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 park 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.
“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. I 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!
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.
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.