Sunday, 9 November 2014

Knowing When to Quit

It's Saturday, November 8, and the last couple of hundred kilometres of the 2014 riding season passed 'neath the wheels of the Magna today.
I had planned to put the bike into winter storage today as any day now we could have snow or black ice, which will result in the dreaded salt on the roads. Once the salt residue is on the roads the bike goes into storage...don't want that stuff getting up around the axels, sprockets etc. and making for corrosion issues down the road. It wasn't the most inviting day for a final ride but none-the-less, ride I did. It was just a couple of hundred kms out over the TCH but probably the most challenging of the season due to the wind. The forecast was calling for gusts over 100 kms/h and while I'm not sure if I encountered those, the conditions certainly met my own category 4 standard of "blow your friggin' head off'" ( I talked about my four categories of descriptors for NL wind conditions in a previous blog). Actually, it could be described as a tale of two rides because heading west into the wind was most challenging. There were times I had the throttle at the bar and the most I could get was 120kms/h, when on a typical day the bike is easily capable of 170-180 when fully opened up; Such was the force of the wind. There were also the unforeseen lane changes. I am eternally grateful to the driver of the blue Ford Focus who had the wits to react when the wind blew me across the line into his lane as he was passing me. We rode side by side for a few seconds in the same lane. That same wind did not allow for an immediate correction on my part as I attempted to move back across the line. Sometimes you just have to be lucky. So, I'm not sure if the gust were at the 100+  range but I figure I was riding in consistent 70-80 km/h winds. Now, I realise that sounds imprudent. However, I do like to ride and I was curious as to what it would be like to ride in such high winds. In reality, once you get used to it, it just becomes part of the ride and you carry on. Not that you don't notice it but its just another of the myriad of factors your paying attention to as you focus on keeping 'er shiny side up.

I call it a tale of two rides because heading back into St. John's I had the wind at my back and it wasn't nearly as hairy. Oh, it was still interesting. In NL the wind directions can change on a whim, one moment at your back, next spiralling around and coming at you from the side. Alas, I made into into town without further incident and headed out to my brother's place in Paradise. He has a huge attached garage that has been the Magna's winter home for the past several years. It was a melancholy day for me. I enjoyed the ride but knowing that that would be it, at least for the Magna, until next spring is hard for me. I depend on the bikes to be an escape from the stressors that other areas of my life pose, especially work. The ST is still in my shed here at home and I will ride that as opportunity permits but I know those opportunities are going to become more infrequent in the coming days. The ST is better for these colder days as it does have heated hand grips and a heated seat.
However, it's a taller bike and the farings around the engine enclose the entire frame so that there is no place for wind to pass through. The bike is extremely challenging to ride in high winds, and typically here in good 'ol NL any day with sun that may be suitable to ride is accompanied by wind. I guess it has something to do with the variety of air and ocean currents that encircle this little island in the North Atlantic. 

I've come to accept that November is typically the end of the season, which starts in May (often late May, though there have been a couple of years I rode in April). I now need to find new forms of escape. This weekend did bring a couple of such opportunities. I saw, for the second time in the past couple of years, John Fogarty, who can still powerfully belt out the old CCR tunes. That was a great show on Friday night. Last night I took in another concert, this one by Amelia Curran, a NL artist. Her songs are available for streaming on her website and I do encourage you to have a listen. She is a brilliant lyric writer, very much in the style of Leonard Cohen.

So between finding opportunities for nights out, picking up an engaging book 
 (currently reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), hoping the Leafs put together the odd game actually worth watching, and maybe getting into a series or two on NetFlix, I have to survive another long, dreary NL winter. Until then, there is still, hopefully, a few days left to the season. So I will ride the ST as long as possible.

Until I have something further too share, so long!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Wood Smoke

I have entitled today's post thusly because the beautiful perfume of wood smoke wafting through crisp cool fall air was one of the hi-lights of my fall day motorcycle ride. It wasn't the longest ride I've done, only about 230 kms, but it was my first ride in a week and as the days cool and shorten, these opportunities to wring the last miles from the riding season are something I look forward to.

It was overcast as I readied for the road around 10:00 AM. I've learned not to trust the online forecasts posted on such sites as the weather network or even Environment Canada, so I called a friend who will take a look at the radar to give me a better idea of what conditions I'm likely to run into.  The temp on the dash of my bike read 8 degrees Celsius . It is fall and heavy rain with cool temps like that makes for a less than enjoyable ride. Anyways, with the assurances I had a couple of hours before I'd run into drizzle and later heavier rain, I set off.

For the most part the radar report was right. I did get about an hour and close to 100 kms of cool dry weather before I started hitting light drizzle west of Whitbourne. For the most part, though the second half of the trip was characterised by light to moderate drizzle. I was heading west so I guess I met the leading edge of the weather that my friend Carl had seen on the radar and it just followed me back. I didn't mind it to much as any day to ride is better than not riding. With the exception of the most westerly edge before I turned around (when I hit actual rain) it was just drizzle with no major build up of water on the road... so, thus is Fall in Newfoundland.

I stuck to the TCH because I like to ride...ummm, quickly! The side roads may offer a bit more scenery but I've always been about the feel of the bike and the road. Still, I did appreciate the oranges, reds, yellows and golds of the maples, birch and other deciduous trees along the shoulder and down in the valleys as I made my way along the highway. The ponds were calm and the brooks and rivers were flowing pretty heavily after a week of rain. But for sure the smell of woodsmoke was a hi-light, as I said. As I passed places like Roaches Line, Makisons and Ocean Pond, people at their cabins for the weekend were putting another log on the fire,  either in wood stoves or back yards pits and I was the beneficiary. There is something very serene and tranquilising about a wood fire and the smell of wood smoke reminds me of that.

Anyways, I made it as far west as Bellvue Beach, about 115 kms or so west of St. John's before turning back toward the city. I did have a passing notion to go off the highway and take the "scenic"' route through Holyrood and the CBS access highway, but decided to stick to the main line. By the time I got back home my dash temp was reading seven and I was a bit damp, but still grateful for the chance to ride. I have to rememeber to pick up some of those heat pads that you can buy to stick in your boots. The ST has heated hand grips and seat which did make the conditions easier to deal with. Still, a nice heated vest to keep my core warn would be a nice addition to my collection of gear.

All in all, the weather was manageable, there was little wind, which always makes for a better ride and, oh yes, that wood smoke. A couple of hours and a couple hundred plus kms of rolling therapy, with nothing to think of but the next turn or the horizon at the edge of a straight-a-way; not a bad way to start Saturday after another draining week at work. Back home it's Saturday chores and looking forward to a nice evening with friends coming in for supper. It's Saturday night and the Leafs are playing Chicago. The past two games have been wins, but better yet, they have looked like they cared about playing, so I am hopeful for an entertaining Hockey Night in Canada...still don't care for the new team from Sportsnet who now dominate the commentary. The guys as CBC  are head & shoulders above them.

So, until I have a few more ramblings to share, I'll See Ya out There! Ride On...