Saturday, September 1, 2007

Riding Bitch Revisited

Today I got up late (pretty normal for me), and took care of little things while waiting for the call to ride. The call came in around noon. So I changed clothes, pulled on the boots and prepared to ride. Out to the garage, back the bike out into the driveway, close the garage door, start the bike.

Only it didn't start. No battery charge! Took the seat off, checked the connections, everything looked OK. Out came the battery charger. It says, the battery is fully charged. Try to start it again, no dice.

So everyone came to my house to see if my bike could be started. Still no luck. I looked at the sunny skies and thought, I'm not missing this day of riding for anything. So I hopped on the back of Jeff's Ultra Classic (the caddy of bikes for riding bitch) and off we went.

The plan of sorts was to head northeast to get pictures next to Florida county signs for a contest. We were to meet up with another in Monticello. There were about 8 bikes to start, but a few inexperienced riders dropped off early on.

Our friend in Monticello met us all for lunch. The restaurant had just closed, but they reopened just for us, called their cook back in, and served us a wonderful meal of Mexican cuisine.

After lunch, a bike dropped out to go home early and get ready for work. We had just the five bikes now, and six riders altogether.

Our friend from Monticello took us all through the countryside on back roads, and what a ride! This is why we do what we do. Nothing but rolling hills, farmland, forests, pastures, and warm, cozy homes. Peacefulness and relaxation overtakes you, as the bikes rumble through the gentle curves, and you find yourself in that zen place all bikers know about.

Jewels wore her "signature" white shirt, flapping in the wind like super woman. How could other drivers not see this biker?

And Jeanne's pig-tails never fail to capture the attention of everyone. At a state park we stopped at, an officer wanted to know how she pulled her hair through holes in the helmet! That brought a round of laughter from the rest of us.

This was an unplanned ride, but it turned out to be one of the best ever. I quickly forgave my ride, sitting back home in the garage, for nearly ruining my day. As the day progressed, we rode through one county after another, stopping at state parks and historical sights to take pictures.

Now, about 5pm, as is usual this time of year, the skies began to cloud up with more consistency, but we rode anyway, daring the rain to come and just try to ruin the day. Totally impossible by now. At one state park, it did begin to rain in earnest, so we sat underneath a covered patio at a picnic bench, told stories, and laughed for a while, engaging some of the state park officials working there.

When the rain let up, off we went. As it was, we were heading into the stormy areas, and not away from them, but that still didn't stop us. Eventually, we headed for home, which was about 2 hours away, after our last stop, Suwannee River State Park.

The clouds were looking pretty ominous, and blackened more with each minute, lightning flashing everywhere, followed by claps of thunder. As we pulled into the town of Madison, the heavens opened up and dumped buckets on us. We quickly pulled into a gas station to wait out the worst of it, donning rain suites, jackets, and face coverings. Man, those rain drops can feel like needles at a anything over 35 mph!

Jeanne's helmet pig-tails looked a little worse for wear! And the overhang in the gas station allowed a small amount of respite.

The rain didn't stop, but it did get a bit lighter, so we decided head out and stop for dinner down the road about a mile. And while we sat in the restaurant, it continued to pour rain on and off, lightning and thundering throughout, with occasional moments when the rain stopped or lightened. And as it got darker outside, we thought we'd better head for home in spite of the rain. We all took off, hoping for the best, expecting the worst.

From Madison, perhaps an hour from I-10, in pitch black darkness, we headed for home with a main purpose.... to get out of the rain. About 10 minutes into this home stretch, it began to rain hard again, and we all got soaked (and cold) wherever our clothing didn't prevent it. Fortunately, the traffic was light, but the distance was a bit far to be caught in a downpour. Though so far it wasn't unbearable. At least not until we were about 4 miles from home, then it came down so hard, and the roads began to fill up with water. Even the curbs and medians were hard to see, never mind the lines in the road. By then, my legs were used to the wetness, and I was no longer cold, albeit uncomfortable.

The going was slow the last few miles, and miserable, but I didn't mind. Except for the occasional rain drop that found its way to a bare patch of skin on my face, and my wet legs, I was fine. A few of the others didn't fare as well, but all in all, it was a very fine ride indeed.

Here's the kicker.... I would not have done as well, had I been riding my own bike, because I don't see well at night. And seeing at night in the rain is even worse. I was very glad to have been spared the long ride home, in the dark, in the pouring rain, riding my own bike. I could have, and would have done it, if I'd had to, as did the others, but I didn't, and I was not unhappy in the least about that!

Yes, I would have preferred to be riding my own machine through all those wonderful back roads our friend led us through, who wouldn't? But in retrospect, my bike saved me from making a wonderful ride less than perfect. For that I "forgive" it for letting me down today.

Another cool benefit of not riding my own... I got lots of cool photos of the ride. And hey, it was an awesome bike to be sitting on the back of, and in such comfort too! Jeff's wife, Christina, was on her own bike, who, incidentally, offered to let me ride hers, and she would ride with her husband - now that's a friend! I know the joy of riding your own, and didn't want to transfer my own misfortune to another. I also don't feel comfortable taking a long ride driving an unfamiliar bike either. So I gratefully declined.

Sitting here tonight, at home, dry and comfortable, I'm thinking, what a great day! Tomorrow I'll go buy a new battery and ignore the fact that I can't really afford it right now. Then I'll take my bike out and make up for not getting to ride my own machine today. Stuff happens, and you make the most of it. Good friends, long ride, beautiful countryside, what could be better?

Oh, and one more thing, I really should practice swinging my leg up that high getting on and off the higher back seat of a dresser. I know my muscles are going to protest tomorrow!

Well, OK, you're right. I doubt that I will. (Did I mention I'm almost 52?) I'll just be riding my own anyway. Ride safe. Ride free. Ride comfortably. Or just ride, any way you can.

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