Happy Solstice, Season's Greetings and Merry Christmas
Ring Out Solstice Bells ~ Jethro Tull
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Last summer, I had the rare opportunity to help out new instructors and play error rider for their range training session. This also gave me another rare opportunity, a brief discussion with my mentor. We talked about our lackadaisical riding as of late and how he had nothing to prove to himself or to others.
I thought about this for the rest of the summer. I've ridden year round in both temperature extremes, commuting back and forth to work for the past several years and although I am not nearly as proficient a rider as Dan, my skills have improved immensely since becoming an instructor. I will continue to hone my skills and challenge myself, but I recognized that I too have nothing to prove to myself or to others for that matter.
The reason I mention this is that I was using my commute to prove myself, a 22 mile stretch of four lane highway that I absolutely detest. A half hour ride every morning at dark o'clock tends to cause one's mind to wander, to the point that I began asking myself "why the frack am I out here?!?" It is too cold, too wet, too dark, too dangerous and no fun at all to say the least. I was just as miserable commuting home in the late afternoon fighting traffic. Then when weekend came around, I had no desire whatsoever to share the road again with the same cagers that were out to kill me all week.
Motorcycle riding had become a mundane chore and I nearly lost interest in everything motorcycle related. I receive several monthly motorcycle magazine subscriptions, but they just stacked up and went unread. I skipped a couple of local bike nights and purposely missed Saturday morning coffee meetings a time or two because I wasn't feeling up to it. I was burned out...
I needed to evaluate, prioritize and revitalize. Enter the mountain bike.
I work four 10 hour days which affords me Friday off, but Trobairitz works Friday mornings, so I use that time to hop on my bicycle and ride up the secluded forest trails where I can be alone and recharge. No traffic, no people, no cell phones. I have been having a great time climbing the trails and even more so, the ride back down. I've been following mountain bike group social pages, reading articles and perusing maps. I'm discovering several great trails and parks in the area while improving and gaining confidence in my mountain bike riding ability. Adding other hobbies and activities helps me maintain a balance, rather than focusing on just motorcycling.
I haven't been on the Tiger (or my blog, sorry) since our ride to the Tillamook Air Museum in October, and our bikes have been parked in the garage since. An unexpected half day head start on the Thanksgiving weekend and sunny, dry weather presented an opportunity to "service" the bikes. I've been meaning to rotate the tires, stir the oil and replenish some of the old gas in the tanks with fresh gas. Since I was out of practice and for self preservation, I took Trobairitz's Gladius out first, I'm a much more cautious and somewhat reserved rider with her bike. I rode to the top of Marys Peak, stopping for a couple photos along the way, then rode home to swap bikes to take my Tiger out on the same route.
Marys Peak in the background.
Hoohoo, the Gladius is a blast to ride, but I forgot how much fun it was to ride the Tiger! It wasn't long before I slipped back into the familiarity of my bike, quick on the throttle and leaning through the corners. I was quickly reminded how poorly my tires gripped wet roads, especially roads littered with leaves, fir needles and moss. I also remembered how well ceramic brake pads can lock up the rear wheel. Evidently it wasn't just the bikes that needed to be run, I had a few cobwebs that needed clearing out too. I eased up a bit and just tootled along, enjoying the sunshine and adding a gravel road to my route for a thorough refresher. What a great ride.
With both bikes safely parked in the garage and a seasonal IPA in hand, I contemplated my next ride, hoping to take the dirtbikes out Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately it rained all weekend so we didn't go, it's one thing to be cold, it's another being cold and wet. I discovered a direct correlation between degrees of temperature (ºF) and rider's age when it comes to motorcycling, kids don't care if it's cold out but I don't much care for riding in temperatures below 39ºF. In the meantime, I am happy to go for drives instead of rides, walks and hikes or bicycle rides instead of fighting the cold and wet weather on the motorcycles.
