(mystic carnival)

winter

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Into each road some mud must fall?

A light rain fell all morning during my niece’s recent lacrosse tournament. While the mist didn’t seem to dampen any of the players’ spirits, it did manage to turn the fields used as parking lots for the event into slimy mud pits. “Look at this mess,” my boyfriend muttered as he maneuvered the SUV back onto the slick road to leave. I have to admit I was relieved not to be on two wheels that day, even as my mind wandered down a very slippery memory lane to another time when I was.

It happened during an impromptu ride to explore the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Vacation in the summer of 2009 was supposed to consist of a group road trip to Kentucky to reunite with a bunch of friends. You know how plans go sometimes…they don’t. With only about a week left before the departure date, a few of the participants had to cancel, a few decided to reschedule for later, and that left me and my friend Debbie with time off from work and a need for Plan B. We started naming places we hadn’t been yet, but wanted to visit, and agreed on Chincoteague as our destination.

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Cuddling with Lightning of Chincoteague

We had a blast; over and through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, straight to Chincoteague to find a place to stay and check out the town, then on to continue our adventure by heading south and making stops in places off route 13 that had captured our interest on the way up. During one break in Onley, imagine our surprise to discover a bike rally was just getting started nearby. We checked into a hotel, then rode over to the event grounds to investigate. We met some great folks and found out the schedule for the weekend included games, wrestling matches, bands, and vendors. We also learned camping space was available and while we hadn’t brought any supplies, we could rent a tent from the organizers. We took them up on that when we returned the next afternoon, especially considering bottomless mugs o’ beer would be available throughout the rally.

It was so much fun I really didn’t pay much attention to the on-again, off-again showers throughout that night. I didn’t really think about the rain until the next morning when I ventured out of the tent looking for coffee. I was distracted by a bit of commotion at the lone entrance/exit to the rally site, as those attempting to leave slipped, slid, and wiped out on their bikes in the mud. It was like watching some sort of bizarre biker rodeo game going horribly wrong. Wet weather had taken its toll on the short driveway from the road onto the soaked property. The event organizers had tried to help fix the problem by spreading shells and gravel across what was becoming a huge mire, but too much traffic had come and gone leaving deep trenches of glop to try to navigate through. As I stood there, another rider made it through the muck at the gate only to flop over on the road, and I cringed at the sound of chrome scraping pavement. Then I noticed a vendor we’d met during the previous night’s live music waving me over closer to the action.

“Ain’t this a mess?! Me and most of the other vendors with RVs and trailers have sank down into the field and are waiting on trucks to come pull us out. I’ve been watching this all morning, and here’s what you gotta do to get out of here.”

I paid attention as he explained we’d have to approach the gate from left to right. He pointed out the track most riders were following to find success in staying upright, and told me to approach the gate almost parallel to the opening to stay where the mud was the shallowest. He warned that we would have keep heading right once we were on the road, because a thin layer of mud had been smeared up onto the surface. That coating was hard to see, like black ice. He’d seen many make the mistake of thinking they were good to go once they reached the asphalt, only to roll on the throttle and have the bike shimmy out from under them. Aha, that’s how the peg-crunching topple I’d witnessed a bit earlier had happened. It was now understood that not only would we have to head off in the wrong direction, we’d have to ride far enough to reach bare pavement to keep from taking a spill in a U-turn, and pass over the film of mud again to point ourselves home. I thanked him for the tips, and went to fill Debbie in on the details.

“This has the potential to suck,” I announced.

“What’s the matter, are you afraid you’ll drop your bike?”

“No, I’m afraid if I drop it there’s no way to get any footing or leverage for me or anyone to lift it back up.”

I finished packing my bike with disturbing visions of it on its side in ankle-deep sludge flashing through my head. I could just imagine a half-dozen well-meaning people trying to help me upright it. And instead, we’d all wind up in a Woodstock-inspired, grime-coated pseudo game of Twister on a motorcycle instead of the usual multi-colored gumball-stamped mat.

Finally, we were ready to try and make our escape. We putted our bikes around to the left side of the gate and paused to watch a rider with his dog in a sidehack ease his way through the exit. A guy waiting for someone to come tow his camper out yelled, “Good luck, honey!” I thanked him and then tuned in to hear my inner voice chanting:
NOSUDDENMOVESNOSUDDENMOVESNOSUDDENMOVES, as we slowly squiggled, wiggled, and painstakingly churned our way to solid ground. Once I was sure I was on dry pavement, I glanced back to see Debbie still following, and thankfully still vertical. We turned our bikes around, and carefully crossed the slimy patch of road in front of the gate to start the ride home.

