‘Tis the Season to be Soggy?

Imagine you’re at one of your favorite biker bars and a man yells, “Uh-oh! Look what’s coming!”

What do you think you’re going to see when you look up? Maybe it’s this guy’s buddy, finally making an appearance at the ol’ watering hole? Do you expect to see everyone’s dream bike pulling into the parking lot? Or could he be pointing out that there’s a beautiful woman walking through the front door?

In the situation I found myself in, everyone turned to see someone staring out the window…at a nasty looking, black and gray line of clouds heading our way. Resembling a dropped bag of marbles, we scattered to our bikes and rolled out in all directions before the storm hit. I don’t think police sirens can even break up a party that fast!

I also don’t think I’ve seen a year we’ve received as much rain as this one! As I begin to write this, it looks like a trip to Colonial Beach, VA for Bikefest 2018 could be partially soggy. It makes me wonder if there will be ANY dry days for riding and watching the leaves fall, or more filled with rain and a transition right on into snowfall.

As winter and the holiday season draw closer, I can say some of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever been given involve riding with protection against the elements. One year, my dad gave me a rain suit. With a worried look on his face, he asked me if it was too big and if I thought it would come in handy. I told him I hoped not, but it was really going to be nice to have it just in case! Naturally it has been put to good use quite often. The larger size actually works well for layering if it’s cold. Plus, we know it’s possible for gear and leather to mysteriously “shrink”, especially after all those holiday feasts!

Whether you’re looking to give or receive, another great gift item that will elevate comfort and extend the riding season into cold weather is any type of heated gear. In the past, I had tried different tips and tricks I’d heard about in an attempt to keep warm. Then, my brother gave me a pair of heated gloves, and with a gift certificate from my mom I picked up a jacket liner to go with them. Simply connect it to the battery of the bike and it feels like riding with an electric blanket wrapped around you. This turned out to be the best solution for me, and really works to keep the ride pleasant enough to stay on the road when the temperatures drop lower. Particularly when that change is quicker and more sudden than expected, like during the aforementioned 5th Annual Bikefest at Colonial Beach.

The lingering effects of Hurricane/Storm Michael led a small group of us to delay the ride down by a day, not being fans of torrential downpours even with rain suits. With another look at the forecasted highs and lows and the chill of the heavy wind gusts that wouldn’t diminish for two days, I unpacked some of my lightweight clothes to make room for sweats and dug the heated gear out of the closet for the trek to the festival. Once there we made up for lost time, taking in all we could up and down the beach. Much like, as my friend Sharon described, a bunch of kids running amok at an amusement parkIMG_20181015_112206 desperate not to miss anything.

There were vendors and events to check out, foods to sample, and a steady stream of free live music all along this scenic stretch of the Potomac River. Area favorites like Blues Rebellion and Grindin’ Gears could be found at High Tides Black Pearl Tiki Bar and Dockside Restaurant, while The Artimus Pyle Band and Buckcherry took to the main stage at Town Hill during the weekend. The final day the breezes slowed, and I headed home with only occasional drizzle to deal with and a smile still on my face.

The best part of this rally was sharing the fun with good people and making memories to look back and laugh on. May Thanksgiving and Christmas be blessed with more of the same for everyone.

 

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Summer Storms On…

“The strongest of bonds very often have nothing to do with flesh. Sometimes it’s longing that yokes people together, and in ways that are not understood but still endure all things.”

That quote is from Billy Coffey’s novel, “Some Small Magic”. If you enjoy a suspenseful story with plenty of surprises, you should check it out for yourself. At the time I read it, those particular lines really stuck with me. Although the plot involves an amazing journey, the book has nothing to do with motorcycles. Yet I feel those words come close to explaining the somewhat indescribable way some riders relate to each other- the tie that binds you to kindred spirits. That connection to those fellow adventure seekers who need to ride, yearn to take to the open road on two wheels, and who can become lifelong family through those experiences. I feel thankful and blessed for the friends I’ve made through a common love of riding.

For example, over 10 years ago, I “wandered” into an online motorcycle forum where you could find tips on maintenance and other repairs. What I also found was a virtual atmosphere so much like what you have in actual bike shops that it felt like home. Not only could you find valuable technical support there, but a lot of laughter too. At one point, a couple of “regulars” opened their home to everyone for an in-person meet. Reunions with this crazy cast of characters have been held once or twice each year in different locations since.

