Motorcycle Times Columns
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A fun Vacation Story By Guest writer Beth Tavalin
I was a girl on a bike before that was a thing.
Dad owned a Honda Goldwing 1200 and many of my summers were spent in the back seat. We rode through Texas when it was so hot, we could barely breathe. Rivers of sweat rolled down our backs and we stopped several times just for a large cup of ice. His Goldwing took us to the top of Pikes Peak where it snowed, rained and hailed all in the same afternoon. We had to plan it just right to make sure we didn’t run out of gas as we sailed across the sparse Oklahoma panhandle. And, oh, I remember the beating we got from the rainstorm on the way to Virginia Beach. We spent hours shielding ourselves under an overpass.
Then, it was my turn to drive. Dad bought me my own bike during my senior year of high school, back in 1985. It was an early graduation present. Not a wimpy bike that kids rode, but a maroon Honda Shadow VT500. Powerful, and perfect for long road trips. It was a sweet ride.
We lived in Nashville and hit the road whenever we could get out of town. Dad always made me lead, so he could watch over me and protect me. I enjoyed the freedom. No radio, no agenda, no place we needed to be. Just the black pavement unwinding in front of us. Trees, fields, clouds, even cows watched as we roared past. I was at home on the road, the wind whipping my clothes and the heat of the sun on my back.
The one thing I didn’t like was bugs. Living in the south, bug season arrived as soon as it got warm and stayed until the first frost. Riding without a windshield meant I was pelted by whatever was flying in my path. On more than one occasion I was thankful for my full-face helmet as I noted how many bugs had slammed against it. Sometimes I had to stop and clean my visor, so I could see. But it was the ones that hit you in the leg or arm that hurt the worst.
One summer we drove to Colorado to see Grandma and Pops. It was exactly twenty-five hours of drive time. We rode until we were hungry or needed gas, then we were back on our way. We pushed hard all day, but around 10pm, I started getting tired. A rest area was just ahead, so I pointed to it and turned on my blinker. I glanced back at Dad. He nodded and followed.
I parked my bike next to a round, concrete picnic table well-lit by a twenty-four-hour light pole. Dad pulled up next to me and we both pulled off our helmets.
I leaned back against my rolled sleeping bag and looked over at him. “I’m tired.”
“Okay. We can sleep here for a few hours. If we stay under the light, no one will bother us.” He dismounted, unhooked his sleeping bag and threw it out on the sidewalk.
I pulled my sleeping bag from underneath the bungee cords and walked over to him. I pointed to the ground next to his sleeping bag. “There’s a June bug.” The plump, brown beetle shimmered as it crawled across the sidewalk near where Dad planned to sleep for the night.
“So what? It’s just a bug.”
“I’m not sleeping on the ground next to that thing.”
Dad shook his head and laughed.
Walking to the picnic table, I threw my sleeping bag on top of it. “I’m sleeping up here.” I climbed on top of the table and slid inside my bag.
Dad continued to laugh as he glided into his bag and zipped it up. “Good night, you nut.”
After getting comfortable, I soon fell asleep. Occasionally, I woke to the sounds of semi engines or car doors slamming. I was careful not to roll off the table. That would be bad. Hitting my head on the concrete would hurt, but even worse, June bugs might be down there.
Morning greeted us with the warmth of the sun. I slowly woke and sat up. I rubbed my eyes and then remembered where I was – on top of a picnic table, happily bug free.
I gazed over at Dad. He was still snoozing on the sidewalk with his sleeping bag up over his head, the drawstring pulled tight around his face. I could barely see his nose poking through the hole. He was completely, entirely, utterly covered by June bugs. There was a dark cloud of beetles surrounding him for three feet in every direction. He couldn’t move without disturbing the entire lot of them.
I slowly and quietly edged out of my sleeping bag. “Dad,” I whispered. He didn’t move. “Dad,” I said louder. He moved slightly, and a few beetles started buzzing around his head. “Daaaad.” He woke up and tried to sit up. The brown cloud of beetles transformed into a storm. I ran. Straight for the bathrooms. I didn’t look back. I heard the commotion. A yell. Buzzing. A zipper unzipping. Louder buzzing.