A couple of days after that we rode up on Skyline Drive and encountered a black bear, but that’s a story on its own for another time. No matter what jogs your memory, here’s hoping you can reminisce on beautiful rides and laugh at the stickier situations. And as you look back at the old year and anticipate what the new one will bring on this strange trip of life, my wish is that you’ll find more smiles than tears. Cheers and Happy New Year!

The name fit for a Legend…

Legend is my Border Collie. After meeting Legend, many people comment that she has an unusual name and ask how she got it. Compared to choosing the names for my other pets, picking her moniker turned out to be quite an undertaking.

I adopted her from an animal shelter in 2009 and have been blessed with her sweet soul in my life ever since. Usually rescue dogs are named at the shelter, but she had only been there for two weeks and the staff admitted they hadn’t come up with anything yet. Her tag on the kennel and the adoption paperwork all referred to her as “Unnamed”.

Legend’s physical appearance gave me some name ideas, but nothing seemed to “fit” her unique personality. She was dainty and feminine one minute, and boisterous and up for adventure the next. Plus, although her age had been estimated at around 11 months old; she had a wiser, more mature demeanor.

I was still pondering and trying out possibilities a month later, so my friends started teasing me about it and offering up tons of suggestions. Then my boyfriend sent me several blank emails and I’d check my voicemail to discover several silent messages from him. When I asked him what he was up to he laughed and replied, “Calling your dog!”

As fate would have it, one night I rented “Ghost Rider” on DVD out of the local Redbox and took it home to watch. Curled up on the couch with my dog and the movie started, I listened as Sam Elliot intoned, “Legends are ways we understand things greater than ourselves.” WAIT, WHAT?!! “LEGENDS are ways we UNDERSTAND things GREATER than OURSELVES.”10616149_10203414116263180_8581121586124358556_n

Like pets. So far in life mine had brought to me true understanding of greater things like unconditional love, patience, joy, excitement, patience, heartbreak when they pass on, patience, trust, and more!

(Puppy owners know listing patience more than once was not an accident…)

I said, “Hey Legend? Do you like that name? Is your name Legend?” She raised her head and I knew the answer from the look in her eyes.

And the Legend continues…

Down Rider Toy Run Wrap

Sure, ‘tis the season when getting started on or even finalizing plans for Christmas will quickly become a priority for many of us. But visions of sugar-plums weren’t exactly dancing in my head as I got ready for a ride on a near 90-degree day in late September. Yet it was time for the elves of the Down Rider Fund to host their annual Toy Run. Each fall for over two decades, they’ve worked ahead to help struggling area families have a happy holiday season.

Jennifer Korrell, an event coordinator with the Down Riders, is happy to report that the run this year was a success. Seventy-four people registered for the ride which kicked off at Buckeystown Pub with additional stops in Woodsboro at JR’s, the Blue Ridge Sportsman Club and Blondie’s in Pennsylvania, and Cactus Flats in Frederick. The toys and monetary donations collected that day will be used by the non-profit organization to provide Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas gifts to local families, usually in or near Frederick County, Maryland.

Founder William “Bones” Weddle, Sr. established the Down Rider Fund with a desire to financially assist motorcyclists that have been injured in accidents, 21992874_10209579509114148_6353372915065765264_oas well as the families of riders who did not survive. The group holds several fundraising rides and events each year including a pig roast in October. You’ll need to get tickets early for that one, as a typically sold-out crowd gathers for amazing food, good music, and more. There’s also the Memory Run which occurs on Father’s Day Weekend. Jennifer points out this ride as one of their most popular, with up to 150 bikes rolling through on an emotional day as lost riders are remembered.

To find out more about how you can get involved, see downriderfund.net for a calendar of events, monthly meeting details, and contact information.

Shenandoah Valley Biketoberfest

You know you’ll need to dig out some extra layers to wear for an upcoming ride, maybe unearth some gloves you haven’t used in months, when the wind gusts so bad overnight the ruckus wakes you up. At least that’s what happened to me on the last day of September. Fall had apparently arrived with a rattle of the windows, and quite a change in high temps from the summer-like week before. Although it stayed breezy, it was a sunny, gorgeous afternoon for a quick ride into Virginia. The plan was to meet up with friends and check out the inaugural Shenandoah Valley Biketoberfest, a benefit for the Northern Virginia Veterans Association.

