Weather Or Not To Ride

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It’s funny, winter comes around about the same time every year. We even have the early warning system derived from trees shedding their leaves. I know it isn’t an alarm or flashing lights but these leaves need to fall a little louder to the ground. They pile up and blow around signaling the coming of winter, but somehow it goes unnoticed to the motorcyclist in me. It’s this time of year when cold, blustery days start creeping in with excited weathermen and women telling us to be prepared. Even the dedicated weather channels start airing episodes depicting blizzards and freezing rain and the cause and effects of temperature change.

Cold temps can be tough enough to ride in, but when you just add water, in the form of rain sleet and snow, it brings us to a parked bike and a closet full of gear.

But the one detail left coming from the lips of said meteorologists is the affect is has on those of us who ride motorcycles. Cold temps can be tough enough to ride in, but when you just add water, in the form of rain sleet and snow, it brings us to a parked bike and a closet full of gear. Not to mention all the hopes and dreams of someday riding again. It just didn’t sound right to say “with the wind blowing through my hair again.”

So how do you break the bad news to a guy like me that the weather will make it dangerous to ride? First and foremost, don’t sound excited that bad weather is coming. This may be your line of work and I know at times it can be boring, but I like boring. Boring lets me get outside to ride. Secondly, be honest. Tell me it’s coming but give me hope. Hope that one day the sun will shine and the temperature will be above 20 degrees. And thirdly, be accurate. There is no honor in telling me lies. I know it’s hard to predict the weather but if we combine the room full of radar and computer programs you have at work with maybe a peak out the window we might get it right. Let’s recap – contain your excitement, be honest with me and be accurate.

One more thing, let’s get our local meteorologists interested in motorcycling. Maybe this will take the sting out of the cold weather forecast. At least then I would know we were in this together.

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My Little Piece of Asphalt

 

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As I sit here looking out the window at the rain falling, I have to ask myself why I didn’t ride to work today. I won’t melt, right? Although the high temperature today will be around 50 degrees, the rain just makes you feel colder. But as I’ve said before, I ride motorcycles so why not today? After all, I have all the gear I need for days just like this.

I believe riding bikes differs from driving a car in one particular way; There is a certain amount of mental preparedness that goes into riding a motorcycle. Some days we can’t wait to ride, other days we just do it without thinking as it comes natural, and then there are days when we have to “feel” it. Today, I didn’t feel it. Mentally I wasn’t prepared to get suited up and ride in.

One obvious downside to riding on a day like today is your bike gets filthy. Not just dirty, but the kind of grime that takes hours to clean. I’m okay with that and it usually doesn’t bother me knowing I’ll have some time invested in getting the bike back to its shiny self.

It comes back to just not feeling like I should be out there amongst the traffic, fighting for my little piece of asphalt in a world full of pavement-hogs. Did I make the right decision? Yes. Do I wish after getting to work I would have ridden? Yes. Tomorrow is a new day and I’m promised by the local weatherman it will be sunny. I’m holding him to it.

Some of my best and most memorable rides have been in the rain. Warm rains and even some that weren’t so warm have followed me to my destination. I don’t know what it is about riding down the highway in the rain, looking at the motorists looking at me like I’m crazy, dry (mostly) and comfortable with little concern about the weather at all. We spend a lot of time avoiding the rain whether we’re just walking outside or planning for a ride that maybe we should just relax and enjoy it. After all it’s only water and we won’t melt – or so I’m told.

Riding in the rain isn’t for everyone and especially in the fall when the temperature can change things up. For a guy who didn’t ride in today, just listen to me. I should have taken my own advice and put my rain gear on and sucked it up. I ride motorcycles, remember?

Running Out of Rain

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If you could have heard the song playing in my helmet on my rainy ride to work this morning, it would have sounded like a broken record skipping along repeating the same verse over and over. All too often we bikers get something stuck in that helmet of ours and it takes miles to shake it loose. I know it’s not that unusual to be riding down the road taking in the sites and humming a tune, but do we always get to pick the tune? Is there some deeper reason a lyric or song gets stuck in our head? The song stuck in my head this morning was Gary Allan’s “Every Storm,” and not just because I was riding into the rain. But when you think about it, every storm will run out of rain. Just not soon enough for a biker.

Being the avid motorcyclist, I’m always prepared for days like this, and when the weatherman talks percentages for rain, he really should mention the odds. Like your odds of rain in comparison to not having a rain suit with you. Your odds of ever seeing rain go down considerably after investing in a quality rain suit. Much like the odds of running out of gas near a gas station. This will always happen at the furthest point from civilization as possible.

Just like every song you hear, there are deeper meanings involved. It’s always up to the listener how words will be translated and how it will apply to you specifically, and to me this song is all about how vulnerable we are in this world and as life sets you back, it’s a matter of holding your head up knowing there are better days ahead. We can’t live our life waiting for the weather to get better; instead, we must go out in whatever weather is surrounding us and push through it. Some days it feels like you can’t win as the storm rages around you, but this storm, like the storms before it, will end and the sun will come out again. Very important words for a guy who rides a motorcycle.

As random as the weather can be, we can also be surprised by the winds of change as our lives take turns unexpectedly. We should always know this is temporary and even if there is damage and destruction surrounding us after the storm we will see the sun again. We don’t forget, we just move past. The lyric that stands out to me in this song is how we all have thorns. Below the surface of something as beautiful as the rose, you may experience a little pain. We all experience a few thorns over the course of our lifetime, but it’s the beauty of the rose we remember – not the pain of a thorn or two.

