Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Looking for a brighter day

I woke up to some chilly temperatures in New Hampshire, but there was no rain in the forecast. I didn't rush out the door, confident I could make it to my planned destination in Pennsylvania without a problem. There's a reason I moved out west, and it has to do with riding in the northeast.

I had all Interstate planned for the day. I needed to get on my way, and I've ridden most of New England's and eastern New York's back roads. I forgot how much I hate riding in Massachusetts until yesterday. I had to get off for some gas, and did that at Chelmsford. There's a weird kind of rotary to get back on the Everett Turnpike, and I didn't have the experience or knowledge to do that with skill. When I say rotary, it's more like a series of bridges with signs that give you the general idea of where you want to be.

At one point I realized I needed to be in a different lane and took the opportunity to jump in front of a pickup when he was slow to start. If you want to survive in Massachusetts, you must become a Masshole. That was fine until the car in front of me needed to do the same thing but was too chickenshit. I had to slam on my brakes, which then caused the pickup behind me to demonstrate the air horn he'd installed. I don't blame him, but it did scare me. I have a fairly consistent reaction when I get in a tight spot on the bike. I twist the throttle to get out of the situation. I saw a clear path to the on ramp and took it, accelerating rapidly. Then I got behind someone who must have been from Connecticut, going about 40 just before we needed to merge. Wondering how my carb was going to deal now that it's sucking down a sea level amount of oxygen while jetted for 5280, I cranked it once again, cutting off a Porsche who was also hoping to get ahead. Seems like it handles the demand better at sea level and jetted for altitude than it did the other way around. Meanwhile, I was irritating people left and right. Oh well.

Despite the lack of rain in the forecast, I found it. It wasn't too bad; just a little drizzle here and there. The clouds looked so pretty and fluffy in the distance. Not so much when they were overhead. I got into Connecticut on I-84, which eventually brought me into Hartford. I was glad I'd been through Hartford a few times before and knew where to be. Before long, Waterbury was approaching. That's when the downpour started. I wasn't seeing well, but there's a section of road where you're under an upper deck for a while, and that gave me a break. It was only worse on the other side, and there were a boatload of trucks. I was riding almost blind by the time I decided to pull over under a bridge. Of course I didn't feel much safer there with the trucks blasting by, but at least I could see. Another rider pulled up. I don't think he cared about stopping all that much but was more interested in the social aspect. He was a young Jap bike rider. We talked for a minute or two, and then the rain let up on the far side of the bridge and off we went.

I was able to stop and visit a friend in Westchester before getting back on the bike and heading over the Tappan Zee. I wish I could say I blasted over the bridge, but it was rush hour, and it probably took about an hour to go less than 5 miles. Gotta love those Hudson River crossings at rush hour. I finally reached an open road and made it to a campground outside of Allentown after dark. I had to do the night check-in and was glad I could find the tent spots easily.

This morning I opened my laptop, which I'd brought in the tent with me, to find 100% chance of precipitation. Seeing some blue sky, I figured I should get up and out of there before those odds kicked in. I was on the road about 10 miles before it started.

The rain wasn't too bad at first. It was on and off and totally bearable. I was happy thinking that would be the most I'd have to deal with for the day. Walk in the park. Yeah... no. After about 50 miles, it really started coming down. I was back to water boarding with my Full Throttle Coffee House bandanna. I started experimenting with ways I could hold my lips that would enable me to breathe. I found a way that would work, then I'd go for another deep breath and get a face full of wet fabric.  Finding ways to breathe kept me occupied for a while, and I didn't notice the water that was finding every possible opening.

I stopped at one rest area, had a cup of coffee, and talked to a friend on the phone. I got back on the bike and stopped at another rest area when I couldn't see anymore. I was there a little longer. The rain was showing no signs of letting up. There was some tattooed guy there in flip flops who was whining about having to run to his car in the rain. You can imagine what I wanted to say, but I was whining enough myself that I didn't feel justified. It was at this point that I finally realized why this was being so difficult: I don't have a windshield. And while I felt like less of a wimp, I was still discouraged that I had to keep stopping.

I got back on the road, determined that I'd make it to Lexington, Virginia if the 200 miles took another 6 hours. I didn't think it was possible, but it started raining harder and more consistently harder. I had to stay behind a vehicle so I could see the road. I felt safe because there was a tractor-trailer truck at a comfortable distance behind me, and I felt like he/she was watching my back. We went on like that for at least 20 miles, but then I guess the truck felt the need to move on. I was in Maryland by this point, and I decided to stop at a hotel.

After driving through Hagerstown, Maryland, I decided there was no way in Hell I would be staying anywhere there and leaving my bike outside. I got gas and whipped out my phone to find a dealership. Surely they'd have some warm, dry gloves and a place for me to sit for a little while to dry out and warm up before heading out again. Williamsport H-D is tiny. They were nice, but they really didn't have a place for me to take off my wet clothes and chill. Nor did they have a good pair of gloves in my size. With no sign of the rain letting up, I found a hotel and headed out. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I checked in, the rain let up. Very frustrating for me, but after agonizing over my lack of progress for a while, I was grateful I'd made it safely as far as I did.

Tomorrow is another day.


Chessie (Chesshirecat) said...

Abby, speaking frankly...I feel you've made some excellent progress with the monstrous weather you've suffered through the past 24+ hours. I've been where you are: crossing the country in sorry assed weather. Stopping for a few hours in truck stops (I would pay for a hot shower and enjoy the peace of the little room and hot water for an hour...sometimes more.) I've laid down on cement picnic tables at roadside stops under their canopy...waiting for the rain to stop. It always blew in and kept me wet anyway.
I know darn well you've done one hell of a job keeping yourself on track, on the road, and safe as well. Sleep well tonight.

Abby said...

Great idea about the truck stop. I was thinking of a new business: bike stops. Find small store fronts all over the place, put in a couple of showers and a lounge. If the dealership had a place to hang out, I would have stuck it out another hour or so and been back on the road.

I feel a business plan coming on.

Unknown said...

Yeah that makes for a tough riding day, even with good raingear afterwhile the water will find the hidden zipper behind the velcro, little gaps under your chin and in back of the head. being THE optimist, " least it's not snowing".... I like your bike stop idea.

Patty said...

We had rain all day yesterday. It finally moved out in late afternoon. Doesn't bode well for your day today..... so sorry.

mom said...

"I feel a business plan coming on." I'm behind you 100% (except for dough.) Great idea.