As soon as I shut off the bike at the Warren County Fairgrounds near Front Royal, I could hear a band covering AC/DC. Taking that as a sign I was in the right place, I headed through the gate. Live music continued throughout the festivities thanks to regional favorites Sons of Liberty, the Rusty Highway Band, and Southern Governor. fairgroundsA number of local vendors lined the perimeter of the grounds with a variety of goods on display, the beer was cold, and food trucks served up plenty of tasty eats to keep everyone happy. Not only was a good time had by all, the success of the fundraiser meant thousands of dollars went to an organization that helps veterans.

This first SVB originated when members of Dubhgealach MC decided to host an event that would profit a good cause, the vendors and businesses in the area where it was held, and highlight the financial force of motorcyclists. Club founder Badger explained that they chose to support NOVA Veterans Association because of the percentage of assistance that goes directly to vets. The association networks to make sure veterans receive the care and benefits they’re due especially when considering the amount of sacrifice made by those who serve. He credits the MC community as a whole with the success of the function, and predicts the event will be even bigger next fall. Check out the Shenandoah Valley Biketoberfest page on Facebook, and to our military veterans THANK YOU! You are so appreciated not just when honored this Veterans Day, but all year.

Saddle Soar

I headed to the refrigerator the other day to grab a cold one, and it occurred to me things were looking a little bare. Not INSIDE the fridge, that was well-stocked with plenty of food and drinks. It was the OUTSIDE that seemed to be a bit sparse for some reason. Then I realized that a few months ago, I was sticking flyer after flyer of rides and events I wanted to go to on the side of the refrigerator as a way of saving the dates. Now those happenings have come and gone in a flash of fun, the handouts have come down, and the magnets on the fridge are looking lonely! Guess it’s time to check the calendars for the upcoming weeks and do some planning.

One rally I look forward to each September is OC BikeFest/Delmarva Bike Week. goofin off 2012There’s plenty to do which makes it easy to find something to suit your mood. You can get wild and crazy at any number of cool places, or wild and quiet by checking out the feral horses a quick ride away at Assateague. I’ve seen a lot of awesome concerts there, and I think this year promises more with Kix and Lynyrd Skynyrd in the lineup. In addition to the live shows, I’ve had a great time in Ocean City along with my boyfriend at past rallies. We’ve seen the sun rise over coffee, walking on the beach, and the celebration the sunset becomes when watching it synchronized with music at Fagers Island. But a favorite shared memory actually happened after we’d left the oceanfront and were on our way home.

He was on his Road King, and back then I was riding my Sportster. We left the beach very early that morning, between that and the fact you never know what the weather will be like each year, it was a chilly ride home. On what we figured was the final fuel stop, we decided warming up with some coffee was in order before wrapping up the last hour of the trip. As we stood next to the bikes treating ourselves to that dose of caffeine, a man came over from a nearby van to chat with us. He admitted he had always wanted to ride a motorcycle, but had a disability he felt made it too unsafe. He was the driver of the van however, turns out it was a church group out of North Carolina made up of mostly older folks. While we talked, the van passengers started filtering back to the vehicle from the gas station to join the conversation.

After a few ladies asked me questions about how it was to ride by myself and what I wear to keep warm, one of them wanted to know if she could pose next to my bike for a picture.

“Sure, you can sit of them if you wa-“

That was all it took, before I could warn them about hot parts or anything they were off as if afraid we’d change our minds. It was like watching a few dozen elderly transform into a wild pack of kindergarteners set loose on a jungle gym for the first time. We juggled cameras thrown at us, taking picture after picture as they scrambled on and off the bikes squealing, laughing, and striking poses. Finally, once everyone had their turn and the chaos fizzled out, we parted ways as they all waved frantically while we rode off. Much later, as we reminisced about our vacation, we realized that in the middle of the parking lot confusion neither of us had taken pictures of them with our OWN cameras.

I regret that oversight,fagers island sunset 2012 but the memory works to the front of my mind a few times a year, especially around OC Bike Week. It brings a smile to my face as big as the ones we saw on them that day, joy as contagious as theirs continues to lift my spirit. And that’s my kind of post-ride saddle “soar”.