Besides the usual road hazards motorcyclists face, we are also at the mercy of the elements. This week, heading down to Bakersfield from the Oregon Coast, 755 miles, I rode through fog, rain, and fire-charred areas of California. (Other years, I’ve passed through areas where the firefighters are still shoveling over smoking embers.)
The wind buffeted me and Big Red head on. The sun shone smack dab in my eyes on curvy Highway 42 from Coquille to I-5. The elements will always present a challenge.
Gliding along about 8 AM, enjoying the view to my right, I saw the variegated green pastures with rising fog puffs, and marveled at nature’s beauty. Then I rode into fog-filtered direct sunlight that penetrated my orange high-definition face shield and momentarily erased my view of the road and its markings. I slowed then raised my left hand to block the sun long enough to move out of its blinding rays. Whew! Then I could grasp both handle bars and come back up to speed.
Along I-5, the intermittent rains pelted us for miles. At one point, we stopped in Mt. Shasta City for a weather-and-lunch break. From our booth in the Black Bear Diner, Judy and I watched the sky clear and the sun come out and retreat several times before we paid our check and made ready to continue.
A motorcyclist prepares for the elements by carrying gear for almost any situation. The older couple who sat in the window booth watching as I donned my rain suit over my motorcycle jacket and heavy-duty jeans made me smile as I imagined their surprise at how long it took me to suit up. I waved to them as I backed out, and they returned the wave, as if we were friends.
|June 1, 2011 caught in the snow at Weed, CA|
In case of extreme heat, there are cooling vests and neckerchiefs. Soak those babies in cold water, and the gel beads inside expand and help one’s body keep cool for awhile. When temperatures are cold, many of us have electric vests and gloves, and some bikes are equipped with warmers in the hand grips.
Thanks to my friend Trudy, I am never without an umbrella. “It’s your shade if you’re stranded on the side of the road in the heat,” she said. It’s also been my protection from plummeting hailstones after pulling over onto the shoulder of a New Mexico highway in a sudden hailstorm.
We fight the elements, usually enduring and sometimes beating them. It’s all part of the motorcycling reality and experience. It’s the stuff of our stories.
~ xoA ~