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Winter Musings

Jim Hale
January 4, 2012
Filed under Rider Magazine Blog

As old man winter sweeps through the south the weather changes aren’t nearly as drastic as those in the northern parts of our country. No snow banks line the roads down here below the Mason-Dixon Line; no bitter winds rattle the windows or cause those out on the streets to bundle up like artic explorers. The changes are subtle. The furnace runs more often, and the cats spend more time curled up in the comfort the garage provides. The sunlight sneaking through the blinds in the kitchen window warms the counter top near the stool where I keep my laptop plugged in. The motorcycles sit more than I would prefer. I start them up at least every week and try to take them out for a short trip as often as I can. The afternoon sun down here brings the temperatures up to the high 60s or low 70s, which makes an 80- or 90-mile ride enjoyable. As the sun drops so does the temperature and getting caught out on a bike without the proper clothing can prove to be an uncomfortable experience.

These thoughts were rattling around in my head the other night. My wife was out of town for a few days and the television was full of mindless reruns and mindless politics, so I ended up in the garage sitting on my 1975 CB750. Bob Dylan was providing background music, on a CD player I purchased at a yard sale for three whole dollars. The garage door was open, the temperature was dancing around 50 or 60 degrees, and our neighborhood was dark and quiet. Dylan was doing his 1975 moan-yelp about being “Tangled up in Blue, and the cat had decided to ignore my presence completely. I leaned forward and closed my eyes, thinking about past rides and rides not yet taken. I have to consider myself lucky I have ridden from Olympia, Washington, down through eastern Oregon into California and then up the Pacific Coast back into Washington, returning to the house my wife and I were calling home then. I’ve ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway and found twisty, shady roads up and down the East Coast I probably couldn’t find again. I’ve eaten in diners and have called beef sticks and bottled water meals when pushed for time. I’ve ridden my Honda Shadow up and down the beaches in Florida and discovered the joys of a tall windshield while riding my old BMW through a nearly blinding spring thunderstorm in the Carolinas. My friend for over thirty years has been talking about a motorcycle trip through Maine, and for reasons I don’t understand I’ve been looking at maps and thinking about a ride into Texas, with a stop in New Orleans. Good food, an abundance of history, friendly people and a casino; who wouldn’t want to stop for a day or two?

But staying in the present these are just memories and thoughts not yet fully formed. Now 2012 is here, and rides I want to take this year will have to be planned out and certainly budgeted for. The bikes look ready, but I think two of the three are in need of service and I’ve been thinking about changing the seat on the old CB750 if I can find one I like and the price is right. I checked my watch and it was getting too late to get on the phone with anyone who would give a damn about discussing motorcycle trips. I shut off my bargain basement CD player and dumped a scoop of cat food into the bowl by the garage door. The cat raised his head when he heard the noise near his food dish, but he only blinked and quickly lay his head back down. I closed the garage door but stopped it about a foot from the floor so the cat could get in and out as he pleased. I doubled checked the bikes to make sure I had taken all the keys out of the ignition switches, and headed back into the house.

Looking at the bikes in the garage before I shut the lights off, I couldn’t help thinking how fortunate I am. I have a wife who enjoys going with me on the bike when her schedule permits. I’m reasonably healthy and if I never took another motorcycle ride I’ve got enough memories to get me through. Of course, I don’t want that to happen; I want to see Maine with my buddy Bob from the seat of one of these motorcycles; I want to wander the streets of New Orleans again with my wife and ride towards Texas with her holding on as we twist westward along back roads. Motorcycle rides don’t fit under Christmas trees, but maybe Santa’s generosity will unfold throughout the year and help make my wish-list rides a reality.

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