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.

‘Tis the Season to be Soggy?

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 parkIMG_20181015_112206 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.

 

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

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.

Into each road some mud must fall?

A light rain fell all morning during my niece’s recent lacrosse tournament. While the mist didn’t seem to dampen any of the players’ spirits, it did manage to turn the fields used as parking lots for the event into slimy mud pits. “Look at this mess,” my boyfriend muttered as he maneuvered the SUV back onto the slick road to leave. I have to admit I was relieved not to be on two wheels that day, even as my mind wandered down a very slippery memory lane to another time when I was.

It happened during an impromptu ride to explore the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Vacation in the summer of 2009 was supposed to consist of a group road trip to Kentucky to reunite with a bunch of friends. You know how plans go sometimes…they don’t. With only about a week left before the departure date, a few of the participants had to cancel, a few decided to reschedule for later, and that left me and my friend Debbie with time off from work and a need for Plan B. We started naming places we hadn’t been yet, but wanted to visit, and agreed on Chincoteague as our destination.

10400395_1154151489469_8077770_n
Cuddling with Lightning of Chincoteague

We had a blast; over and through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, straight to Chincoteague to find a place to stay and check out the town, then on to continue our adventure by heading south and making stops in places off route 13 that had captured our interest on the way up. During one break in Onley, imagine our surprise to discover a bike rally was just getting started nearby. We checked into a hotel, then rode over to the event grounds to investigate. We met some great folks and found out the schedule for the weekend included games, wrestling matches, bands, and vendors. We also learned camping space was available and while we hadn’t brought any supplies, we could rent a tent from the organizers. We took them up on that when we returned the next afternoon, especially considering bottomless mugs o’ beer would be available throughout the rally.

It was so much fun I really didn’t pay much attention to the on-again, off-again showers throughout that night. I didn’t really think about the rain until the next morning when I ventured out of the tent looking for coffee. I was distracted by a bit of commotion at the lone entrance/exit to the rally site, as those attempting to leave slipped, slid, and wiped out on their bikes in the mud. It was like watching some sort of bizarre biker rodeo game going horribly wrong. Wet weather had taken its toll on the short driveway from the road onto the soaked property. The event organizers had tried to help fix the problem by spreading shells and gravel across what was becoming a huge mire, but too much traffic had come and gone leaving deep trenches of glop to try to navigate through. As I stood there, another rider made it through the muck at the gate only to flop over on the road, and I cringed at the sound of chrome scraping pavement. Then I noticed a vendor we’d met during the previous night’s live music waving me over closer to the action.

“Ain’t this a mess?! Me and most of the other vendors with RVs and trailers have sank down into the field and are waiting on trucks to come pull us out. I’ve been watching this all morning, and here’s what you gotta do to get out of here.”

I paid attention as he explained we’d have to approach the gate from left to right. He pointed out the track most riders were following to find success in staying upright, and told me to approach the gate almost parallel to the opening to stay where the mud was the shallowest. He warned that we would have keep heading right once we were on the road, because a thin layer of mud had been smeared up onto the surface. That coating was hard to see, like black ice. He’d seen many make the mistake of thinking they were good to go once they reached the asphalt, only to roll on the throttle and have the bike shimmy out from under them. Aha, that’s how the peg-crunching topple I’d witnessed a bit earlier had happened. It was now understood that not only would we have to head off in the wrong direction, we’d have to ride far enough to reach bare pavement to keep from taking a spill in a U-turn, and pass over the film of mud again to point ourselves home. I thanked him for the tips, and went to fill Debbie in on the details.

“This has the potential to suck,” I announced.

“What’s the matter, are you afraid you’ll drop your bike?”

“No, I’m afraid if I drop it there’s no way to get any footing or leverage for me or anyone to lift it back up.”

I finished packing my bike with disturbing visions of it on its side in ankle-deep sludge flashing through my head. I could just imagine a half-dozen well-meaning people trying to help me upright it. And instead, we’d all wind up in a Woodstock-inspired, grime-coated pseudo game of Twister on a motorcycle instead of the usual multi-colored gumball-stamped mat.

