Thursday, March 15

"What a difference a day makes--24 little hours..."

Tuesday was magnificent! It reached a high of 73 degrees F, with bright, sunny skies and enough wind to make you sit up and take notice. I had an appointment in a far south suburb and because of the summer-like weather everyone and their mother was out and about, many cradling mobile phones in their cocked necks. Cabbies were playing serious Pac Man with anyone who came near. Yet, I was determined to take advantage of the weather and safely travel back and forth. It took me twice the time to get out of the downtown area. Some motorcyclists detest heavy traffic but if it’s your backyard, there is no avoiding it. You learn to navigate your environment, you become hyper-vigilant; you use laser eyes to scan your surroundings; you keep as much of a space cushion as you can (often a futile effort); and, you ride with you thumb on the horn. I did avoid the Dan Ryan (I-90/94), which is under construction and chaotic and as a result, replete with hordes of angry, edgy, and resentful drivers.

I took the long-cut and rode south on Western Avenue, which is now packed with cars and trucks trying to avoid "the Ryan" too. I took Western south to 119th Street then headed east to pick up Interstate 57. Hopped on that and took it south to Lincoln Hwy (Rt. 30 West). Nice slab ride, few cars, something that would shift in a mere two hours. The ride was windy—still loving the windscreen. Occasionally, unexpected wind blasts hit me—“hooray” for countersteering. A wind blast in a curve still makes the hair on my neck stand at attention. Although it sounds counter intuitive, “relaxing” is key to dealing with strong winds. Tightening up the muscles and fighting against oneself is not the way to proceed.

Arrived safely. My new doctor liked my bike. (Mental note: Give her two points for liking Queenie!) She said she treats many motorcyclists. Initially, I was impressed by that, later I had to ask myself if treating a lot of ‘cycists was a good thing or not…hmmm?

Return trip was uneventful except for the driver in a small maroon car, which pulled up next to me at a stop light and asked me about the bike. Ordinarily, I ignore people when I’m on the bike but I’ve learned that some drivers get very angry when I do. There are nuts out there, so I took the road of least resistance, the weather was warm, my helmet was crack a little and he asked about my bike—I’m a sucker for that and I always think someone is genuinely interested in my gal-pal. I gave him her name, rank and serial number, so to speak.

At the next light, he started in and I never see these things coming—I’m too old and too uninterested. He started flirting. He asked, “Where do you ride?” I said, “I ride…on the street…everywhere.” This wasn’t sufficient. He said, “No, like where exactly do you ride—do you ride around here?” Again, me: “I ride everywhere.” Then the silliest comment: “So do you think you can beat this?” He waves his hands as if introducing his car. I looked at his car and thought; he has to be kidding! I could out run that thing on foot! He was riding a Focus or something like it. Now, I’m not one to race cars or shoot off from a stoplight but this guy was beginning to annoy me. I thought, don’t let this fool make you kill yourself. It so happened that a bus was on his right and I knew that he’d have trouble getting around it. When the light changed, I watched for cross traffic trying to beat the light and when there wasn’t any, I proceeded slightly faster than I ever do. He was partly stuck behind the bus. And that was the end of that. Note to self: NEVER talk to drivers again. Just act as if you don’t hear them, risk the wrath of the crazies.

By the time I arrived home, I had performed the following: approximately 6-horn toots, a dozen or more negative head shakes at egregiously bad drivers; one swear word inside my helmet, and a really nice u-turn. Lessons: Scan constantly; maintain a space cushion (even when drivers repeatedly squeeze in); keep thumb on horn and use it; stay out of blind spots (if you can’t see the driver’s face in their side mirror—you’re in their blind spot); steer clear of buses and trucks (never ride behind them as left turners can’t see you; and, headlight modulators ROCK! Several left-turners saw me and stopped before pulling out. Final lesson, in an intersection be forever prepared for an emergency stop. Cover the brake and slow down!

Seventy-five total miles of riding in “alert” mode. Motorcycling demands extreme focus, which is one of the things I love most about it. The other is getting out in the hinterlands, riding along rolling hills and twisty roads with few cars on the road, while nature’s many smells and sites tickle the senses. You’re on automatic pilot. Only the laws of gravity keeps you on the ground.

By Wednesday, I found myself humming--badly I might add--Dinah Washington’s seminal version of “What a difference a day makes—24 little hours…” Wednesday’s temps dropped more than 30 degrees. Right now, it is 36F with a high expected of 42F—not perfect by any means…but this too shall pass.

Interesting picture gallery of Dan Ryan's crazy construction