Friday, August 18, 2006

Two Rides, Two Myriad Feelings.

So, this weekend I'm off in godson-visiting land for birthday parties. Courteously enough, the second one arrived much earlier than he was expected, but only a week (and some years) after the first. So that means I can knock out both of their parties in one visit, at least for as long as their parents are willing to host two parties in one weekend. This makes my life a little easier, and I hope they continue the 6-year tradition. This is the first year that I recall the parties being here and not up in grandparent-land, so it's a change in the routine, but none too worrisome.

That said, one thing it means is that I'm not on the bike this weekend. I could've probably gotten down here with all the gifts (I'm a sucker for these boys) stuffed in my saddlebags or tied onto the luggage racks, except for one item. I'm delivering a 9000-lb towing capacity winch to my cousin, who happens to live in godson-land. The winch and its accessories and all the birthday gifts and my stuff would've been hard to fit on the bike. The winch probably weighs 70 pounds by itself. Lest you accuse me of making stuff up, I judge this because it's got more heft than the oldest godson, who proudly informed me this evening when I hoisted him for a hug that he weighs "about 64 pounds". If he's 64, the winch is more, and so as not to be found guilty of exaggeration, I'll say it's 70. That, and the bike is in the shop getting a 24k mile maintenance done. It only has 13k miles, but the 24k is basically a "replace everything, check everything else" sort of service. Since I bought the bike used and am uncertain of her maintenance history, I'm buying the peace of mind and hopefully averting any looming mechanical disasters.

Now last weekend, my girlfriend and I went on two good rides. The two rides were very different and each left me with different feelings and maybe different lessons. I'm nothing but typical when it comes to taking my own sweet lesbian time to "process" things, so it took me a week to wax philosophical about my riding. Sue me.

Saturday we spent the whole day painting. I'm about to move in, and before we add furniture to the house, we thought we'd get the remodeling finished. It's much easier to motivate yourself to a home-improvement task when that does NOT entail moving furniture. So Saturday evening, we sat back and looked at the gorgeous, freshly-painted walls and patted ourselves on the back. In so doing, we espied our watches and realized that if we showered and dressed in a low-maintenance way, we could still make the evening ride of the VRCC out to Sanger for good catfish. Yea, I don't have to cook! So, we showered up, geared up, gassed up, and rode to the meeting place. There we stood alone, looking at thunderclouds, for about 10 minutes. The ride leader got there just on time, and we waited just a few to see if anyone else would turn up. They didn't, so we had a group of 3 riding out.

I wish I had a camera. I wish I'd had the mental clarity to use my phone camera. I wish I had enough miles on me to feel comfortable snapping a photo from the saddle. Lots of wishes, none of which produce the pixels for you. Sorry. I'll just have to try to explain how wonderful the sky looked. We were riding west through the farm- and ranch-lands between north Dallas and Sanger. The isolated thundershowers that had rolled in over the course of the afternoon had dropped the temperature 20 degrees, at least, so it was hovering around a heaven-sent 80 degrees. With the wind of our passage, that was perfectly comfortable riding weather. The sky before us and to our left was still threatening rain, and all along the horizon there were smudges of black clouds. In places, you could see the horizon and the yellowing sky beyond, in places the clouds were sporting the slanted tails that obscured the horizon and signalled rain. There was even some jaunty lightning spread around, lest we take this for a gentle spring shower. Parts of Dallas and Tarrant county were having glorious, turbulent, summer thunderboomers. Ahead and to our right, the sun was setting. It was dipping down and tucking in among the spent rainclouds that were off to their retirement in Oklahoma, like lifelong Texans who believe those ridiculous stories of mythical lands with 4 distinct seasons. "We're off to see SNOW!" they said, and moved north, never to be seen again.

The road was plenty twisty, there were some hair-raising 30-mph "twisties" and some more gentle and well-banked "sweepers" to take on. It was my first group ride and my first ride on anything that could be called "twisties". I was a little nervous in places, but I think I managed to keep up alright. In any case, I had a delightful time. We rode on, enjoying the cool, the scenery, the lightshow, and the fresh scent of rangeland after a rain, until we got to the restaurant. By then it was just coming on full dark, so our timing was perfect. We ate good fried catfish, and I introduced my girlfriend to her first Fried Green Tomatoes. She liked 'em, by the way, so I can keep her. She also recently passed her first "pickled okra" experience, so I'm working on ferretting out of her which other Southern Classics she's missed out on so that I can get her fully immersed in the folk experience of the South before she gets too old to teach her any new tricks. *Wink* We came home by the highway, and it was pleasant, but not as memorable as the ride out had been. We made it home late and exhausted, but full and happy.

