Archive for June, 2009

Three Mondays

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I’ve taken off the last three Mondays.  Nothing special going on.  Just burning some vacation time.

Today was the last one.  It was a glorious, perfect day.  Like the others, I simply climbed on the Harley and went for a ride.

Now I’ve got a short week leading up the July 4th weekend… and then it’ll be back to normal for awhile.  It’ll probably be late summer before I get a chance to take any more time off.

But what remains is the memory of three great weekends and three wonderful Mondays.

And today was the best of them all.  One of those rare days.  One of the half a handful that will mark the year.

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jeffroadking

Jeff and Road King

Road Rage

Monday, June 29th, 2009

We’ve all experienced the anger and frustration which comes with driving on today’s American highways.  You can’t drive for more than a few days and not observe some upset individual spewing an obscenity or shaking their fist or laying on the horn.  It’s part of the panorama, unfortunately.

But yesterday was the first time I ever was part of the truly serious variety of road rage – that thankfully rare breed where lethal intent gets injected into the mix.

Me and a couple of new riding buddies were out doing a day-long loop on our bikes.  I’ll spare the ugly details, but the upshot is that a fellow over in West Virginia got seriously – SERIOUSLY – pissed off.  To the point where he used his truck as a weapon.

The good news is that no one got hurt.  But it was a sobering reminder that it can be an iffy world out there.  There are a lot of people who weren’t blessed with a full deck.

Be careful out there.

You can read about it in Sport Rider in a few months.

Summer Solstice

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

For most of the year I awaken every weekday in the fullness of night, with pitch blackness outside.  Forty minutes later, when I leave for work, the sky still has yet to offer the first tinges of light.

And for much of the year, it’s dark as well when I finally pull into my driveway late in the evening.

But as May arrives, and then turns towards June, things improve.  That extra minute or so of daylight that has been added every day since late last December suddenly seems to make a difference.  The days stretch out, lengthening their stride, rising up with a little less urgency.

The difference it makes during the workweek is palpable.  But it especially is nice on the weekends, when the long days of daylight can most be felt.

Yesterday was the epitome of it all, the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.  The time when, for a few days, the sun seems to stand still.  It’s my favorite time of year.

Saturday evening, as I often do, I wandered up to Old Town Warrenton to walk around and take a few pictures.  Glancing up at the clock tower, I had to smile at the light that still surrounded it that late in the evening.

Courthouse Clock

Courthouse Clock

Playing Hookie

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Well, not really.  I burned a vacation day, so it was all on the up and up.  But it still feels a little bit like stolen time – enjoying a day to yourself while the rest of the world works.

Just a quick little 4-hour ride, out to my usual mountain haunts.  The air limpid.  My ears popping on the long ascent.  The river a tiny line far below, down the flat face of the mountain.  Throttling up, the Harley’s motor responding with its phlegm-laced cough.  An irritated growl, as if one had prodded a giant of the earth itself.  Beholden only to me.

Rain was coming in, the early afternoon clouds darkening.  I didn’t particularly care.  There was rain gear in the saddlebags.  But it made things interesting for the last hour.  Watching the heated, unstable air and wondering where and what it might conjure.

Alas, I was boringly dry when I got home.

With my bike back in the shed and my gear stowed, I walk inside for a late lunch.  I’m thinking I could get used to this.

Maybe I’ll take next Monday, too.

Road King at Camp Roosevelt

Road King at Camp Roosevelt

The Sunday Evening Blues

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

It’s ninety minutes from midnight, of a Sunday night.  Normally I’d have already been in bed for an hour.  That after a handful of hours of quiet resignation, what with the weekend winding down and a full, 5-day work week approaching.

Alas.  I try not to speak too much or too harshly about such things.  You have to be careful what you wish for.

The July 2009 issue of Sport Rider – the one just now hitting the newsstands – has a story I penned several months ago called “Hard Times”.  It’s about being unemployed.

Having been there and done that puts the Sunday evening blues in a whole different perspective.  So, yeah, you keep those groans and those grimaces down to a whisper.  Trust me, there are things far worse than going to bed on Sunday evening knowing you have a full week worth of going-to-work in front of you.

Still, despite earnestly endeavoring to count our blessings, it’s funny how having Monday off can transform those Sunday evenings into such a pleasant bit of time.  I suppose I’ll end up, instead, with the Monday evening blahs.  Oh well.

I’ll try and make that vacation day tomorrow count…

The Miracle of GPS

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

One of the articles I wrote a couple years ago for Sport Rider magazine was “A Most Amazing Thing” – a paen to the benefits of GPS.  Since then I’ve continued to tout the advantages of having a good GPS.  They’re wonderful in both cars and motorcycles for finding places.  But for bikes, for discovering good roads, they simply have no equal.  I’ve told my motorcycle buddies that I thought a good GPS was second only to electrics (that would be electric vest, electric liners, electric gloves, etc., for those of you who aren’t in the motorcycling community) in terms of its positive impact on our riding.

This morning I decided to ride down to Morton’s BMW.  My R1200GS needed a state inspection and I hadn’t been to Morton’s for awhile.  Now as nice a dealership as it is, the route from my home isn’t a particularly fun one.  You shoot down a 4-lane divided highway for 20 miles, then head east on a boring, straight 2-laner for awhile, and then make your way through the Chancellorsville Battlefield, eventually coming out at Spotsyvania.  There’s lots of traffic.

This morning I punched in “Morton’s” on my Zumo and began following the route it directed me to.  In the GPS preferences I had checked “avoid interstates, avoid toll roads, avoid highways” and anything else that might have involved a major roadway.  The result was a shockingly wonderful set of small rural roads I had never been on and never heard of.  What has always been a necessary evil was transformed into just a terrific hour of riding.  And to top it all off, the ride didn’t take any longer than that old, boring route of mine did.

Amazing things, those GPS’s.  A modern miracle that, for once, is worth the hype.

Memories of a McDonalds

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

This past Sunday was another glorious ride on the Harley.  The weather was spectacular – low humidity, cool enough in the morning that you needed a sweatshirt, and then slowly warming into a simply wonderful day.  After skirting westward out towards Winchester and some little roads out that way, I turned back east and meandered back into suburbia.  I ended up at my favorite McDonalds.

I bought my first motorcycle – a Yamaha RD350 – at the very end of May, 1975.  Having never ridden a motorcycle before, and this being long before MSF classes, I learned to ride… by just riding it.  I’d ride it to work in the morning, taking the long, back route from Lorton to Falls Church hoping to avoid being stopped by a cop – as I didn’t yet have a drivers license endorsement for it.  At lunch I’d often go out for a quick 20-minute spin, usually stopping at the McDonalds a half mile down the road.  I’d eat outside, sitting under the shade tree at the edge of the parking lot, next to my bike.  I learned early that casting glances at a close-by motorcycle improves any meal!

And so it was for my meal Sunday.

Road King at McDonalds

Road King at McDonalds