With those words, I’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.
I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers after 20 minutes. Knowing it was bitterly cold out, I’d piled on so many layers it seemed I could survive a Mount Everest climb. Surely I would be comfortable while walking my dog for about an hour or more, yes?
No. My half-numb hands prompted me to head back to the warmth of the house in a fraction of that time.
Just a couple days later, a surprising 65 degree January afternoon gave me the first opportunity to get out on a motorcycle this year. I only had time to take a small ride, but it left a huge smile on my face and no pained fingers. I wasn’t even wearing gloves!
Two days after that, the reminder that we are nowhere near spring came from the sky in the form of sleet.
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.
I have to say although there are sporadic bouts of weird weather, I do enjoy living in an area exposed to all four seasons. Winter months sometimes feel lengthy and bring frustration if they’re severe enough to keep me from riding or getting out. Still, with Ma Nature’s decorating skills the change in scenery every few months keep the local sights fresh.
Plus, I’m learning the necessity of downtime. How does anyone who lives where you can always go outside to play in the sun ever get anything else done? There are trips to plan, cleaning, maintenance, performance or customization work to be performed, even shopping to catch up on before the season arrives when you’ll actually need those supplies you’re buying.
For example, I discovered I have to pick up a new lifejacket for the dog of all things. I noticed last year that hers was getting tight and after taking some measurements the other night, it appears she’ll need a size larger. While she loves to swim, she’s got fur instead of fins and the buoyancy of a rock. The front floats keep her head up above water, and the handles on the back make it easy to help her into the kayak or boat if she’s not in a position to get there on her own. Safe fun for her and peace of mind for me that’s priceless when it’s time for a ride down the river.
So it’s back to my lists and inventory and plotting and…oh yeah, a confession. The other day when I rode without gloves? It wasn’t just because it was warm enough to go without, I couldn’t find my favorite pair. It had been a while since I’d used them and I forgot where I put them last!
Maybe a little get-it-done-before-it’s-spring cleaning is in order too?
I remember it was a cold December day, but somewhat sunny and the roads were clear. Overall, that meant a good chance for me to get out for a ride and to take care of some errands.
I remember bouncing into the store, jacket fringe flapping, feeling elated from getting a little time in the wind and looking forward to Christmas.
I remember checking items off my shopping list, and noticing a sale on wrapping paper. Although I usually stick with gift bags, I decided I should probably pick some of it up in case I needed it.
I remember as I paid the cashier I glanced out the window and muttered, “Oh. CRAP!”
I forgot I was on the bike. In that short amount of time, even with all the extra layers and leather I was wearing, it’d slipped my mind that I had limited cargo space.
“What’s the matter?” the clerk asked.
I told her nothing was wrong as I eyed the long pack of gift wrap and looked back out at the bike, already mentally digging through the saddle bags searching for the bungee cords I hoped were still there.
I remember how lucky I felt that I’d impulsively picked up some paper, and not the Christmas tree!
It’s the time of year to layer up. Pre-sunrise departures on the bike can be downright frigid if the overnight low still dips into the thirties. But battling that chill is well worth it to enjoy mid-seventies afternoons. Toting my layers around over the past week reminded me of how dealing with all those extra clothes can require a little strategic planning.
I remember when I first started riding and had smaller saddlebags on my Sportster. I put a third bag on the passenger seat to help me get heavier gloves, clear lenses, sweatshirts, and other gear home after work that I’d needed to wear on the way in. One day I had stopped to gas up and as I did, a motorist on the other side of the pump eyed the loaded bike and asked where I was from.
“Ten miles down the road,” I admitted with a grin. “But I’m a chick and I want to carry a lot of stuff!”
Then a few years later when I had my own office I chose to leave layers at work at the end of the day. Otherwise I’d treat parking lot spectators to the sight of me cramming everything in the bags and sitting on the tops trying to get them to close enough to buckle them shut. On rainy days or when my office started to look like a second hand clothing consignment shop, I’d take my truck to work and cart it all back home in one trip!
Today is Sunday and I have the luxury of waiting until it warms up to head out…which is now. Comfy travels!
It’s real, and thankfully it’s been somewhat alleviated at the moment.
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, a nasty head/chest cold, and more seasonal temps for winter- it had been a few weeks since I’d been on a bike. This weekend brought a surprisingly mild 50 degree day and although the skies were blue mostly due to a wild looking cloud cover, it was time to get out for a ride to shake off some of this form of PMS.
