Category: Thoughts

Cruisin’ Down the Highway

It’s been a busy summer. Since April I’ve been to Minneapolis (twice), Seattle, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Milwaukee. All were business trips and none of them was by motorcycle. But I went to South Dakota by motorcycle. Sadly, not Sturgis this year, but still an important trip.

If you’re familiar with previous posts on this blog, you know I’ve had troubles with my handlebars the past few years and just got them replaced over the winter. After being confined to in-town trips only because of them you’d think I’d be rarin’ to hit the highway finally.


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She’s home.

It’s April 11th. It’s not the earliest start to the season. It’s not the latest start to the season. It is very likely the most joyous start to the season.

After the past couple of years of not enjoying riding very much and being pretty much limited to riding in town, it didn’t take me 10 seconds to figure out I’m free again. Free to ride as far as I like. Free to get out of the house whenever I choose. Free to not spend unnecessary time getting around by bus.

It’s glorious.

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Hello. It’s been a while. For many reasons. One being those doggone handlebars that really, really killed the joy I had in riding.

But no more.

I just paid off the Harley. AND I just paid off the bill to have the handlebars replaced, including heated grips. And new tires. And a few other miscellaneous bits and bobs.

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Big “Kahunas”

It’s just about a month now since my season started. The weather has been unbelievably warm. I think we’ve even hit 70-degrees+. But not yesterday. Yesterday it was 20-degrees when I headed off to work. That’s a new record low temperature for riding for me.

And there’s a good reason I was the only idiot on a bike. It was COLD! But since the weather turned nice, the construction season started early and my bus route has been detoured. It no longer stops at my workplace. It gets close, I could walk. But if I’m going to be cold, I’d rather be on my Harley than on my feet.

It’s a little over six miles between home and work. And about a third of the way in I knew I would have to stop and warm up along the way. At 30-degrees I’m nearly frozen when I get to work. At 20-degrees I reached that state in half the time.

So I was thinking about where I could pull over for a few minutes and warm up. Coffee shops came to mind. Except I always feel obligated to buy something, and that wasn’t going to work for me. But it dawned on me that the hospital is about halfway. It’s got a nice area where people hang out. So that was the plan. And it’s a good thing it isn’t any farther than it is, because my left hand was almost non-functional when I pulled in and shut the bike off. That’s not a good thing. In fact, that’s a dangerous thing.

So I walked into the lobby, full leathers on mind you, and peeled my gloves off. Wincing. You know what it’s like to thaw out frozen fingers. It HURTS! The greeter at the door wanted to know if she could help. I told her “I hope not” as a joke. No amputations please. 🙂 But there was a great bench near the door, with heating vents no less, which was the perfect place to spend a few minutes until the feeling came back.

After that, the rest of the ride into work seemed short and I arrived warmer than I thought I would.

On the way home it was only 40-degrees out. Many would call that cold. But compared to 20-degrees it seemed balmy. But I decided to stop halfway home anyway – at my new favorite home-away-from-home bar downtown. 🙂 Grabbed a burger to thaw my hands out and was heading out when a gentleman made a comment that made me stop and chat for a bit. We got to talking about bikes and rides and the usual stuff. But he made the comment about my having “big kahunas” for riding in the cold that morning. Funny transliteration. But I couldn’t disagree. I didn’t see anyone else out.

But I have to pause here because I deal with this all the time. I don’t have a car. I essentially had no choice but to ride to work. Big kahunas or not, you do what you have to do. And a cold ride to work is better than a cold walk to work. It’s just so out of the ordinary for an adult to not have a car around here it never enters people’s minds. I often choose to not set them straight. I could easily argue that the “big kahunas” moment was not riding to work in 20-degree weather but in watching my car pull away when I sold it nearly two years ago.

Odometer: 10,379 miles

Parked motorcycle seen through window blinds

It’s back. I’m back.

It was gorgeous out today. Again. And the best part was, I brought the Harley home.

We have had an absolutely unbelievably mild winter this year. Never seen anything like it. Had snow for about 3 weeks. And it never really did get cold; just hung around freezing most of the winter. I saw other motorcycles out on the road every month. And not daredevils, just folks just out enjoying the nice days.

Screenshot of weekly weather forecastThe weather this past week has been record-setting. Last week the forecast looked good enough, so I called the dealership and asked how soon they could bring the bike back into town. As always, they were pleasant enough and said they’d get it going and give me a call. That was last Monday.

I spent the weekend chipping ice out of the driveway so I could pull the bike into the garage if necessary and got sunburned just a bit in the process. Yeah, you heard right. Me. In short sleeves. Outside. In March. Long enough to get sunburned. The apocalypse is imminent.

Today is Tuesday and I still hadn’t heard from the service folks. I had to come home early for some appointments, so I was riding the bus home at midday. And watching bikes left and right on the road. As much as that makes me happy, it also frustrated me that I wasn’t out there with them. (And I’ve had just about enough of bus riding for now.) So I actually called the shop from the bus. “Rick, when are you going to release me from house arrest?” “Dropped it off in town last night. Is that what you wanted to hear?” FRAKKIN’ YES!!!!

So after the errand and appointments were taken care of, my youngest son and I drove to the pick-up point. Almost forgot where it was. Certainly forgot which door and the code to get in. Luckily it was still during business hours and a nice guy, who didn’t have to, helped me figure it out. And of course it was parked way in the back. The gentleman had to move one other bike so I could get mine out. And there were a couple of boxes of old parts that I needed to get out of there too.

I have to admit, it felt weird. Unfamiliar. I’d forgotten the routine. And I was looking at a muddy gravel lot. And the engine wanted to cut out on me. All the gas had drained out when it was on its side, and they hadn’t added any over the winter. Luckily there was a gas station just a couple of blocks away.

Driving through the lot and pulling on to the road did not feel smooth. Not subconscious. Not natural. But it really is like riding a bike, it didn’t take long for it to come back. By the time I’d gotten to the gas station, fighting to keep it running the whole way, it was all coming back again. Still not subconscious, but increasingly familiar. I managed the gas-up routine with no flubs and remembered to reset the trip odometers – both of them. I use the A trip odometer for each tank of gas. But I use the B trip odometer to track the mileage of a season. And a new season had begun.

All this was taking place right at the start of rush hour and in one of the busier parts of town. For a first ride, this is not where I wanted to be. So I headed about a mile east and stopped at Starbucks to sit the traffic out. God it felt good to be at Starbucks. I waited about 45 minutes for the traffic to clear and then headed out. It was rather windy (gusts about 35 mph), so I opted to go through town instead of taking the Interstate. Gave me a chance to check out the roads along the way. I knew one (Main Avenue) would be horrible, so I was prepared for that. Had an uneventful trip home, other than seeing a bunch of folks on their bikes too.

Parked motorcycle seen through window blindsI debated on where to park the bike when I got home. I somewhat planned on putting it in the driveway, but changed my mind. The streets are still a little messy with grass and grit from the winter, but I chose that instead to make it easier to get out again in the morning.

I can’t wait to ride to work tomorrow. Sounds stupid unless your life’s been dictated by a bus schedule for months. No room for error there. Being able to leave 3 minutes later, or 10 minutes earlier, is just huge. And my 6:30 p.m. curfew is no more. It really has felt like house arrest for the past six months. Get out for a work release and then head right back where you came from.

I can already feel my spirits lift. They have been black lately. Dark and ugly. The freedom of having wheels — well just ask any teenager. And when those wheels are a Harley? Enough said.

Let’s get this season rolling.

Odometer: 10, 130 miles