A memory of the beer drinkin’ hell raisin’ kind…

I try to be an easygoing, roll-with-the-punches type of person. It makes life a lot easier, taking any disappointments in stride and finding new opportunities through them. But finding out there won’t be an official Ocean City Bike Week 2020 blindsided me. You know the look on a kid’s face when they drop their ice cream on the sand-coated boardwalk after only one lick? Yep, it stings like that because I’d hoped the rally was scheduled late enough in this surreal year that it would escape the covid closings. While there are still plenty of scenic and fun places to go in that area, it was the band lineup that had me really looking forward to the event this year. Some of the acts will carry over to next September, some won’t. So…time to regroup, eliminate the whining noise coming from my mental engine, and indulge in a fun flashback from OC BikeFest 2019.

When you’re riding, it’s easy to come around a curve to find yourself dealing with something unexpected. Sometimes these surprises are nerve-wracking, maybe gravel or a critter in the road. Sometimes you’re shocked with something awesome like a scenic overlook. In this case, I was on two feet instead of wheels. It started under the big tent at the Inlet where we’d staked out a spot at a makeshift spool table with two other couples. Cheap Trick had finished their set, and people were packing in elbow to elbow for ZZ Top. It would be another hour and a half before they got started, and I realized I wouldn’t make it without an empty and a refill.

I told my boyfriend I was heading out to the bathroom and would grab a couple of beers on the way back. He looked around at the thickening crowd and kissed me stating it was, “in case I never see you again”. I laughed at that, took note of a few markers that might help me find my way back, and started bobbing and weaving my way through the throng of fellow rally goers. Aiming for one of the tent openings, I hunched down and slithered along trying not to annoy anyone when suddenly, I hit a clearing…literally. Once I broke into open air, I accidentally launched into someone. My left cheek came into contact with someone’s shoulder, the corner of my eye scraping across…sequins?

Sequins indeed, I turned to see a sparkling black jacket, long beard, sunglasses, and a Nudu beanie hat. I’d rammed my face into Billy Gibbons himself. As I realized I’d inadvertently crashed a VIP ZZ Top meet and greet, I looked forward to discover a small crowd of people taking pictures of one of their musical heroes. And I have to wonder if I’m in some of those shots, a shocked photo-bomber looking equally awestruck and thoroughly embarrassed. Sorry ‘bout that! Luckily I was able to find my way back to my own sharp dressed man again. Admittedly, it was after emerging at another spool table a few feet in the wrong direction where I realized, “oops…wrong people”. But ultimately, we got to enjoy the concert together. Although plans have changed for the next vacation, I’m sure it will be another great one: wrong turns, pleasant surprises and all!

Elusive N spot and other quirks…

If I’m not out riding, I like living vicariously and reading about the experiences of others on their adventures. Foster Kinn is a biker/author whose outlook and stories I enjoy. He does a great job at highlighting funny or unique interactions with people he meets while on the road. Check out his book, Freedom’s Rush: Tales from The Biker and The Beast, as well as his FB page for yourself to see what I mean. A particular observation he made a couple of years ago stuck with me, because it’s hilariously accurate:

“Saw about a dozen and a half bikers pull into a gas station. After watching them stop at the pumps, start up their bikes and ride to the front of the convenience store, stop, then fire up their bikes again and take off, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most time consuming activity bikers engage in is finding neutral.”  -Kinn

I might not have understood how funny his comment is, if it didn’t turn out to be true when trying to get the Heritage into neutral. I think of it as this bike’s particular quirk. Once I’ve come to a complete stop with the bike still running, forget about finding neutral. It’s a waste of time unless I kill the engine first. That leaves me with a just a quick opportunity to shift into neutral as I’m coasting in, before I put my feet down.

I didn’t have this issue with my last bike, the Sportster. Neutral was always easy to find, but there were other little problems to deal with, lovingly or otherwise. The most annoying quirk developed on a soggy return from Myrtle Beach Bike Week. At the time, I still lived in Virginia and what should have been a somewhat quick seven hour blast up the interstate turned into a much longer ordeal.  With no rain in the forecast, I’d headed back early in the morning along with a friend. As we approached the South Carolina/North Carolina border, what we thought was a short thunderstorm hit. We’d hoped to wait it out at a fast food place, but the weatherman’s notoriety at being wrong rang true once again, and it turned out this shower was in to linger for a while. The constant soaking on the ride up through the state of North Carolina wreaked havoc with my turn signals.

At some point, I realized my left turn signal was blinking and wouldn’t cut back off. When I hit the switch on the right side, they both stayed on. I figured letting them run as hazards would be less confusing to the drivers around us, and added a bonus visibility to traffic coming up from behind. So we continued north, our own little 2 bike, flashing yellow parade. Once home, a mechanic buddy went through the lighting system and fixed it. We thought so anyway. The next time I was caught in rain, the blinker came on again. And the next time I washed it, blinking! After a while, I didn’t even have to get the bike wet for the flashing to start again. If it rained, the left signal turned on and would continue for a few days. Another friend went through the wiring, and couldn’t find anything wrong. It was a quirk I came to deal with, and plan my state inspections around as I knew it would never pass if there had been recent rain!

I’ve come to think of these quirks as something that makes riding interesting, and even makes the bike more endearing to the rider. After all, don’t we encounter quirks with our friends, family, and significant others? As far as people go you’ll find loud ones, squirrely ones, those that are hard to kick into gear, and those who are full speed ahead all the time. I love them and am thankful they love me too, quirks and all!

