Balisada works in the Security Department. This is the motorcycle parking spot she calls the "corral". Balisada often rides her Rebel to work. Several staff members as well as students use this spot. Being right before Christmas, and the students on break, the spot was empty.

Despite the snow being gone, there's still hazards on the roadway. Thousands of yards of gravel have been dumped on roads throughout the county. I have to applaud the tireless efforts of the local road crews to keep on top of things. The gravel helps a lot on top of the snow and ice. Most of the stuff was dumped at intersections. People do pretty well once they're moving. It's the stopping and starting that's troublesome. Snow melts. Gravel doesn't. A motorcyclist needs to be vigilant and extra careful right about now.

This is the intersection of Highway 99 and Bell Plain Road. Headed South, you can't really see the intersection until you're close to it. The speed limit on 99 is 55 mph. Here's a case of just having to know the circumstances you're riding in and preparing accordingly. So much of successful riding is mental, isn't it? A rider can't just whip around the corner like normal. Taking a closer look, you can see the potential for big trouble.

The gravel's everywhere right now. There's always the danger, too, of gravel in the middle of curves. Vehicles pull it onto the roadway. It's worse now. I wonder why the road crews chose to put gravel on curves out in the middle of nowhere. LIke I said, though, most of the gravel's at intersections. Now the stuff's dirty with drippings from cars. Planning ahead for stops becomes crucial. Braking points and where to position the bike so you can put your foot down in a clear spot have to be mapped out ahead of time.

For Sophie and I the trip was refreshing. We did have a moment of entertainment at a bird's expense.

There was a flock of small gray birds in a field by the edge of the road. For reasons known only to birds, the flock decided they needed to take flight and go to a field across the road. One of the birds towards the back pulled a Dukes of Hazzard move across our windshield. Remember Bo and Luke Duke sliding across the hood of the General Lee? I don't know if birds show off to one another or not. Maybe it just miscalculated and got caught in the slip stream. All I know is that I saw the bird with outstretched wings and wide eyes slide flat across the fairing. There wasn't an impact. Things aligned just right with our path of travel that it simply got pinned for a moment. Just as quickly as it started it was over.

I looked in the mirrors and saw it flying towards the flock. All that remained to show what had happened was a grey smudge on half the windshield. It looked like feather dust. Didn't know a bird could leave a streak like that.

We finally decided we should head home. It hadn't warmed up any. Tough as I like to think I am, I knew I was getting chilled. We passed by the Wilco farm store. I live exactly 4.7 miles from there. Instead of thinking how I could get a few more miles in, I was actually glad to be that close to home. Weird, isn't it? I was looking forward to thawing out with a little hot coffee or a shot of whiskey. Then I saw the way Elvira looked at me when I dismounted Sophie. What could I do?

With a quick kiss and another goodbye to Katie we were off again. This time with Elvira. Katie gave me one of those "I'm married to a crazy man, but I love him anyway" looks. Kind of a smile hiding behind that pretending to be put out expression. Then she wished me a good ride. Again. How did I get so lucky?

Miles and smiles,



Charlie6 said...


I'm pretty wimpy and usually engage the heated grips when the temps are in the low 40s or below.

My R80 has no wind protection so I wear more layers when riding her in the winter. She's much more fun to ride though, go figure.

The heated vest comes into play when its below freezing and I'm going to be riding more than a half hour.

Yep, I'm wimpy.

Scott Thigpen said...

Hey, umm, what would your advice be for some fairly restrained 38 year old guy that has about three thousands miles on two wheels (none of it on a superbike) who is sort of thinking maybe he ought to keep the 95 FZR he got for less than a thousand dollars?

This guy would most certainly attend a MSF course and is not a daredevil type, so, would the FZR be completely a bad idea?

fasthair said...

IronDad: Sounds like a nice little ride to me. I got out Friday afternoon when the temps climbed in to the low 50s. With all the snow we had the streets were a real mess. Needless to say the bike and I were both covered in road grime and I couldn’t have had more fun!


Stacy said...

Boy, I'm glad I'm not the only one getting that oh-so-fresh feeling from having my visor cracked. My personal favorite is the morning blast down 34. It's eye-wateringly terrific! Who needs coffee!

We took a short ride around Philomath the Sunday before last (the 21st I think) and every corner had a nice layer of gravel.

Lady Ridesalot said...

Nice post Irondad. Harley and I plan to ride tomorrow to bring in the New Year properly. He's been watching the weather and told me, it may only get up to about 54 degrees. So?
I'm afraid, Harley has gotten to where he doesn't much care to partake in joy riding if it's not 55 d. or above. Geeze! It's a good thing he doesn't live where you are! LOL!

