A life of passion is a good life. Everyone should be passionate about something. One of my greatest passions is motorcycling.
We’re blessed with four distinct seasons around here. Sometimes it feels like we get all four within a week. This past week was like that.
Thursday and Friday were hot, but by Saturday, a cold front ushered in a thunderstorm massive enough to drop hail as thick as a snowstorm on places throughout the area.
Passionate motorcyclist try to take the vicissitudes of weather in stride. So this morning, a Sunday, I called my best friend Mike Gunther and we arranged to ride to a scheduled breakfast event of Twin Valley Riders, a loose group of sport-touring enthusiasts from the Roanoke and New River Valleys.
I have a new bike – a used one, actually – a 2007 Honda ST-1300. It’s a fabulous touring bike, with a meticulously refined four-cylinder engine that purrs along calmly and methodically at any speed less than 100-mph. At 65-mph, it’s barely breathing hard. It has a windshield that raises and lowers with the push of a handlebar-mounted button. Very plush.
The forecast was for a chance of rain, increasing through the morning. It was raining off and on as we drove SR-8 towards Floyd and our ultimate destination at the restaurant at Tuggles Gap.
We arrived a few minutes before the designated start time and I joked to Mike, “It’s a good thing we like each other…”
And he finished my sentence, saying, “… because we might be the only ones here.”
However, soon enough, Tom arrived on his Gold Wing from Roanoke.
Moments later, Paul arrived as well, driving a Toyota convertible.
Tom is the youngest of the bunch. Around 40, I’m guessing, he’s an undertaker by profession. He has three kids. He looked at my ST longingly, saying his wife refused to ride the Gold Wing as it was “not her style,” being an “old person’s bike.”
Paul is a retired clinical psychologist. After his hip replacement, his doctor told him to give up motorcycling, as if he ever crashed on the artificial hip he’d not walk again.
So we three riders and one ex-rider sat at a table in the nearly deserted restaurant. Our conversation revolved mostly around weather gear. Specifically, I was in the market for a new electric liner jacket. Dedicated riders now have their choice of complete heated suits: socks, pants, jackets, and gloves, as well as heated seats! Each person at the table had his specific experience and advice.
I told the story of the Harley rider I spoke to years earlier who was riding merely in a sweater and leather jacket on a 30F day. When I met him at the general store in Paint Bank, he was hypothermic, so cold he couldn’t manipulate the gas pump. How could anybody justify spending $15,000 on a bike and not spend $200 on a heated jacket?
By the time we emerged from the restaurant, it was raining lightly but steadily. I put my rain layer over my regular jacket before we departed. So on my torso, I had a polypropylene T-shirt, a thermal jacket, my riding jacket (with impact protection) and my rain jacket. Reaching Floyd, it was raining harder still, so we stopped and I put on my rain layer over my riding pants, too.
The rain turned to a full-fledged torrential downpour. Water streamed across the road and splashed from the wheels of oncoming cars. Fortunately, the curved shape of my helmet’s face-shield channeled the water away from my line of sight. But I had to keep the shield cracked slightly so it wouldn’t fog up.
Reaching the superhighways and eventually home, I found myself thinking that this was the type of ride only an enthusiast – someone with a real passion – could enjoy. But enjoy it I did!