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.

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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.

 

Shenandoah Valley Biketoberfest

You know you’ll need to dig out some extra layers to wear for an upcoming ride, maybe unearth some gloves you haven’t used in months, when the wind gusts so bad overnight the ruckus wakes you up. At least that’s what happened to me on the last day of September. Fall had apparently arrived with a rattle of the windows, and quite a change in high temps from the summer-like week before. Although it stayed breezy, it was a sunny, gorgeous afternoon for a quick ride into Virginia. The plan was to meet up with friends and check out the inaugural Shenandoah Valley Biketoberfest, a benefit for the Northern Virginia Veterans Association.

As soon as I shut off the bike at the Warren County Fairgrounds near Front Royal, I could hear a band covering AC/DC. Taking that as a sign I was in the right place, I headed through the gate. Live music continued throughout the festivities thanks to regional favorites Sons of Liberty, the Rusty Highway Band, and Southern Governor. fairgroundsA number of local vendors lined the perimeter of the grounds with a variety of goods on display, the beer was cold, and food trucks served up plenty of tasty eats to keep everyone happy. Not only was a good time had by all, the success of the fundraiser meant thousands of dollars went to an organization that helps veterans.

This first SVB originated when members of Dubhgealach MC decided to host an event that would profit a good cause, the vendors and businesses in the area where it was held, and highlight the financial force of motorcyclists. Club founder Badger explained that they chose to support NOVA Veterans Association because of the percentage of assistance that goes directly to vets. The association networks to make sure veterans receive the care and benefits they’re due especially when considering the amount of sacrifice made by those who serve. He credits the MC community as a whole with the success of the function, and predicts the event will be even bigger next fall. Check out the Shenandoah Valley Biketoberfest page on Facebook, and to our military veterans THANK YOU! You are so appreciated not just when honored this Veterans Day, but all year.

MAWMR or Bust

How is it something cyclical like the passing of time can suddenly seem so sped up? I mean as far as I know the rhythm of an hour is still sixty minutes, there are twenty-four hours in a day, and a week consists of seven days. Yet the summer weeks seem to be rolling by at full throttle. Maybe it has something to do with the weird weather this year; eighty degree days in March, cold rain in May- our seasonal context clues were a bit mixed up and it was July before we knew it! Or maybe it’s simply that time truly does fly when we’re having fun. Fall promises to be busy as well with October just a short trip straight ahead. Not only will the leaves start to turn shades of red, orange, and gold, you’ll notice pink popping up everywhere.

That’s because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just as we hope drivers will watch out for us on the road all the time and not just in May when it’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, I hope this cancer is something you’re on guard against for more than 31 days out of the year. Some don’t have a choice, it’s always on their mind as they fight to beat it. For others, it seems like advice on what age to start or how often to have screening tests varies. With breast cancer in my family history, I faithfully grit my teeth and go in for the tata-flattening vise of a mammogram annually. If you haven’t experienced one, it’s not THAT bad. I do have to confess I won’t look down though in case seeing the pale crepe that used to be the right or left boob might shake my resolve to keep rescheduling! Nah-I wouldn’t stop practicing a little self maintenance, but it is nice when the opportunity comes along to fight cancer AND have a good time instead.

In June, I was ready for a reunion with a group of good girlfriends/old riding buddies. This year we chose to get together during the 25th annual Mid-Atlantic Women’s Motorcycle Rally, or MAWMR. IMG_20170802_222028 (1)The ladies that organize this rally do so not only to give women the opportunity to meet others who love to ride, it’s a fundraising event to help women who are victims of cancer. There are two Pennsylvania-based charities that benefit from MAWMR: Help for Oncology Problems & Emotional Support, or H.O.P.E., and the Pink Out Women’s Cancer Fund. This time the festivities were held in Front Royal, Virginia, a place that’s always given me the impression of being biker-friendly. A feeling that was reinforced on this trip when I got to the area and someone spotted me checking my tires at a convenience store air pump. He ran over to warn me that he thought the gauge was off on the machine and more air is pumped in than it reads. I kept my own pressure gauge I was using as backup hidden in my hand and simply thanked him
for his trouble. I’ve never trusted the accuracy of these parking lot contraptions, just consider myself lucky when they’re working at all and it’s a bonus if they’re free to use! Then it was on to MAWMR!

The hospitable vibe continued once I arrived, not only from the organizers and attendees of the rally but from the hotel staff. And as it turned out, the Mayor of Front Royal was set to lead the Parade of Chrome that weekend as part of the event. MAWMR consisted of another few days  that seemed to spin by quickly and offered up lots of adventures, like taking advantage of riding great area roads, (Skyline Drive IS right there). You could opt to park your bike to go on a river tubing excursion or take to the air on a zip line tour. 2017 also brought us games, themed parties, vendors, workshops, and inspiring post-dinner talks from Ursula Wachowiak, Tamela Rich, and Danell Lynn. Sound like your cuppa? While different Mid-Atlantic states have hosted the rally in the past, it will be in the same month and town next spring. See mawmr.org for more information and pictures.

And as far as breast cancer goes, don’t just assume guys are excluded. I have to admit I didn’t realize male breast cancer existed until as recently as ten years ago, when Peter Criss revealed he was a survivor. (If you’re not a fellow KISS fan, he’s the original drummer aka Catman.) Statistically, a very small percentage of men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, while the wet-tee contest winning bust might not be there, breast tissue is. If a lump ever forms or any other unusual changes become apparent, it’s better to be safe and have it checked out than to ignore it. So, EVERYBODY take care- on and off the road! That way no matter how fast the cycle of seasons seems to be moving, we’re up for spending the time on our motorcycles.