5.21.2006,3:30 PM
The Ice Cream Run
Expecting a warm day, I rose early and completed several outdoor jobs on the ranch before the sun rose high. Rising with the birds a-twittering and the mooing of impatient cows as morning music to work by, my bustling activity barely worked a sweat with the cool Texas breeze. A pot of morning coffee faithfully awaited me as a reward for finishing my morning chores. Sitting on the couch enjoying that first ’cuppa Joe’ while being caressed by the breeze through the windows put a smile on my face.

Checking email and the bike forums for recent activity occupied an hour or so while I read responses on how to attach hard cases to bikes, where to find sources of reflective tape, and camping gear testimonials…….. The Internet is an infinite source of information on nearly any topic. From PubMed and the daily science news releases (especially via RSS; I am a scientist, after all) to the various forums for the myriad of motorcycle interests. “Seek and ye shall find!”.

This is Sunday, my Day of Rest, ordained by me for no other reason that it gives me an excuse for self-indulgence. After a demanding and busy week, guilt for such indulgence was non-existent. Deciding to postpone errands requiring me to ride into town, I decided to treat myself to ice cream. What better excuse for a bike ride!

Remembering yesterday’s hot ride, I donned a pair of cotton spandex bike shorts that I normally wear to train in the gym and pulled on my mesh riding pants over them. Ah, much more comfortable than street shorts! Too bad they don’t make mesh riding boots. Pulling my mesh jacket on over spaghetti strapped tank top, I pulled the bike cover off of Red and started her up. My cooler was again my passenger, strapped to the sissy bar with bright colored bungee cords. Each of the different lengths is of the same color, which facilitates quick selection out of the saddle bags. After pulling helmet on over the tied dew-rag and then the gloves, I carefully backed and turned the bike around on the gravel. Riding the gravel drive and private road is a game of feathering clutch and rear brake; I’m mastering this quite well. On to the road and I’m off like a gazelle.

Our short trip into the nearby small town was uneventful and complimented with bikes everywhere. Despite the increasing wind, it was a lovely day for a ride and many took advantage of it. From my travels thus far, few bikers pass each other without an outstretched hand, a few fingers raised from the hand on the clutch or brake, or an acknowledging nod. It is a tacit recognition of camaraderie that certainly few cage-bound drivers share. I wonder what they think when they see the exchange between passing bikers on the road. Do they know?

Parking the bike, I walked into the grocery store with my helmet which serves as my shopping basket. Into my helmet went a pound of coleslaw, a cold diet Pepsi and a quart of ice cream. The clerk at the counter smiled and asked how I was going to carry my bag on my bicycle. I smiled patiently and replied that the bag would go into the cooler strapped onto the passenger seat of my motorcycle.

I pulled off the surface road onto the highway and spontaneously decided to take the long way home. Miss out on a beautiful day for a ride? Hell, no! In between two other bikers, I followed one of the rural highways marked with a “Texas Lakes Scenic Route” sign. Passing green pastures dotted with cattle, giant canopied oaks, and homesteads ranging from small to large, Red and I leaned into gentle corners and rode the up and down waves of road through rural North Texas.

We were buffeted and rocked by gusts of winds that elicited a six on my ‘Woohoo!’ meter. Smiling between occasional “Woohoo!”s, I assumed my ‘centered riding’ position and let Red move in between my legs and under my seat, my hands lightly resting on the handle bars, responding accordingly and when necessary. The gusts pushed us a little, but much less than if I was sitting tense and rigid. It was enjoyable and the wind was refreshing.

Eventually I turned off the highway down a rural road that I knew was bordered by horse ranches. I got eyes and nose full of strong-muscled quarter horses grazing on the greenest pastures I’ve seen since last spring. Here were breeding and cutting horse ranches, horses of solid and painted colors, colts laying in the sun or nursing on their mothers teats. I smiled to myself, realizing I was astride my own horsepower. Yet sadness overcame me at the same time, knowing what it is like to ride the strong back of my own steed, Mr. Shadow. I miss that.

Finally arriving back home, 30 miles out of my way, I squeezed the brake lever gently a few times to let the truck behind me know that I was slowing down at the approaching corner and gravel road. Turing sharply and quickly onto gravel with a motorcycle is risking a crash into the looming ditch that borders the road entry.

While slowly riding on the gravel drive, I felt the growing urge to sneeze. Cursed with spring and fall allergies**, I’ve learned to mentally suppress sneezes after a few strong ones threw out my low back. Doing so requires significant concentration, something I learned to muster while studying Zen meditation techniques decades ago. I immediately realized that sneezing inside a helmet with the face shield down, while simultaneously maneuvering on gravel with a motorcycle would not be a good strategy. Can I concentrate enough to suppress this sneeze while riding? I had no choice; I tried and was successful. Thank goodness; I was not looking forward to clearing snot off the inside of my face shield after picking myself and the bike off the gravel.

Riding up to the house I decided to back the bike in place rather than back out before leaving in the morning to work. I quickly learned to rethink that strategy: pushing 450 pounds of bike backwards up a slight incline on gravel sucks. If I didn’t have the strong legs and back that I have from squatting in the gym, I could not have done it. Next time I will try maneuvering around the back of the pickup in a circle, ultimately heading down the driveway. I hope I remember to leave room with the truck next time.

It was a good ice cream run, a good adventure, and several new discoveries. This is what riding a bike is all about.

* Snot Rockets
posted by Macrobe
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