See, I took a marathon (for me) 4 1/2 hour road trip on the bike today. I say "marathon" since I am no Iron Butt rider, seeing as most of my bike trips these days last four miles one-way, to go to work.
When I was going through my divorce I spent a lot of time with a bachelor friend who lived away down south, and I would, each weekend it seemed, and every free day I had, drive my cruiser down there to spend time, relax, ride, do all that good stuff. It was just over 100 miles one way, all highway, some interstate, and went a long way to healing my scared soul, simply by giving me time to think and reflect.
Well, those days are long past, the cruiser is sold, and today's trip was the same distance I used to ride, only longer. See, the route down south was pretty much two-lane roads through national forest. The trip I had to make north today went through about seventeen jillion small towns, all of whose only source of income is speeding tickets, so you have these short stretches of beautiful open highway where the speed limit is 65, then one small sign warning you that the speed changes ahead, then suddenly it's 30. Literally. 30 mph. Not once but often. The fastest I saw through these towns was a few forward-thinkers who had generously raised the limit to 40. Woohoo!
Now, knowing that it was going to be cold this morning, I dressed as my decade of riding experience has taught me, vis:
- two thermal shirts
- Joe Rocket jacket
- balaclava (it's a silk ski-mask, not a Greek desert)
- neoprene lower face mask
- knit cap my sys made me
- armoured riding pants
- Dockers dress pants for work
- zero-degree riding gloves
- Hi-Tec Magnum boots
- thick (argyle) socks
And still, 30 or so miles outside of my destination, I was freezing to death. Too many miles at very slow speeds following very large trucks through construction zones and wayyyy too much shade was simply killing me. I gritted my teeth for so long against the cold that my jaw hurt. And the best part was that the temp was staying up around 37, except for two very long low spots.
Now, if you know Louisiana's topography, you know that ALL of Louisiana is a low spot. The highest point in the state is some sort of hallowed oasis mountain at a towering 500 or so feet. The rest is either, like New Orleans, below sea level or a few feet above it. Well, in the low spots there are, laughingly, more low spots. Two villages worth, and in these low spots the temperature hit and stayed at a remarkable 33 degrees. For a very long time.
Needless to say, when I got to the other office I was windburned, shivering, and ready to start hugging my bike's muffler for warmth. I would happily have sold my soul (if I had one) for a steaming mug of lava.
I passed the day as I needed to, which is to say "learning." The afternoon held for me, I well knew, a long trip home, but I was feeling alert and well, and full of vim and vigour having made the trip up so magnificently well, bearing up as I did under Everest-like conditions. No, really. Figure a 65 mph wind chill in temps of 33 degrees and see what you get. Here, I'll do most of it for you--at 30 degrees and a 60 mph wind it feels like it's 10 degrees outside. Nice.
So anyway, full of knowledge, I head home. And of course, the dread lure of Home made me go fast. Not so fast that I would lose control, but fast enough that I was over the speed limit and was passing cars, to stay out of their wind draft. It was still a chilly 57 heading home, you see. So me, about 35 miles away from home, crest a short hill leaving one small village and entering another, and what do my weary and bloodshot eyes see? Two police cars, pointing in opposite directions.
I didn't panic (I was too exhausted to panic) but I shut the throttle down and drove mildly until a white car pulled up behind me flashing not blues but headlights. Confused I pulled over and found myself face to face with the very polite and very large Chief of Police of a tiny town called Tullos. Right behind him drove up his conversation buddy, an elderly deputy sherrif of Tullos. Not only was I screwed but I was going to be dragged out into the bushes and never found again.
A town I didn't even know existed until this trip.
So to shorten an already too long story, I was very polite to the gentlemen, the deputy and I chatted about bikes while the Chief of PoPo's wrote me a love letter, and they let me go, thank heavens for the both of them, with what The Chief called a "city ticket," which is to say that I give the city the fine for 61 mph in a 40 mph zone and they toss the ticket in the trash can. Seems I was polite, deferential, and he pulled up a clean traffic record on me, so I scored enough Brownie Points to be let off easy. It's still legalised bribery, but the citation stays off my record and the insurance company doesn't hear about it so my rates don't go up, and it's all forgotten on all sides.
I even shook their hands after it was all over. Kinda like giving the executioner a kiss for giving you the smooth rope.
But, did you catch that? It stays off my CLEAN record. Can you believe it? After a lifetime of ill-spent fast youth, my driving record is PRISTINE...nothing on it. NOTHING. The last time I had a clean driving record was before I could reach a gas pedal. It must have been my time for a ticket, tho. Last week a deputy hiding in the fog. This afternoon, a kindly ticket. I knew that almost dumping the bike in gravel this morning was a bad omen.
I should have stayed at home in my warm bed.