Even though the day was warmer than usual for January, it was gusty so I headed out with a heated jacket liner on under my leather and a plan to stick to smaller backroads through the woods that would be more protected from the wind.
Apparently the plan worked really well, as I was several miles out before I realized I wasn’t quite as warm as I could be. OOPS! This is the second time the toggle switch for my heated gear has slipped between the tank and my thigh where it’s squished to the off position without my knowing. Happily it’s a quick fix but if I’m going to continue to cheat Mother Nature and extend riding time when it’s cold by using the liner, I’ve got to figure out some solution to rig that up and out of the way!
Of course the sense of euphoria that comes over you as you get going if you haven’t ridden in a while is quite warming also! It’s what causes a satisfied sigh seconds after you’ve reached top gear. Since you don’t meet as many other riders on the road, it’s also what can make you go from a casual nod of the head to acknowledge each other to throwing an arm out in a wave that resembles a goody-goody school kid begging the teacher to call on them too!
And it’s what eases some of the symptoms of Parked Motorcycle Syndrome, for maybe a few days anyway.
I mentioned last month, how we treasure days late in the year that are mild enough for pleasant rides. We were treated to another today.
In the past two years since I moved north of the Mason Dixon we had seen plenty of snow by this point. Although we are now just weeks away from Christmas, this December’s temps remain mild and it feels like spring even as I hum carols in my head and check out decorations in the yards along my route.
As I putted along this afternoon, I recalled past rides in colder weather and remembered something I wrote about 10 years ago to send to a newsletter. They were asking for submissions about riding in winter and the following was my response…
On summer days my brother and I would spend long hours in the river behind our farmhouse. We were playing in the same water our parents would chill a whole watermelon in to have for dessert that night. Even with blue lips and chattering teeth, we were reluctant to leave that cold mountain water when called inside for dinner. Some activities are just too much fun to let a little chill get to you. Now that I’m an adult, those activities have come to include riding my Harley all year long.
I’m usually greeted with the same surprised looks and questions from colleagues concerning my sanity when I ride to work on a winter morning. Some people prefer coffee. I’ll take a brisk, eye-opening putt to start my day anytime. Sure, I’d rather be riding on a warm day with the sun shining on my bare shoulders. However, rolling through an afternoon in December can be just as intoxicating. Where pockets of perfume from wildflowers or curing hay might be in hotter months, I now find myself tilting my face to sniff at a trace of smoke from a chimney. Or while passing a lumberyard, I breathe deep so I won’t miss the cinnamon-like fragrance lingering in the air.
So far this winter we’ve had one snowfall and two ice storms. The result was an agonizing two weeks off of two wheels waiting for the roads to clear. The reunion with my bike was sweet. Heading out of town meant making my way through intersections littered with the sand/gravel mix melted precipitation had left behind, as well as cars full of wide-eyed stares. But after a few minutes, the payoff stretched out ahead of me in the form of a pleasantly empty and familiar country road. Parts of the asphalt usually completely darkened in summer are now striped with the shadows of sleeping trees. Darting through the alternating flashes of sun and shade creates a strobe light effect. It’s enough to make the kid in anyone wave a hand in front of their face to see it in slow motion. And so I do, until I find myself giggling hard enough to make tears squeeze out of my eyes. Maybe it’s just the freezing wind in my face. Or maybe I’m simply overcome with the reminder that I’m living a dream, fulfilling my wish to ride my own motorcycle.
Moments like this, though intangible, are one of life’s greatest gifts. A treasure that can always be held close through memory and can never be taken away. I allow the sound of the engine to lull me into nothing more than the present, and lose myself in the peace of following a strip of charcoal grey through fields of white glitter.
When the cold finally seeped into my gloves enough to be noticed, I headed home stopping for gas along the way. By the time I filled the tank, my hands had warmed up and I couldn’t resist a couple more miles rumbling slowly through neighboring suburbs looking at Christmas lights. Once home, I parked the bike and was grateful to have put one less non-riding day in my year. To me, that means winter is one day shorter, spring is that much closer, and my spirit is infinitely higher.
So if you’re in an area where it’s possible to ride but you feel like time spent getting dressed will exceed time spent on your bike, go for it anyway. And take my advice, skip the treat of an icy slab of watermelon upon your return home. Indulge in a hot toddy instead!