 

Priceless Souvenir

We’ve all experienced the symptoms: sluggish body, nausea, an ache in the chest, tearful eyes. Only in this case it’s not the flu, a hangover, or a bad breakup. It’s returning to work after going out to lunch on a gorgeous day. Walking away from your motorcycle when what you really want to do is fire it back up and ride the rest of the afternoon away. One such day, knowing it’s hard to make a quiet and unnoticeable escape on a Harley, I dragged my feet back inside the workplace. As if proving that riders are more conspicuous than other commuters, a woman in the elevator glanced at the helmet in my hand and said, “I like your bike!” She went on to explain that the day before, she’d left the building with another female coworker. “We heard this motorcycle coming through the parking lot and looked up and it was you! A WOMAN on this big ol’ bike…and we were so proud!” It brightened the rest of my workday considerably, even if she didn’t realize it. Funny how a simple comment or gesture can lift another’s spirit, whether you are on the giving or receiving end. Recently, performing a random act of kindness WHILE on that longed-for road trip left me with a priceless souvenir.

We were on our way to OC Bikefest for a much-needed vacation. Rather than take my bike this year, I opted to snuggle in behind my boyfriend. I’ve had friends say it looks strange when they see me on the back of a motorcycle, but I’ve never taken the “M” endorsement on my driver’s license to mean “man-free zone”. I love being in the wind, whether on my own, or sharing the experience. The ability and freedom of choosing how I ride is a gift I’m always thankful for! As we came to a crawl approaching the Bay Bridge toll plaza, I looked around to check out the bikes of other riders also headed to Ocean City. We passed one particular couple riding tandem and they caught my eye because they appeared to be a father/teenage-daughter duo. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was their first trip together and thought about what awesome memories they would make. My own father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s this year, so I find myself reminded daily of how truly precious a memory can be.

Realizing we were edging closer to one of the toll booths, I started digging cash out of my pocket. As we finally approached a window, I heard a bike pull up behind us. Glancing back I was pleasantly surprised to see it was the twosome I’d noticed before. I handed enough money to the attendant for two bikes to cover our fee as well as theirs, and we were off to maneuver through the rest of the bottleneck. Before everyone made their way back to open road and once again got up to speed, I turned back to smile at the pair. The teen’s face lit up with a big grin and she gave a shy wave as her dad looked up and mouthed a thank you. The expression on her face made my day, leaving me with a huge grin of my own the rest of the way to the beach. Having to concentrate on the road, my boyfriend missed most of that exchange. When I described it to him later, I told him the feeling it left me with made that $4.00 toll the best money I’d spend our whole vacation. It’s definitely a highlight of the trip I’ll always remember.

Now, November brings with it a couple of introspective holidays for me: Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for our Vets and the sacrifices they make to protect the cherished freedoms we have. And each year I grow even more grateful for the time I am able to enjoy with my loved ones. Please keep Veterans, family and friends, and even complete strangers in mind when you are inspired to commit a random act of kindness. You’ll be glad you did- paying it forward is such a great gift not only to others, but also to yourself.

“Mid-Atlantic! Where the wind comes sweepin’ down both lanes…….”

As motorcycle riders we all love to be “in the wind”. Lately that phrase seems to take on a whole new meaning. Last year around this time, heading out for a ride involved constantly dodging raindrops. Now it seems like every other week I’m trying to stay upright in extremely heavy wind gusts. Unfortunately, this weather usually coincides with the garbage collection schedule once or twice a week, which leads to an annoying round of the how-many-houses-away-will-the-trashcan-be-today game. I don’t remember all these high wind warnings and advisories occurring as frequently or violently in the past. Actually before I got my own bike, I really didn’t consider how much the wind could affect a ride. It didn’t take long to learn that lesson.

I’d only been riding my own for a few months and was still on my first bike, a light little Suzuki Savage 650. When I met up with a buddy for a scenic ride in the country, he mentioned that the forecast for the afternoon was windy. We decided to head out anyway and although I don’t remember what speed the gusts were that day, I do recall feeling like the wind could blast me off the road or into the lane of oncoming traffic. At our first stop my friend asked how I was doing. Trying to keep my voice from shaking, I told him I didn’t mean to be melodramatic but I was truly scared of the wind pushing me into losing control of the bike. It was a huge relief when he reassured me that even with a heavier bike and more riding experience, he wasn’t comfortable either. Luckily, the breezes slowed throughout a lunch break and had gotten much more manageable before it was time to head home.

Several years and another bike later, I was again caught by surprise on a blustery afternoon. This time, the ride to work on my Sportster had been relaxing. The return home however, was quite a different story thanks to unexpected gusts from 45 to 50 mph. I tried to stick to the backroads in the woods where there was a little more shelter. Inevitably, a break in the tree line would send me out into the open again to be walloped with another gale. I weebled and wobbled for a good 30 minutes, wondering part of the time if the driver of the van behind me was going to call the police and report me as a suspected DWI! Laughing about it afterwards at a local bike night, a bunch of friends teased me and said I probably wouldn’t like riding in the plains or flat parts of Texas. One buddy reminisced about a day-long trip he’d taken, spending the whole time leaning into the wind almost sideways to keep from being blown away. I can’t imagine.

Still, I dream of eventually getting the opportunity to take a cross country trip- different weather included as it’s part of the adventure of different sights. This season, to one extreme or another I’m sure we’ll get lots of practice riding in all kinds of conditions here closer to home. Practice makes perfect? I’d say any ride makes for practice that IS perfect!