I swore to myself I wasn’t going to write about or even mention the weather this month. I mean it’s not like I’m obsessed with the freaking weather at all or anything, but damn it, I’m so tired of not having a summer in the Northwest while the rest of the country is enjoying one is really getting to me. It seems that much of what I love to do, be it riding on the scoot or skiing down a mountain, flying a kite, or mountain biking down a trail involves the damn weather. Yeah I know, “real men don’t care about the weather” you say. I have biker buds and ski friends who will go out no matter what the conditions are and accuse me of being a pansy for not. But it’s precisely because I love riding, and skiing and whatever else I wanna do outside so much, that I’m not about to ruin it by doing it in weather that makes the entire event so miserable I’d wished I hadn’t gone! Whether its skiing in a white out, with minus fifty degree below temperatures in a blizzard, or riding my motorcycle through a car wash rain storm, id rather stay home. Yeah, I’ll do it when I absolutely have to, but I’m not going to willingly put myself through that. Go ahead, call me a pansy, but I’m sticking to my stance.
However, this year, out of sheer necessity and boredom at being cooped up, I’ve come to realize that if I don’t ride in the rain, I ain’t gonna go riding at all this year. Heck the Seattle HOG chapter’s motto is “Rain? What rain? Lets ride”. But I hate it – hate it, hate it, hate it! Aside from feeling like I’ve been run through the rinse cycle of the dishwasher, it gets my bike dirty! To me, a motorcycle is not just a joy to ride, it’s a joy to look at! It’s artwork in metal! It’s a sin to have a dirty bike, and if I go riding in the rain, my bike gets dirty! I feel like a schmuck riding on a dirty bike.
I’m the kind of rider who has a bottle of cleaner and a rag in my saddle-bags and will wipe the bike down after each ride. Holiday Inn hates me even though I have Platinum Status with their frequent guest program because I dirty up so many towels when I’m on a cross-country ride. My bikes, in addition to being ridden are also so clean you could eat off them or perform surgery on them.
This is in direct contrast to my friend and riding mentor Dan. Dan is a retired Seattle METRO bus driver. Every couple of years he gets bored and comes out of retirement and gets elected/drafted to be the Director of the Seattle HOG chapter, and who’s legendary iron butt status is to be envied by any hard core rider. His license plate is “Rode 48”, since he’s ridden in all the lower 48 states. He has me beat by five states, and this year my goal was to make up those five states, but the damn weather and a 135-day legislative session have kept me tied up here, but that’s another story. Dan takes great pride actually in not washing his bike. His ten-year old Ultra, with well over 90,000 miles on it, has always got some dirt on it.
A few years ago Dan and his wife Barb along with a few others and myself were riding from Seattle to Las Vegas. The first day out we went from Seattle as far as Burns, OR, and just out of Pendleton OR, we hit a rainstorm that lasted all the way down to Burns. We dutifully put on rain gear and headed out into the deluge as one does in this situation, and I cursed the weather Gods the entire way down the John Day River canyon. We pulled up to the motel in Burns looking and feeling like drowned sewer rats, and since it was still raining, I couldn’t wipe the bike down, and my motel room smelled like wet leather all night. The next morning however it had stopped raining and was clear and so I was up early and out in the parking lot cleaning the bike and dirtying up a few motel towels using the ice bucket as a water bucket. Dan just stood there next to his dirty blue (I think it was blue, it was hard to tell under the dirt) Ultra and laughed. And although we rode down a very deserted and lonely US 95 towards Nevada with nary a soul or car in sight, I had a clean bike and was proud to ride it. Dan was just as happy on his dirty Ultra too, since being out on the road is what it’s all about anyway, and he always said, he’s got more fun things to be doing than spending time washing the bike.
So this year, I’ve had to change my mind and I’ve bitten the bullet and gone out riding in the rain. I’ve gotten the bike dirty, and have come back to the garage and rediscovered the simple joy of washing the bike down and getting it clean again. I’m surprised I didn’t realize this sooner. To me there is something very satisfying and in some ways soothing – to sit down with a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge and go over the bike, watching the dirt wash away and seeing the clean paint and shiny chrome emerge from beneath the suds. I sit on my little stool, turn up the tunes on my i-Pod and spend an hour after a ride and the bike’s cooled down a tad, in the garage if it’s still raining or the breezeway between my house and garage, relaxing even more by cleaning of the bike. It somehow makes up for getting the scoot dirty in the first place on an afternoon ride through the grocery store produce aisle mist rain we seem to have been having entirely too much of this year.
Yeah, I still get wet – and sometimes feel like a drowned rat. There is no such thing as leak proof riding gear, and I get wet in the oddest places. But still, I’ve been out on the bike, and nothing smells better than the air right after a rain storm somewhere along a forested highway. And I just have to make sure the i-Pod is charged and I have a warm bucket of soapy water and some clean towels at the end when I get where I’m going and I’ll be fine.
Yes, I’ve changed my mind. I can live with a dirty bike for a little while I guess, and it’s worth it to get some saddle time in this year. Oh, and I think Dan has changed his mind too. His wife Barb tells me that the new 2010 Ultra he traded that old ‘02 in for last year – well, it gets washed at the end of every ride now too. I’m sure Barb insists on it, but I’m betting old Dan doesn’t mind it either.
Gary can be reached at email@example.com and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com