My first chance to attend in 2007 turned out to be one of my favorite road trips, not only because of the adventure itself, but the company. I’ve thought of it often this summer because it’s been a stormy season, and that vacation involved riding through the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever encountered. While getting caught in the rain is just a part of riding, getting caught in a rain-gear penetrating, frog-strangling cloudburst is admittedly not my favorite. In this case, a deluge hit four of us as we rode the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway into New Orleans. I’m not sure what made the visibility worse, the torrential downpour or the glare coming off my white knuckles as I held onto my grips for dear life. I spent my time on that bridge praying a gust of wind wouldn’t push me and the Sportster right over the side, and that I wouldn’t run over the buddy riding in front of me because it was so hard to see. Reaching the city was a huge relief despite flooded streets. We all put our feet down in knee deep water at the first stop, exhaust pipes gurgling bubbles just under the surface! Reminiscing on that and other memories from the trip during the latest gathering with these good friends in Bryson City, NC was a highlight of my July.

Gettysburg Bike Week is another well-anticipated July event, and this year was a blast. G'burgI think Gettysburg is a place everyone should visit at some point, and when you ride why not take in the town’s history, local businesses, and welcoming atmosphere along with with thousands of others on two wheels? The roads around the area make for gorgeous rides through scenic farmland and shaded mountains, depending on the direction you choose. Cruising through the monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park is a must. The town is full of vendors and activities to investigate, as are the grounds of Battlefield Harley Davidson. Conveniently down the road from the dealership is Earle’s Inn Pub & Grille, a great place to cool down and get a burger. Head to the Allstar Events Complex for more, including the Parade of Chrome on Saturday night and live music throughout Bike Week. The 2018 Friday night lineup featured Lita Ford who put on an awesome show. I noticed she’s making the rounds at other regional venues and bike events this fall and would recommend that you catch her if you can.

Meanwhile on a hot August day, I finished collecting the marbles I need for the ABATE of MD Marble Run! This may come as a shock, but after my last stop I had to race home to get there before the gathering black clouds started leaking profusely. (I did mention it’s a stormy riding season in the Mid-Atlantic, didn’t I?) Completing the run early cleared the calendar for other events coming up in the next couple of months, but I really had fun discovering new places and meeting new folks. There’s still time to try your own luck, get a book and check out the stops on the run. Prizes will be awarded at the After Party on October 6th at the Frederick Moose Lodge. See the Frederick County, MD Chapter ABATE page on facebook or email me if you need more details. While you’re at it, send me suggestions of any good books you’ve read lately. I always like to keep something handy in case I need to sit out a rainstorm and these days it seems one could come along any minute!

S’warm out…

SUMMERTIME! Just the word evokes visions of baseball, beaches, and cookouts. It’s one of the most anticipated times of year for anyone who loves the outdoors, especially if you ride a motorcycle. Everybody revels in racking up miles on long days full of good weather, either in the mountains or down by the water. No matter where you are, it’s likely you could wind up having a run-in with the butt end of a bee. It happens. I find baking soda and water can sap the pain instantly for some bee stings, while others seem to be neutralized better with an acidic approach like lemon juice. And while it might hurt, no matter what remedy you use to soothe the ache, you could also wind up with a little comic relief too.

My buddy Earl believed in the power of tobacco when I had my first pointed encounter. He was taking me on a tour of nice roads around White Hall, Virginia. It was early in the day, still a chill in the air, but I was comfortable wearing a denim jacket over my tank top as well as a pair of lightweight gloves. At least until I felt like I’d been stabbed in my upper back with a poison-dipped ice pick. I sped up to yelp at Earl that I needed to pull over, and once stopped, I jumped off the bike and tried to get my jacket off. This turned out to be impossible since in my panic I forgot to take the gloves off first. By the time poor Earl pulled up, I resembled a deranged bobblehead doll doing the Twist on the side of the road, jacket flapping behind me stuck at my wrists.

“GET IT OUT, GET IT OUT!” I screamed, convinced that the pain in my throbbing back meant the stinger was still there, along with the bee. A laughing Earl assured me nothing was there except a small welt, and we rode down to a little country store for an ultimately unsuccessful search of baking soda. Earl insisted tobacco would help ease the pain, so as he scrounged up a band-aid from somewhere, I picked up a cheap pack of smokes and a bottle of water. He proceeded to mix some water and tobacco together and before he could bandage it over the sting, I turned for a quick peek in my side mirror. The small welt he said I had looked more like a third elbow growing out from between my shoulder blades, and he admitted he was just trying to make me feel better by downplaying the damage. The makeshift poultice didn’t make me feel much better either, and I still wonder exactly what stung me.