Rough Skinned Newt found on a recent hike (warning: don't handle, salamanders are toxic)
After somewhat of a hiatus from motorcycling, I'm enjoying a renewed interest in riding and I'm looking forward to teaching bright eyed and bushy tailed students next season. Classes start in January, first with an instructor and mentor update for me, then it's boots on the ground the following weekend.
Now if Mother Nature cooperates, maybe I can get a few more practice rides in, as well as a few more hikes, bicycle rides... and blog fodder.
~ Burnout is when long term exhaustion meets diminished interest.
Every couple of weeks or six, I'll pop down to Team Oregon headquarters on my day off to interrupt the girls in the office to chat, preventing them from getting any work done. I figure that if I'm not working on a Friday, neither should they.
During one impromptu visit, I was chatting with Rhonda at the reception desk and we got on the subject of covered bridges. I mentioned to her that Brandy and I were trying to get photos of our bikes in front of every covered bridge in Oregon. I told her how we would map out a route, pack a lunch and ride to the bridges to take photos. She thought this was a great idea and asked if I would write an article for the Team Oregon newsletter...
Destination in Time
In the motorcycling community we often hear an adaptation of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” more so as “It’s not the destination, but the ride.” This holds true for many, and it is a great mantra when applied to riding solo. But what happens when our riding partner, whether a friend or spouse, poses the question “Where do you want to go”?
Where to go? But I thought it was about the ride? Ironically, I am guilty of asking that very question, putting the focus of the ride on the destination. For the answer, we check our calendar for any local events; many of us participate in motorcycle shows, charity rides or poker runs. Some of us live to ride and ride to eat, visiting quaint little cafes, delis or tiny eateries in neighboring counties, possibly hinting at an excuse to ride out to the coast.
But what if the journey was back in time, and the destination was 1928?
Oregon boasts the largest collection of covered bridges in the West. There are fifty covered bridges throughout the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon and the Coast, including one in Portland and another in Central Oregon.
To travel back in time I unfold a paper map, and with pencil in hand, stitch together a route consisting of two or three covered bridges while my wife packs a tasty picnic lunch. Then, with our time machines fueled, we set off. We’re not in a hurry; we leave the GPS at home, our cell phones are shut off and stowed down deep in our saddlebags, as not to upset or perhaps change the delicate time-space continuum.
Arriving at our first destination, we slowly ride across the bridge, listening to the large timbers creak, feeling the planks ever so slightly stress beneath our tires. We ride out the other end of the bridge to park under a shade tree and shut off our bikes. There is a hush as we remove our helmets, and without talking we acknowledge that we are indeed back in time. No one is around, there isn’t any traffic, our bike engines “tink, tink, tink” as they cool in the shade of the trees. The birds are chirping over the burble of the creek below. Listen carefully, a horse in the distance responds to our presence. The rustling of leaves beneath our feet transports both of us to our younger days as kids playing in the woods.
Holding hands, we stroll back under the privacy of the sheltered trusses to steal a kiss, as is customary during our visits. You see, not only were covered bridges known for protecting travelers from storms, as well as used to hold dances, parties and town hall meetings, they also protected lovers from sight and became known as "kissing bridges.”
They were built to preserve the bridge decks and trusses from the rain, preventing slippery bridge decks and lasting much longer than standard open wooden bridges. They were even designed and painted to look like barns, so as not to scare horses as they pulled wagons across.
We tote our picnic lunch down to the water, then sit and enjoy quiet conversation. Before leaving to visit the next stop on our route, we take a photo of our bikes in front of the bridge. Eventually, we hope to get photos of our bikes in front of all fifty covered bridges in Oregon.
More detail for where to find these tranquil spots can be found on my blog, Troubadour on a Tiger. And if you see our bikes parked near a covered bridge, remember to mind the paradoxes of time travel.
We still have several bridges to get, now that the weather is starting to cool off, we shall.
Hope you enjoyed the article, I certainly enjoyed writing it.