Rock of Ages

It’s always fun to watch my niece unwrap presents, especially when the look on her face means the gift was obviously something she really wanted. On a Christmas several years ago, she seemed thrilled as she tore festive paper away from a long metal rod. At first, I thought she was awfully happy about receiving a bicycle handlebar. I wondered whether she was simply customizing the look of her bike or if the part was a necessary replacement because of an accident. As I speculated, she slapped a cell phone on one end of this mysterious bar thingy, held it up high and took a picture of herself. Oh. So THAT’S what a selfie stick looks like. Luckily, I’d figured this out before giving away my lack of gadget expertise. If I’d suddenly asked her if she’d wrecked her bicycle, it wouldn’t have been so easy to slip back under my rock unnoticed.

I’m old enough under there to remember when simply getting pictures of anything was an adventure in itself! You could use a whole roll of film, send it away to be developed, wait a week or two and wind up with…nothing, except disappointment. Photos of blackness because the lens cap was on or there was no flash. In some unlucky cases the result was double prints of pink blobs because a finger was in the way or the people in the shot were out of focus. Those close to my age know what I mean. There are some technological advances that make life a little easier- saving time and money. Taking pictures is a good example, you know instantly if you have the shot you want. If you forget the camera, the cell phone can save you- stick or no stick.

There are other situations where my cell has come to the rescue, especially while riding my motorcycle. When rain develops, I can look at the radar image on a weather app to see if I can get out of it quickly. It makes it easier to decide if I need to find an interesting place to stop and wait for it to end, or I just have to put on rain gear and push through it. Phone navigation apps help to point myself back in the right direction if I take a wrong turn and don’t have the luxury of enough time to stay lost for a while.

my first gps
My first GPS

Yet I look back on the days of scrawling directions on my arm, no safety net of a phone, and miss that time. In many occasions now, a wireless device puts everyone on the road in more danger- namely when they are in the hands of inattentive drivers.

You’ve seen them, the texters behind the wheel who think they can stare at their phone and drive at the same time. Pretty easy to spot, usually they’re in the car in the passing lane going 10 miles an hour under the speed limit, swerving back and forth or slamming on the brakes every few seconds. They’re also the ones sitting at the light after it has turned green still staring at the cell screen. Distracted driving gets worse all the time and it’s so infuriating when I take note of how many drivers I see looking down at their phone instead of concentrating on operating their vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated- a statistic that doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously as it should. As riders I ask you to please look into supporting the motorcycle rights organization in your state. Get involved with ABATE or other groups in order to help form legislation to stop distracted driving and keep us safer on the road.

As for the tech junkies transfixed with their cell phones at all times, I don’t get it. I’m sure they probably can’t figure out why I want to jump on two wheels to ride every chance I get either. It’s hard to describe to anyone who’s never been on a bike, let alone those who don’t know life before wireless, that feeling of being present in the moment. It’s a joy I hope they’ll one day discover instead of continuing to scroll through messages and images on a flat screen. Experiencing an awareness of all my surroundings and enjoying interaction with other human beings along the way is a blessing in my life. And life under my rock is good!

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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!

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.