I’m a fan of Gary Allan. From the surface his music is a little dark and for good reason. To know where this darkness comes from is important to understand the emotion which comes through in every word he sings. And with that I was humming along with the words silently being sung in my head. I don’t mind riding in the rain as some of my most memorable rides happened on days just like this. I wonder what song will be playing in my head on the ride home…

 

Bits of Memories

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Have I ridden down this road before? It looks familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Some of the scenery looks the same and it just feels like I’ve been down it before, but who knows? Maybe I’ve been on this road before and the reason it’s not quite familiar is I came from the other direction. Yeah, that’s it. Or is it?

Riding a motorcycle puts us in these places all the time and even driving around with your window down can have the same effect on you. People, places, sounds, sights and smells – pretty amazing isn’t it? A quick whiff of a certain smell can bring back a flood of memories. In the blink of an eye you are transported to a place back in time with thoughts and conversations as clear as if it just happened yesterday. It could be a word or phrase a friend always said to remind us of tall tales and laughter that would never end. It’s crazy to think that a trigger like that can be so powerful – but it’s only if you are paying attention. It happens all the time I’m sure, but with the daily distractions, we don’t have time to process it or recognize it when it presents itself. How great would it be to catch each and every one as it happened and for that brief moment remember “the good times.”

It can be as simple as passing an alfalfa field that is ready to cut. You pass by this field of alfalfa for days on end, and then all of a sudden you see the bluish purple hue and realize it is ready to bail. When I see something like that, as insignificant as it may seem, it takes me back to a time when living in the moment was so very important and my eyes and ears were open. It has always stayed with me and for that I’m grateful, because the connection between that moment in time and an alfalfa field today means a lot to me. The smell of a skunk takes me back to being a kid laying in bed late at night during the summer with my head next to the open window in my room. For those that can’t remember, there wasn’t always air-conditioning. The clear bottle of Miller High Life Beer takes me to 1982 and hanging out with friends Mark, Tim and Randy from around the Flush, Kansas area. Good times with good friends and good beer. The “event” or memory is one thing, but there is always something within the memory that starts you thinking back to when, where or who was there. There was a time when Valentino’s Pizza in Manhattan Kansas had gum stuck to their sign twenty feet in the air. Who knew it would stick when I threw it? Every time I think of Valentino’s, it reminds me of that night.

Maybe it’s the taste of homemade ice cream or the smell of the aftermath when a firecracker goes off. The sound of rain and thunder, a train whistle or the wind blowing through the trees. And of course anything your grandmother made in the kitchen can put you right back there standing on the chair next to her. I’m sure slamming your finger in a car door won’t take you there, but the song on the radio that was playing just before you got out will. You would think living in the same small town I grew up in would be sensory overload and yes, there are plenty of things that can stop you in your tracks and cause you to reflect on a memory, but in some instances, it becomes the normal and those memories become engrained in you to the point of seeing things in the light in which they were originally cast. My mind’s eye still sees things the way they were when it comes to White City, and not knowing if that’s a good or bad thing, but it is what it is. If the light is just right, and you squint with your good eye, this small town hasn’t changed a bit. From what I’m told, White City has a train go by every hour or so, blowing its whistle. I’m sure it does, but I don’t hear the whistle any more. It must be my mind’s ear is not listening.

So wait for it. It will happen today as it happened yesterday. Those triggers that bring back even the smallest bits of memories. Good or bad memories for sure, but either way memories all the same.

“And Then the Rain Came”

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“And then the rain came.”
Motorcycles and rain…makes you think, doesn’t it? Like a boat without a trailer and Ramen Noodles without that little packet of brown stuff-something’s just not right. Motorcycles, with their lack of all-weather protection, just aren’t for everyone. There is plenty of gear for the rider to wear to help fend off any inclement weather, but that is only going to stop some of the elements. You can bundle up when it’s cold, put on your rain suit if it’s raining, and any combination of heavier or lighter gear as the temperature fluctuates. Sometimes it’s a combination of several weather conditions we deal with at the same time, and that too, is a challenge.

A few years ago, I took a solo ride to Greeley Colorado for a family reunion. The weather man, in his war against motorcycles, was predicting heavy rain on the Friday morning in July I had planned to leave. Normally his ten percent accuracy rating would not bother me, but this time he seemed serious. My morning alarm was a clap of thunder and without too much trouble I could hear the heavy rain as it came down. But we’re riding today, right? Yep.

I had already loaded my motorcycle for the weekend trip, and with just less than 500 miles to get there, I was looking forward to it. I’ve ridden in rain like this before, and I knew getting on the bike that I might get a little wet. My rain suit is on and away I go down the street to the stop sign. Boy, it is raining. For the next 150 miles of interstate the rain would not let up. I’m not uncomfortable riding in this at all, but I think there were a few motorist that were afraid for me. I stopped in Hays Kansas at the Harley-Davidson dealer to take a break and have some coffee. For July in Kansas can be hot, with the rain the temperature was just right.

Any of you that have ever ridden with a rain suit on know that you will still get wet as the rain will creep in around your neck and up your sleeves-and this ride was no different. After thirty minutes or so, I put my rain suit back on and decided to head North to avoid the storm as heading West would have put me in it for several more hours. A few miles up the road the rain suit came off and although a little cloud cover was hanging over me, it had stopped raining.

The rest of the ride was fantastic. Sometimes it takes a storm to put you on the right road-the one you should have been on to begin with. Kind of like “life.” When you’re pushing hard in the direction you think you should be going, and you’re fighting it every step of the way, change your direction.

I ended up taking the back roads through Benkelman Nebraska and Wray Colorado where my folks grew up. We visited these places a lot when I was growing up to see family but I had never been through here on a motorcycle. Kind of appropriate since I was on my way to a family reunion in Greeley. The weatherman was right and I’m glad he was.