12.23.2006,7:33 PM
Widder Wander to Ponder or Bikes on a Saturday
This was one of the most pleasant albeit short solo rides I've had in a long time. Dealing with a second death in three months, losing my step-Mom, whom we all cherished, a few days ago and unable to fly to my family, I was feeling helpless and numb. And trying not to explode under the pressure at work.

I needed a ride. I usually ride alone. But this time I wanted some company.

Assessing the forecast, I donned the gear. It's a ritual now: this layer first, then this one, then that one......where's my boot socks?!? New strategy for winter ritual: always go to the bathroom before leaving, no matter if the 'tank' is empty or not. Invariably, I'll have to go when I'm on the bike or right after I get off. (culprit: coffee)

A new addition to the ritual, for which I did a trial run today, is a Widder electric vest. Powerlet socket's in and ready to go. Over a long-sleeved T-shirt, the vest fit snugly but not tight, including the collar. Over that was a light fleece zip-up jacket with collar, which remained unzipped. I wanted to ascertain how effective the vest collar is.

Taking the thermostat with attached coiled cable with me outside, I plugged the two-prong end into the left bottom connection and fed it under my outer touring jacket. While sitting on the bike waiting for it to warm up, I experimented with placement of the thermostat. Ideally, I wanted to mount the thermostat on the front somewhere, but Jeff and I couldn't find a logical way to do it right. So I fed the cable below the thermostat controller (dial) under the left hip tab and closed that firmly to the velcro on the hip of the jacket bottom. Perfect! The thermostat sits right along my left hip and I can reach it easily with my left hand to adjust it as needed.

The BMW-type plug fits snugly into the Powerlet socket below and to the rear of my seat. Reach down and slightly back, with one finger flip it open and plug it in. Cool. So far, so good.

Now, turn it on. I turned the dial to '1' and felt some heat in about a minute. Nodding with satisfaction, I rode around the house onto the gravel and then the road. I could still feel some wind coming through three layers of front zippers, so I turned the dial to '2' when I stopped at an intersection. Noting to self to find some type of over-garmet that does NOT zip in the front, but to the side, and is windproof.

Feeling comfortable now, I noticed that when my shirt is not against my skin, along with the vest, it feels cool. Now I know empirically why choosing an electric vest or jacket that fits snugly is so much more efficient. It also occurred to me that wearing a knit shirt that is also snug (aka has spandex in it) would enhance its effectiveness. And thinking that wearing the vest over my UnderAmour top would be just the ticket.

I rode with spirit (aka was a spirited ride) along and around Eagle Mountain Lake. I've found a few roads with fun twisties and with changes in elevations. Removing the tail bag on these rides allows the bike flick easily from side to side. All I have to do is turn head, drop shoulder, shift my weight and lean a bit and the bike follows suit. Shift weight again, push on the opposite hand grip and upright he goes, flying down the road like a magic carpet.

I reigned in my exuberance when I nearly missed a sudden and unannounced (no road sign) sharp corner where construction rerouted the road. I uprighted the bike and used my 'aftermarket ABS' which saved my ass; reflexively using both rear and front brakes, squeezing slowly then hard, slowing my speed quickly, releasing just before the last second turning into the corner. A surge of adrenaline went down my arms, gut and into my legs. Funny how the adrenal glands can dump and pump those fight-or-flight hormones throughout your entire body within seconds and your heart tries to beat its way outside of your ribcage.

After an audible "Phew!! That was close!", I rode more conservatively. I wasn't speeding, I just didn't anticipate the sharp corner. Another note to self: "If you can't see the road well ahead of you, slow down until you can. Stupid....."

Finally reaching 407 off of 287, I knew what was coming up: a series of corners with rough rough road. I have nicknamed the section of 407 between Wise County line and just shy of Justin "Speed Bump Highway". It's a challenge if you want to avoid tank slapping. Despite the cliche "always look ahead to where you want to go and don't look at the road in front of you", here you HAVE to look at the road in front of you. With the mixture of curves and rough road, you have to be sure your bike is on a line of least bumps. Hitting some of those rough sections with a leaning bike, coupled with speed is asking for trouble. Manuevering a corner is alot about suspension, and when your suspension is being bombarded by holes, ruts, mounds of tar, it won't take much for that front tire to wing off line.

