Thursday, November 19

Did you get "The Memo"?

9:00am, Wednesday Morning

When I left the house it was raining. It was also cold and foggy. I could have used the car sharing program that I joined after I sold my hardly ever driven Honda CRV, but four wheel travel just didn't sound interesting. So, I geared up for the weather and set out on Jesse Owens.

The cold was made worse by the wind. I had the heated jacket plugged in but didn't wear my heated pants. Some folks complain that the F800ST throws off unwanted heat. I cherish that warmth--and it's a nonissue if you wear motorcycle overpants, which I always do. So, my bottom half kept toasty through my jeans and overpants. The heated grips were on full power.

The wet roads were made worse by the wind too. I had all the luggage on the bike, still I slide around a bit and said a silent prayer to the ancestors to ride along with me. Doing the speed limit or a bit slower, is the key to keeping safe. In the city of Chicago, however, doing the legal speed limit on an Interstate is considered extreme sport.

My trip out was about 35 miles in the direction of the rain. Within 10 minutes the rain turned angry and heavy. I listened to my helmet being pelted. I turned my jacket up a notch and road the rest of the way in comfort. I know what the riding instructors say about a day like Wednesday. But all motorcycle riding is about risk-taking and the level of it that one is willing to take on any given day. I adjusted my riding to the conditions and took to the Interstate.

What I noticed immediately is that those tucked inside their cars--and trucks--either didn't notice or care that the pavement was drenched and the conditions challenging. Too many drivers zipped in and out of lanes with no regard for conditions. For the longest, a car tailgated me. When he finally passed, he was talking on his phone.

When I arrived at my destination more than an hour later, the people assembled for the meeting seemed curious, if not, shocked that I arrived on a motorcycle. They had questions galore: "Isn't it dangerous to be on a bike in the rain?," "Aren't you cold?," "How do you wipe off your helmet," "How do you see?" I answered the questions and downplayed their kind concerns.

What they don't understand is that two wheels isn't just a fun, summer hobby. It a form of transportation. Yes, the risks are higher on a bike. And, on a cold, rainy day the risk is even greater but if one takes her time, understands the challenges and rides with heightened awareness, it remains a safe method of travel. My biggest concerns weren't weather related. The biggest threat to my safety were those on four wheels! I realize that I can be a highly skilled 'cyclist but still there remains things about which I have limited control. I am confident that my skills will allow me to handle the weather. But a driver who decides to tailgate and then change lanes directly in front of me even though there is clear and empty space to change lanes safely without coming near me, is a knucklehead that has a deathwish and wants to take someone with him/her. I try to anticipate crazy drivers and get as far away as I can.

Did you get the memo?

Somewhere some of these drivers must have received a memo stating that the use of turn signals is optional. This memo told them that they should ride as close as possible to a motorcycle. And, that driving with a phone cocked in one's neck is mandatory. They clearly were told that in heavy downpours it is always best to crank up the mph so that your usual 20 mph over the speed limit is either matched or exceeded. The memo goes on to say that if desired, share the lane with a motorcycle--after all, it saves space and is more efficient. This memo closes by ordering all those in possession of the memo to IGNORE the weather. It is an artifact. Recipients of the memo possess a license to drive like the road is your personal Indy 500!

Four hours later, when the meeting ended I reassured those concerned about my safety that I would be okay and was prepared for the conditions. What I failed to do and now regret, was to say to the dozen or so at the meeting that they, as drivers in cars, should give up the view that two wheels is a summer hobby and to LOOK for two wheels at all the times. I should have encouraged them to take their concerns for me and apply it to anyone on two wheels and ride with care for those on two wheels.

My return trip greeted me with a head wind and I watch my fuel drop dramatically.

Still, I enjoyed my day off from paid labor and found great pleasure in two wheel riding, despite the rain, the cold and the fog, it was a great day to be out.

Upcoming: Essay on solo riding

Note to my fellow bloggers: (You are fun and sweet anchors in my daily online life. My peeks in on your life have been undermined by life's clutter and work. I know we're all busy and I don't give up easily, so bear with me as I fight my way back to visiting you. I miss you all. Thanks for your patience).