"The healthy wayfarer sitting
beside the road scanning the horizon open before him, is he not the absolute
master of the earth, the waters, and even the sky? What housedweller can
vie with him in power and wealth? His estate has no limits, his empire
no law. No word bends him toward the ground, for the bounty and the beauty
of the world are already his."
- Isabelle Eberhardt (b. 1933) American writer
Into every life some rain
must fall. So it finally happened to me today. I rode in the rain for all
of about an hour. Big deal, you say. Of course, for most riders rain is
just another aspect of being involved in the environment - not just observing
it. Some riders are more adept at this particular involvement than others.
For example, Jon Diaz, one of the earliest members of the Internet BMW
Riders, became known as the Rainmaker because it rained at every event
he attended ... for more than a year. Jon is reputed to have had difficulty
finding riding boots to fit his webbed feet ...
My karma is from the dry side of the force ... the hour's worth of rain is the first time for me since January, on the return from Death Valley. And since then I've been to Seattle and New Mexico without wet. In fact, the last time I can remember spending a full day in the rain was around 37,000 miles ago! (The first Wanderlust trip was 9,000 miles from SF to Maine to Texas, having only one rain day - the day I was stopped and visiting in Cincinnati.)
Was I out of practice, no. Did it feel different, yes - but because of the cars, not because of the water. What is it about the synapse challenged among those who drive cars that makes them think turning on their lights in the rain creates a force field around them - and they can drive as though it were dry? As soon as the rain hit and the lights came on, I backed off and gave more space between vehicles. Yet in about 10 miles around Red Wing, I saw three almost-accidents among the prevailingly docile Sunday morning drivers. Being prepared for changed road conditions makes all the difference ... hmmm, maybe I answered my own question in that drivers today do not have to think much. Cars practically do that for them. Riders have to constantly predict, think, act.
By the way, someone wrote to say it seems I am opposed to or have denigrated people who choose cars. That is not my intention, but as we swim through our sea we should be most aware of the fish most likely to bite us. A prevailing cause of motorcycle injuries has been cars turning or 'blending' into the bike's right of way.
Sunday morning in farm country
is slow. Especially when the little old ladies who *really* only drive
the Buick to church are out in force, death grip on the wheel at 30 mph.
I almost hate to pass them even though the limit is 55, because my 'zooming
by' (even at 40) is going to add to the 'those damn bikers' theory. If
they are really slow, I occasionally wave as I pass ... confuses them just
enough to wonder if the person knows them.
Without starting another discussion of who waves and who doesn't, let me observe that some drivers out on the county roads subscribe to the index-finger wave method of greeting as they approach. I associated that with being a Texas custom ... I'll have to notice as I head south.
Passing through small towns, it has gotten to where I can almost tell the denomination of church by the manner of congregation of the crowd after service. If the largest group is orderly, almost in line, and oriented to the front of the church: Baptist. If the groups are spread all around the front lawn, children running everywhere: Catholic. If there is no group, but clusters of people around various cars in the lot: Lutheran.
So many days on the road makes me analyze too much ...
One thing I noticed right
away in the rain was all the other bikes on the road had helmeted riders.
Minnesota does not require helmets, and only the toruing-oriented bikes
seem to have owners who choose them. But in the rain I saw not a single
"wind in the hair", "helmet laws suck", or sleeveless leather vest. As
soon as the sun came out though ... they were everywhere like bugs out
from under a rock. Well, it is Sunday afternoon now, and there are images
to be upheld and burnished. In any case, it is nice to see bikes on the
The Great River Road was a bit of a disappointment. I was under the impression that the roads along the Mississippi were designated as scenic because of their views in following the river, but for most of the time I followed it the river was "over there". With Adam Wolkoff's suggestions I did ride some very nice roads, but broke off after the marked route became a 4-lane. Away from the Mississippi, Minnesota and Iowa farmland is placid and peaceful, but unremarkable for riding. It is not because of the land, like in South Dakota, but because of the farms that the roads are all straight and right angled.
Well, it is a long way yet to Kansas City where a new rear tire is waiting for me (I hope) at Engle Motors. As it approaches 25,000 miles, I'd say this tire has lived a good life, leaving bits of itself across the continent. But for now we have enough of Iowa to absorb (to last a lifetime).
With the late start and the rain ... a shorter day today.
FuelPlus 244 miles, 4:44 hours, 52 mph average
Northfield MN19 US61 MN43 MN16 US52 MN139 IA9 v58 b16 v56 IA24 US63 Waterloo
Sam Lepore, San Francisco