So I take those corners slower and alternate looking well ahead with quick glances down to see if I'm riding and following the narrow line of smoother tarmac. I remember Rossi commenting that he doesn't always look well ahead around the corners on the track, but looks at his line. "I know these tracks well; I can afford to look at my line to be sure the bike is following it." I've followed that suggestion on the roads I ride often and know well enough what to expect that I can glance at my line as well. It has improved my cornering (speed and maneuvering). In fact, on Silver Creek Road you have to or you might find yourself airborne over a hump of tarmac on the apex of a curve.

I sat and sat and sat at the junction of 407 and 156 waiting for a hole in traffic to ride into. I misjudged how much traffic would be on those country roads today and I was 20 minutes late. But as I turned the corner in Ponder there were two bikes and two riders waiting patiently.

I still giggle that the parking is in the middle of the street in front of Ranchman's Steakhouse. When first told about that, I was wondering if the person was perhaps confused. I discovered she was right; parking is in the middle of the street. Um, okay.

Bandit33 and Kellerite joined me for lunch and we had a good time chatting bikes and adventures. The food was good again and I even had hot blackberry cobbler with ice cream.

We parted company and rode off our separate ways, Bandit33 on his Suzuki DR650 and Kellerite on his Wee-strom. I started riding back the way I rode in but didn't find the turn off of 718 to 1220. I saw a likely candidate but no sign of any sort to identify the road. So I proceeded to get lost. But I didn't care.

I rode through middle-town America (southern style) with a shopping mall, even a Starbucks!, feed store, fast food joints bordered nearby with cattle pastures, railroad tracks and grain silos - big ones. I had no idea where I was but I was headed south. I knew I would eventually end up 'Somewhere'.

The gigantic silos and grain elevators kindled memories of recent trips on Hwy 84 in NW Texas and NE New Mexico. These silos were like giant dying trees with the encroaching underbrush of fast-fueled America. All the indicators and barometer of modern America: fast food chains, Walmart, gas stations with convenience stores, even the Starbucks (which seem a bit out of place, but I'm not complaining).

Unlike the silos and graineries in NE New Mexico that are still full of corn, oats, barely and other grains, these looked empty and abandoned. The RR cars there were full of peas and cattle rather than coal like I saw today. People in NM drove almost exclusively pickup trucks rather than the SUVs and Lexus' that passed me today. And the only stores there were small old Mom 'n Pop's diner/hardware/feed/gas stores.

Still, the gigantic towering silos stood as a testament to the lifestyle that permeated this area long long ago, when fields full of grain and cattle covered the landscape rather than highways and fast food joints.

I still didn't know where I was but I kept riding anyway. It was a good day to be lost. I had to chuckle at the memories of Maine. When a stranger asks for directions there, a Maine native will look the person over and silently tick off in their mind if they like them or not. Or if they're having a good or bad day.Then with a slow Northeastern drawl give directions or:
"Weellll, ya can't get theya from heyah. Yup."
Stick his pipe back in his mouth with a look of 'This is the end of the conversation'.

They routinely did this with people from Quebec driving through the state. It was a running joke on the Q-Canuks.

I knew I could get directions or a bearing if I stopped but I didn't see a need to. I kept riding south/southwest and lo and behold, there was Hwy 287 (business route). Hmmmm...... I knew that would eventually intersect I-820, so off I rode into the, um, not-sunset-yet-but-close.

With glee, I rode my favorite road home, Silver Creek Road. It's winding, bumpy, in sections canopied by tree branches, and just plain a fun road. I get to lean and flick the bike and stand on my pegs over the bridges and swale. It always puts a smile on my face.

I saw new and old friend faces and bikes today: passed R R Rider on his silver-gray Beemer, passed a motorycycle cop who saluted a fellow rider the rider way, met two riders who joined me for lunch, Simmons surprised me at the gas station on 287 and 407 where we chatted and I twirled my vest coil, a red KLR on 114, and two cruisers on Whateverroadthatwas. We all saluted each other.

It was a good day. And a good ride. Thanks guys for joining me for lunch.

And the Widder vest is awesome! Now I have to deal with the hands issue.........
(heated grips in January)


posted by Macrobe
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