Another time, that telltale burning jolt hit me on my left hand as I rode through Front Royal, Va. Looking down, I was shocked to see a bee staring back at me from one of the holes on the knuckle of my glove. Worried it was alive and would sting me again, I started punching my leg and shaking my hand to get rid of the bee. When I finally swerved to a stop at a red light, I ripped off the glove to make sure the bee was gone. My friend Debbie pulled up beside me and giggled, “What the hell was that?!”

“Oh sorry… you didn’t know whether to turn left, slow down, watch for railroad tracks, or do the Hokey *^$^&# Pokey did ya? I got stung by a bee!” After a stop at a watering hole in Culpeper for refreshments and to ice down my hand for a while, (no baking soda again), the rest of the ride was very nice. Pulling the clutch was tricky for the next couple of days though as my hand resembled a softball, and I didn’t really have any knuckles to speak of.

Finally, the biggest surprise from one of these little bzztrdz came while on a road trip with 3 girlfriends to ride the Tail of the Dragon in 2006. Luckily, it didn’t occur on one of the 318 famed curves of the renowned road, because it was hard enough to keep control when it did. Once we’d finished the Tail and were pulling into a gas station parking lot in Tennessee, I suddenly felt like someone had slugged me across my stomach with a 2×4. I did manage to stop and park the bike, although all the wind had been knocked out of me. Yanking up my tee shirt, sweatshirt, and leather jacket, I discovered A YELLOW JACKET CIRCLING MY NAVEL! Frozen in place, trying to catch my breath and figure out how it got there, I watched as my friend, Linda came to the rescue. She flicked the bee away, yelling, “Did that thing just sting you?!” It sure had. I honestly don’t remember if I found any baking soda to try on that wound, but I do remember that my belly button had its own pulse for the rest of the day.

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Tail of the Dragon: pre-bee!

While I’m hoping to ride lots of bee-free miles this year, I believe a future sting is inevitable. But if the 3 strikes I’ve recalled leave me out for the rest of this season, I’m OK with that.

Accidental Timing

I’ve used this photo as the background for various lines and captions. It receives lots of compliments from those who think it’s a cool shot. So I feel like I must confess, the picture wasn’t planned. I was riding my Sportster with my camera dangling by its strap from the left handlebar. If I saw an image I wanted to capture, I simply scooped it up and shot. In this case, I got lucky. I aimed where I thought my shadow was and clicked.

The result? A different perspective.

lines

The lesson? Always have your camera nearby. You never know what memory you’ll manage to save.

via Photo Challenge: Lines

Where to?

1-Do you want to go for a ride?

2-Where to?

Luckily the answer to question 1 is almost always an immediate “yes”. However, getting an answer to question 2 can be a bit trickier. It’s similar to asking someone what they want for dinner. If you’ve ever argued with your family over that decision you probably already know what I mean. And if you are riding solo, there are still times question 2 could be hard to answer. It’s like the options become overwhelming. If you’ve ever made your closet resemble a ransacked crime scene while you argue with yourself over what to wear, you surely know what I mean! My fridge is once again getting pleasantly wallpapered with flyers to remind me of nearby events, rides, and rallies now that spring is here. However, when some free time comes along where a ride is certain but the destination is not, how do you answer the question, “Where to?” This year, I’m finding solutions as well as new roads by taking part in a season-long run.

The 2018 Marble Run, to benefit the Frederick County Chapter of ABATE of Maryland,marble run Inc., is underway and wraps up with an After Party on October 6th in Frederick. This scavenger hunt of sorts is simple: buy a book, ride to the participating locations, keep track of your marble colors in the book, have a good time at the party, and see if you win a nice chunk of gas money! While cash would be nice, I think the biggest payoff of this run is the adventures I’ll have, discoveries I make, and people I meet along the way. There are marble stops in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, some at places I already know and make a point to ride to often. Yet some are at cool spots that I didn’t even know were there. For example, I pass through the town of Lovettsville several times a year. Turns out there’s a great coffee/tea/shake shop just around the corner and off my usual route, that I might not have found out about if I hadn’t ridden there to score a marble.

In addition, it’s my opinion that anyone who rides a motorcycle should be involved with and support a motorcycle rights organization like ABATE. Are you unfamiliar with ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments)? Having been a member of the organization in three different states now, I can tell you it’s made up of a group of women and men who fight hard for our rights and freedoms as motorcycle riders. I encourage you to find out more about ABATE in your state, find a chapter meeting near you to attend, and join! If in Maryland, see www.abateofmd.org. Also, try your luck on the Marble Run for a chance to win at the After Party. There will be live music from regional classic rock favorites Special Delivery, a good time with others in our riding community, and the knowledge that you’re helping to protect our rights on the road. Because freedom isn’t free.

