X factor -- noun.
a circumstance, quality, or person that has a strong but unpredictable influence
|The BMW I rode in New Zealand, |
driving on the LEFT side of the road
Before we set off to New Zealand’s famed Milford Sound, I heard what our guide Al said about riding through the tunnel. “Don’t wear your sunglasses.” Three of us from Women on Wheels®, Donna, Nancy and I, rode together that day. I led our little pack.
Yes, I heard Al’s words, but when we reached the mouth of the tunnel, it was too late to safely pull over and stop. Before I knew it, I was already inside, my photo gray prescription glasses, dark. My friends, right on my tail.
The thought that went through my mind -- after a peck of expletives -- was, If I go down, we all go down. In the dark. I flashed my brake lights and backed off the throttle. Daring to take my left hand off the handle bars to reach into my helmet, I pulled down my glasses and peered over the frames, willing my eyes to adjust.
The narrow tunnel pierced the mountain for 1.2 kilometers. There were no lights inside, just red reflectors on the walls and yellow ones on the strip that divides the two lanes. The slick, uneven road’s sudden downward slope, shot the headlight’s glow out into space. I felt like I was driving into 'nowhere'. Sweat poured inside my raingear, making me feel like I was in a too-hot sauna. This was my scariest two minutes on a motorcycle. Ever.
At the nearest safe shoulder on the other side, the three of us stopped to breathe and regroup. The good news was we’d made it unscathed. The bad news? To return to our farm stay lodging, we had to repeat this feat at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, Judy had opted to ride in the van with Perry, another of our guides. Little did she know that Perry drove the van just like he handled his motorcycle. It was a harrowing ride for her, as Perry drove like a wild man and, so Judy could see just how dark it was in the tunnel, he cut the van lights for several yards.
Milford Sound is actually a fiord carved by the glaciers centuries before. It’s deemed the “wettest place on earth,” because rainfall averages 28 feet per year. Endless cascading waterfalls tumble down the faces of the rocks and cliffs from thousands of feet above.
Our two-hour cruise showed off Milford Sound’s magnificence, but that return mile through the tunnel loomed over our heads, and I became distracted from enjoying the views. This was one day on our New Zealand tour when I would be glad to park my bike.
~ xoA ~