I hope you and yours have a very Happy New Year!

Lucky said...

Sounds like a fun day! There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.

I'm guessing the bird went back to the flock for high-fives and trash-talking.

dave said...

rode the last three days, had a ball. people at gas stations ask if I have lost my mind? but with heated grips and seat and a few layers a 'wing is a nice place to be on a 45-50F day:)
got to put it away now though, light snow is falling and I am not Irondad! (always ride within your own limitations!)

Jeff In NY said...

Hi - I like your comments about cracking the visor. I've found that with the right gear there is not much different with winter riding other than a few more surface hazards and the need to be dilligent with visor management. I encounter the most trouble in the low 20s... when a delayed visor opening can result not in fogging, but frosting... something that is a little harder to see through and does not evaporate quite a fast :-)

bobskoot said...

I have a heated vest but seldom use it, preferring another layer of fleece instead. I don't like the wires and often forget to unplug when jumping off, but I would like to have a pair of heated gloves 'cause that's where you really feel the cold. My summer bike has "heated" grips, but my winter bike doesn't. When the snow and ice clears I will also go for a ride but right now the car has been snowed in for over a week and taking transit to work. A Happy New Year to everyone here and looking forward to more posts in 2009

Bill Sommers said...

I heard this little voice from a long time ago...

Have fun,

irondad said...

As a motorcycle safety professional I would tell you that it's important to be comfortable on the bike. I would say you are wise, not whimpy! That's why I made the statement about it being my stubborn pride. Riding spartan is a personal problem for me, not a goal for others!

Welcome to the Dark Side! Once you looked into those two headlights full of love and playfulness you were hooked, weren't you? Sport bikes will do that to a person.

Now that you've fallen in love, I definitely think you should provide a good home for the bike. We humans have a responsibility to care for two wheeled creatures in need. Obviously this one was in need of a friend. You have the privilege of showing this bike the brighter side of life.

One caution, though. I definitely recommend you and your new friend take a bike obedience class together. We can all use a brush-up on our caretaking skills. More importantly, it will allow the two of you to come to a better understanding of each other. The bond you establish by working together to successfully complete the course will reward you over and over!

Here's to a happy relationship. Enjoy each other.

Grimy but smiling, huh? What is wrong with you people who ride motorcycles? You should see Elvira. That shiny black shows dirty really badly.

It's so cool ( pun intended ) when other riders know exactly what I'm talking about. Repeat after me: We are not addicted to coffee. We drink it because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to!

Of course, I can't deny my addiction to riding.

Lady Ridesalot,
We all get out of motorcycling what we need to. If Harley doesn't want to ride in the cold, I got no problem with that. I know a bunch of riders that feel the same way.

Happy New Year to you and yours, too!

Then they went to some "seedy" bar for more lie swapping.

I got a similar reaction from a police officer the other day. He was passing the other way. He kept looking over at me like he couldn't believe what he was seeing!

Hmm, I wonder what it would be like to ride a 'Wing in the snow? Maybe I can find someone crazy enough to lend me one.

Stay warm and safe!

You sound like someone I would like to take a Winter ride with! I like your expression; "visor management".

I've had the opposite problem. My visor fogged up and I had to open it all the way to try to see. When I pulled it back down, there was ice on the inside, which was the part the wind hit first. Aargh!

Do you have exceptionally cold summers? Sounds like your bikes are wired backwards!

Transit ridership went up a lot during the big snow storm in Portland. It's a smart way to go.

Back at you with the New Year's greetings!

The small voice is getting stronger. Glad to hear you're still kicking. Are you still riding?

Take care,


Bryce said...

Hmm as I write this the flip to 2009
in the Eastern North American time zone is about an hour and bit away.
Best wishes to you Dan, and your extended family. This blog has given me a chance to confirm others still do ride, even if I don't.

2008 has been the worst year for me; that is little to no riding, and my insurance bill for next year arrived, for the car, not the bike. If the bike insurance comes in with a canceled notice due to its age, well it's game over. Don't have the money or desire for new wheels or new wheels which would fit me.

As to your encounter with frozen precipitation of the extreme kind,
it leaves quickly. When it does the local municipality's efforts to
plough, sand, salt and grit the roads are seen as evidence.

The first big spring rain usually removes most of the crud. However piles of sand and grit are often seen in corner and, at traffic lights where the sand truck has waited for a traffic light to change. Just as gravel on a curve,
some of those materials can be very slippery!

Best wishes then for 2009!

Conchscooter said...

I read that one wrong for a minute. I thought it said a speed limit of 99 on highway 55...oh well. By the way are you sure the college isn't actually a prison? Or will it become a jail as needed? It looks awfully...secure?