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!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Long Days

I've wanted to ride my motorcycle home to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for some years.  I looked into ways of towing down during our annual Christmas visit, but none were feasible.   With cold weather coming and now owning a touring motorcycle, I decided to ride down last week.

For once I got a break on the weather,  Temperatures were already in the 50s when I left home so I didn't need electric gear.  I hit the road at 4:40 hoping to beat Washington rush hour traffic.  That was not to be.  Even though I got to Frederick, Maryland at 6 AM, route 270 into Washington was already stop and go.  Once I got to the Washington Beltway, though, things moved well.  The rest of the ride was uneventful.  I stayed on I 95 to Goldsboro, North Carolina, got off to have lunch at Wilber's, my favorite barbeque joint, then took Route 17 to Myrtle Beach.  The only hitch was unanticipated traffic due to construction in Wilmington which caused my clutch hand--which is already weak from having been broken playing softball in grad school--to become very painful and numb.

It was nice having the bike at the beach and the weather was gorgeous.

It was a little cool at the beginning of the ride back, dipping into the mid 40s for a brief period of time, but was in the 60s by the time I hit Fayetteville, North Carolina.

This time I got off I 95 at Emporia, Virginia, and took Route 15 all the way through Virginia. The weather was gorgeous as was the foliage.  I traced many Civil War campaigns and got to see some cute little towns like Orange and Culpepper.  Much of the road was two lane so I did have to do 15-20 passes around slow traffic, but the RT handled it with aplomb.  Again, though, I greatly underestimated the Washington area traffic.  It was bumper to bumper from Warrenton to Point of Rocks, Maryland--and this on a Sunday evening.

I wanted to get home before dark to avoid riding in deer alley during the fall rut but that didn't work out so the last two hours were in the dark.  Didn't see a deer, though.

The trip down and the one back are now my single longest rides ever: 570 down, 585 back with about twelve hours of seat time.  But the RT showed  how great it is for the long haul.  I put up the windshield, turned on the cruise control, and could have ridden all day and deep into the night.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Is the Cruelist Month

...because it ends so soon.

I had to break out the electric gear in September--the earliest ever.  The fall has been eventful.  I've got 6500 on the RT despite it being grounded all summer, and finally saw wild elk and bald eagles during rides.  Winter is going to be long.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Critter Spotting

One of the things I enjoy about riding in remote areas is the wildlife I see.  In addition to the usual deer and wild turkey, I've seen bear, fox, and otter.  But in the past two weeks, I've made interesting additions to the list.  Last weekend I left for my ride at 3:20 AM so I could arrive at Pennsylvania's wild elk area at sunrise when they're active.  It was socked in with fog so I didn't get any good pictures or see large herds, but I did see several standing beside the road.  So I can check that box.  Then yesterday I was on an isolated rural road in Virginia and came upon three bald eagles eating a road kill opossum.  I now wish I'd gotten out my camera and hung around to see if they'd come back, but at least I did get to see them.