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,