Can Bear-ly Wait Til Spring

“When you drive a car, it’s like watching a movie. When you ride a motorcycle, it’s like being in the movie.”

I can’t remember where I’ve heard those words, but it’s a decent analogy of the difference between riding on a motorcycle and traveling inside a vehicle. It’s not easy to describe that feeling of heightened awareness, especially to someone who’s never been on a bike. There’s more of a sense of being in the moment, and a connectedness with your surroundings when you’re in the wind as opposed to driving in something with more climate control. It all adds to the excitement of a ride and the suspense of what could happen next. Especially if a wild animal is involved.

In my last column, I mentioned a black bear sighting while riding on Skyline Drive. Here are the details of a slightly unnerving, yet awesome experience. In the summer of 2009, I rode up into the mountains with my friend Debbie to take advantage of the cooler temperatures at that elevation. I was in the lead as we enjoyed Skyline’s big sweeping curves and scenery, mostly by ourselves since it was a weekday and the traffic was light.

Our ride was interrupted when I noticed a man on a bicycle pulled over on the side of the road. While passing him, I realized he wasn’t just waving, but signaling for us to stop. When I did, he came up alongside me and asked if he could ride through with us. As I wondered exactly how fast this guy could pedal, the confusion must have shown on my face.

“There’s a bear up there, I’d just feel more comfortable going past it with you guys”, he explained. I looked where he pointed, up ahead on the mountain slope to our right. Sure enough, I saw a bear peeking out at us from the tall weeds before it lowered its head back down and was hidden from view.

Thoughts of oh, wow and cool flew through my head. I told him I understood and asked if he was ready to go. He nodded, then suddenly screamed, “NO! NO! THERE HE IS!”

I focused back on the hill to see our furry friend now lumbering down to the pavement, and that was the last I saw of the bicyclist. Don’t worry, he wasn’t attacked and eaten. I have no idea how long the bear had kept him engaged in this standoff, but that man was DONE! I caught a glimpse of him in one of my side mirrors making his escape back the way we had come. It occurred to me he probably COULD pedal fast enough to keep up with a motorcycle! With his knees pumping so quickly they became a blur, he resembled a big pink hummingbird in a helmet, and managed to whiz away in seconds.

I turned my attention back to the bear. Long and lanky, apparently an adolescent, he ambled his way onto the road in front of us. An oncoming pickup truck stopped in the other lane as the bear continued to cross in front of it. I watched in awe as it climbed up on the stone wall on our left. But instead of disappearing over it and down the side of the mountain, he turned back to face the road and sat down.

I wondered if this bear was young enough for mama to be nearby, and started to worry that if so- would she see our idling motorcycles as a couple of snarling enemies she’d need to attack in order to protect the baby? With the bear simply sitting and checking out his audience, I turned to see Debbie wearing a kid-at-Christmas-grin. Disappointed that neither of us could reach a camera quickly, we decided it was probably a good idea to get moving anyway.

Even without a picture I’ll always remember the way the bear looked as we eased by, at one point just a few yards away, keeping the bikes as quiet as we could. I hoped if it decided to chase us we’d have enough time to react and speed ahead behind the vehicles now lining up from the other direction. But it only leaned forward from its perch, head nodding and nose twitching as it sniffed at the air between us. That is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had while riding a motorcycle.

Memories are part of what makes the winter months more…well…bearable! Over the past few weeks, days that were nice enough to get out on the bike were few and far between. Spring is on the way though, full of much better riding conditions. Let’s just hope it gets here as fast as that pink hummingbird guy could.

Spring break for two…wheels

“Welcome to the Mid-Atlantic. Where you can experience more than one season within a week or even a day if you stay long enough. It’s been proven to me after living in three of the states included in this region.” 27336990_10210419491633186_6431383489963553950_n

With those words, 27164728_10210419492393205_6398459709734677277_oI’m flashing back to my thoughts on the Mid-Atlantic and erratic weather from last year right around this time. And if I go back to the year before that? I was here…whining about Parked Motorcycle Syndrome and the relief a ride on a mild winter day can bring.

So rather than go on and on about the weather and riding bikes…ah, even if it’s a bit late for that, I’ll just share some pictures to commemorate the joy of the first ride of this year…let the smirk do the work.