Finally, we were ready to try and make our escape. We putted our bikes around to the left side of the gate and paused to watch a rider with his dog in a sidehack ease his way through the exit. A guy waiting for someone to come tow his camper out yelled, “Good luck, honey!” I thanked him and then tuned in to hear my inner voice chanting:
NOSUDDENMOVESNOSUDDENMOVESNOSUDDENMOVES, as we slowly squiggled, wiggled, and painstakingly churned our way to solid ground. Once I was sure I was on dry pavement, I glanced back to see Debbie still following, and thankfully still vertical. We turned our bikes around, and carefully crossed the slimy patch of road in front of the gate to start the ride home.

A couple of days after that we rode up on Skyline Drive and encountered a black bear, but that’s a story on its own for another time. No matter what jogs your memory, here’s hoping you can reminisce on beautiful rides and laugh at the stickier situations. And as you look back at the old year and anticipate what the new one will bring on this strange trip of life, my wish is that you’ll find more smiles than tears. Cheers and Happy New Year!

Saddle Soar

I headed to the refrigerator the other day to grab a cold one, and it occurred to me things were looking a little bare. Not INSIDE the fridge, that was well-stocked with plenty of food and drinks. It was the OUTSIDE that seemed to be a bit sparse for some reason. Then I realized that a few months ago, I was sticking flyer after flyer of rides and events I wanted to go to on the side of the refrigerator as a way of saving the dates. Now those happenings have come and gone in a flash of fun, the handouts have come down, and the magnets on the fridge are looking lonely! Guess it’s time to check the calendars for the upcoming weeks and do some planning.

One rally I look forward to each September is OC BikeFest/Delmarva Bike Week. goofin off 2012There’s plenty to do which makes it easy to find something to suit your mood. You can get wild and crazy at any number of cool places, or wild and quiet by checking out the feral horses a quick ride away at Assateague. I’ve seen a lot of awesome concerts there, and I think this year promises more with Kix and Lynyrd Skynyrd in the lineup. In addition to the live shows, I’ve had a great time in Ocean City along with my boyfriend at past rallies. We’ve seen the sun rise over coffee, walking on the beach, and the celebration the sunset becomes when watching it synchronized with music at Fagers Island. But a favorite shared memory actually happened after we’d left the oceanfront and were on our way home.

He was on his Road King, and back then I was riding my Sportster. We left the beach very early that morning, between that and the fact you never know what the weather will be like each year, it was a chilly ride home. On what we figured was the final fuel stop, we decided warming up with some coffee was in order before wrapping up the last hour of the trip. As we stood next to the bikes treating ourselves to that dose of caffeine, a man came over from a nearby van to chat with us. He admitted he had always wanted to ride a motorcycle, but had a disability he felt made it too unsafe. He was the driver of the van however, turns out it was a church group out of North Carolina made up of mostly older folks. While we talked, the van passengers started filtering back to the vehicle from the gas station to join the conversation.

After a few ladies asked me questions about how it was to ride by myself and what I wear to keep warm, one of them wanted to know if she could pose next to my bike for a picture.

“Sure, you can sit of them if you wa-“

That was all it took, before I could warn them about hot parts or anything they were off as if afraid we’d change our minds. It was like watching a few dozen elderly transform into a wild pack of kindergarteners set loose on a jungle gym for the first time. We juggled cameras thrown at us, taking picture after picture as they scrambled on and off the bikes squealing, laughing, and striking poses. Finally, once everyone had their turn and the chaos fizzled out, we parted ways as they all waved frantically while we rode off. Much later, as we reminisced about our vacation, we realized that in the middle of the parking lot confusion neither of us had taken pictures of them with our OWN cameras.

I regret that oversight,fagers island sunset 2012 but the memory works to the front of my mind a few times a year, especially around OC Bike Week. It brings a smile to my face as big as the ones we saw on them that day, joy as contagious as theirs continues to lift my spirit. And that’s my kind of post-ride saddle “soar”.