I headed north and west yesterday, looking for fall foliage. Any motorcycle ride is better than no ride at all, but this one turned into a bit of disappointment. First, while mounting my video camera about an hour into the ride, I pulled a muscle in my side that is a persistent problem. Despite taking three Aleve, I was in grimacing pain all day, at least until I got home and sucked down my last remaining vicodin. And as the ride went on, the clear skies and sun of the early morning gave way to a grim overcast. Finally, the foliage itself was disappointing. Someone told me that it would be because Pennsylvania has had the wettest year on record. It was certainly below average. There were nice splashes of color here and there, particularly around Lock Haven, but none of the take-your-breath away displays of past years.
While there was a lot of traffic on the outstanding Route 144, mostly from slow moving leaf peekers, I was able to gallop on most of the other twisties. Ironically on the twisty sections of Route 477, I got held up by a gaggle of slow moving Harleys just as I did the last time I was there a few weekends ago. The guy at the back of the pack--and directly in front of me--was emblematic: he was dressed completely in black, his exhaust was so loud that it caused me discomfort even though I was wearing a full faced helmet and ear phones, yet he couldn't ride worth a darn, slowly wallowing through every curve. There are skilled Harley riders out there but that brand sure attracts a lot of posers more interested in dressing like a pirate than learning to operate their machine. This group turned right and I turned left on Route 192, so at least I didn't have to fight past them.
I had a bit of weird experience on the way back. My bike is relatively rare model. I'd never seen one on the road before. But I pulled into a gas station and there was not one, but two of them. I talked to the riders for a while. They were from Bloomsburg, PA. I didn't ask what they did but it wouldn't surprise my if they were also college professors, so maybe I am in the core demographic for the R1200R.
I did make a short video. One thing I learned from it is that there is too much vibration to mount the camera directly on my windshield brace, which I did for much of this. So the quality isn't great.
(Mileage on the bike: 28,500)
In the Beginning
Driving a car, your relationship with the road is like that with a friend. Bumps are softened. On a motorcycle, the relationship is much more intimate, like that with a lover. You feel every small bump and dip.
Me, November 2011
This is the unfolding story of motorcycling and me. While I'd toyed with the idea of riding for several years, I'd never thrown a leg over a motorcycle until I was 51. Then the time seemed right. My youngest kid had finished high school so I considered myself expendable. I'd just spent two years with every waking moment was consumed writing a book. With it completed, I again owned my life and was looking for a new obsession.
My driving force in life has always been pushing myself, taking on new challenges and mastering new skills. I thrive on exploring new places and always prefer to be outside with the wind on me as much as possible. So I gravitated to riding.
As I contemplated this big plunge, I made several assumptions. One was that riding a motorcycle would save money given that gasoline prices had just spiked. A second was that royalties from the book would pay for a motorcycle. But most of all, I assumed that having put in thousands of miles on road racing and mountain bicycles, and manual transmission cars for years, I'd pick up motorcycle riding easily.
These assumptions all turned out to be wrong. What I spent on motorcycling far exceeded any savings from higher gas mileage. I didn't sell enough books to cover the costs. And learning to ride was much, much more difficult than I expected. But it was also much more fulfilling. In life, I've always wanted to be where I'm not. And I'm rushing to get there.
In the few years since I began riding, I've fallen passionately in love with it. The average American motorcyclist rides 1800 miles per year. I did 16,000 my first year, 18,000 the second, and over 20,000 in the third. I've continued to average 15,000 to 16,000 miles per year even when I began writing a weekly column that eats up much of my Sundays. At night I often dream of squiggly lines on a map. Seriously.
When everything is clicking--I'm alone on a winding country road, I've got my "A" game, the music is in a groove--I sometimes forget the motorcycle is there and feel like I'm simply flying. If you don't want to take my word for it, trust Alton Brown.
Luckily, I live close to some fine riding, with twisty roads over mountain ridges, large state forests, miles of farmland (which often requires dodging Amish buggies), charming little towns (each different from all the others), and lots of historic sites. There's always somewhere new to see. (Here's a map of my favorite routes and road food). I particularly like combining riding with photography--one of my other passions.
When I began this blog I was riding a 2010 BMW R1200R. In BMW jargon, this bike was a "hexhead" (named because the engine cylinder covers are hexagonal). So these are the "Hexhead Diaries." I'll update them regularly with stories and pictures. Stay tuned!