The second ride was totally different, although it traversed some of the same country and even started and ended on the same highway. We woke up at the crack of noon on Sunday and decided that we were hungry and wanted to ride to breakfast. Since one pancake house is as good as another and we were going to ride anyway, we picked one as far away as we could envision wanting to go. Oklahoma. Okay, not exactly in Oklahoma, but close. Unfortunately, dire pangs of hunger gripped us about an hour or so out of the metroplex, and being the flexible people we are, we decided to cut east toward our planned route and just scare up some food along the way. Well, it took us a couple of small towns before we finally found one that had any open food options on a Sunday afternoon. We ended up at a family-run grocery in Van Alstyne (after quizzing a local) as it was basically the only thing open that didn't involve turning around and riding up to Denison. There, a very kindly older woman made us sandwiches from her deli counter, served on WonderBread, and delivered in those little sandwich baggies with the fold-over top that I haven't seen since grade school. She even taped them shut with scotch tape and tagged them with her price-tag gun. It was precious! I assume her grandson was working the cash register, based on a little family resemblance and some age-based math. Anyway, there had been no rainstorms that day to drop the temperature, so by the time we made it into the grocery (serving Van Alstyne for 50 years!) I was ready to kiss the first person with their hands on a cold drink. And lo, in the door of the store was taped a hand-lettered sign which read "Cold GatorAde". It probably would've shocked the register kid even more than it would've shocked my girlfriend, so I refrained from actually kissing him. I did, however, down a quart of gatorade in record time. And polished off my sandwich.

At the store, we had a rather odd encounter with a bearded biker on a Yamaha V-Star who was wearing the largest silver Harley-Davidson ring I've ever seen in my life. He was an engaging character, and if anyone has a chance to participate in the Blue Ridge Poker Run, benefitting underprivileged kids in Blue Ridge who want to play team sports, I think you oughta join. The guy seemed to know his business, and I bet the ride would be great. After Van Alstyne, we bumped on through Princeton and across what's left of Lake Lavon (reduce your water use! it's not a hoax!) and after wrangling with a slightly misleading map we managed to get headed on home. Again, the day was full of good twisty roads and good company. I did a MUCH better job of maintaining something that looked like "formation" than I had the night before. Still, toward the end, when I got tired, I lagged. I lagged enough that some trollop in a Cavalier was able to pull between me and my girlfriend on 75 as we rode south back into Dallas. I was incensed! I realized quickly, though, that we were exiting in 1/2 mi. and that it was my own dumb fault for lagging enough to let someone squeeze in.

Anyway, the feeling after the first ride was relief that I'd not been overconfident. I've done a bit of reading about "first rides" particularly by women riders and the authors seemed to be a lot more scared than I was. Strike that. The authors seemed to be petrified with terror by comparison. It got so I was wondering if I was overconfident. I think I wasn't. I tend naturally not to be afraid of anything, and I logically knew that even if I had a worst-case scenario and went off the road that there would be folks there to help me out. Aside from that, if I were to get lost from the group, I know enough about maps and FM roads to get msyelf back to the highway and home. Nothing could have gone wrong that I couldn't handle, so there was nothing to fear. With that attitude, it was merely a technical matter of mastering throttle control and lean angle in the twisties.

The feeling after the second ride was much harder to identify. I think that's because it's a mixed bag of feelings and that no one feeling predominates. I was relieved to get back home. We were out for about 5 hours, most of that hungry and thirsty, and all of it hot. There was also some rueful "trust your route leader" mixed in there. We had a mishap with a poorly-marked map and then a couple of moments where we weren't certain which way to go. By then, my flexibility was low and I just wanted home, and I muttered a bit about stopping to check the map and not flying by the seats of our collective pants. Of course, the irony that the map had led us astray the first time did not occur until my brain was air conditioned in the aftermath of the ride. Naturally, the ride leader got us home by the safest and fastest route from the point at which we decided that that's what we wanted. I need to have a little more faith my girlfriend's ability to get the job done her way instead of mine. There was also some bubbling confidence in my ability to keep up with the pace of the ride. My girlfriend is quite an experienced rider, and I'm ... well ... NOT. She complimented me on how I handled my bike and that just made me glow from top to bottom. Finally, there was a desire to get back out there and DO IT AGAIN. I rolled over the 1000 mile mark while we were out there in the boonies, and I want to experience that feeling over and over again for miles and miles to come. So I hope to see you out there in the wind somewhere. I'll be the one grinning. beaming like a loon.

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