When I reached the building, I ducked behind the glass doors. I turned and watched a bearded man, my dad, enveloped in a swarm of June bugs, swinging his sleeping bag like a weapon and dancing to a tune only he could hear.
Stevie Lynne’s Christmas Gift List
My Top 10 List of Gifts for the Motorcycle Lover
The time of year for a switch back has come and gone. In this case I’m not talking about taking a day to find a bunch of crooked mountain roads with plenty of fun switchbacks to ride. I’m talking about that switch back from Daylight Saving Time to Eastern Standard. It’s when we’re out riding and find ourselves digging through our pockets and bags looking for our “clears” at around 5 o’clock instead of 8:30 pm. Unless you’re more organized than me and can better keep up with your nighttime glasses that is. A recent hunt for mine reminded me to put clear lenses on my Christmas wish list this year since I usually blank out whenever someone asks me what I would want. And so that leads me to my Top 10 List of Gifts for the Motorcycle Lover. In no particular order, except maybe a loose train of thought, these are items I’ve given and/or received to great reviews.
Clear lens glasses- Let’s go ahead and start with clears for riding in the dark or rain. It doesn’t hurt to have extra pairs to keep them handy. That way, you also have some for use as replacements if any are scratched, lost, or broken.
Bungee cords- If you’ve ever seen a couple of riders on the side of the road, forced to take their belts off their waists in order to strap down camping gear that’s come loose on a bike, you know the value of these beauties. Forget diamonds, bungees have been this girl’s best friend many times. Keep them around the garage for packing to go on a long road trip. Happiness is having a stash on the bike as well. Just in case you find yourself picking up something that won’t fit in a bag but must be tied down in order to get it home. Multi-packs of various lengths make a great gift, extra bonus points if cargo netting and zip ties are included.
Rain suit- I’m not a huge fan of riding in the rain, but this is the best gift I’ve ever hated having to use! Thanks Dad!
Heated gear- Once upon a time, another rider approached me at a party. He said that one morning as he headed down 29 south toward Charlottesville, he saw someone on a motorcycle merge into traffic ahead of him. He explained his thought was, “It’s 32 degrees out, now who is this crazy a$sh*le?!” He grinned and said when he caught up with the bike; he realized it was me, “No offense”. None taken! I got a good laugh out of it right along with him when I described how I would cheat the chill by sticking an aromatherapy heating pillow in the microwave, then stuff it down the front of my jacket for the 20-minute ride to work. Thanks to thoughtful family members, I now have a heated jacket liner and gloves. In cold weather, these extend not only the length of each ride, but the whole riding season each year. However, there are times when I catch a scent of lavender and think fondly back to that essential oil-filled quick fix for a frigid day!
Bike manual- When I first started riding, I happened to be in a dealership where I overheard a woman complain that her bike had been there for 4 days and she wanted it back so she could ride. The simple oil change she needed still hadn’t been done, and they weren’t sure when they could get to it. Unwilling to ever find myself in the same situation, I asked friends to teach me how to change my own oil and perform basic maintenance on my motorcycle. The first lesson was that everyone should have the service manual for their motorcycle. It makes the rest of the lessons much easier. Which leads me to the next gift idea.
Oil filter wrench, filters, oil- An oil filter wrench makes accomplishing the needed oil change a lot easier in my opinion. And one year, my boyfriend gave me a filter and case of oil. While non-riding friends thought practicality canceled out romance in that instance, I was thrilled. The smiles and memories on my bike long outlasted flowers or other options!
Gremlin bell- If you’re not familiar with the legend of gremlin bells and the protection they provide bikes and riders, a quick search online will fill you in. The short explanation is that these bells are attached to a motorcycle in order to trap and drive away road gremlins that want to cause harm. These are tough little trinkets; however, the power is only activated when the bell is a gift. Have fun picking one out and give your rider a little extra safety insurance.
Bandanas- There’s no such thing as having too many bandanas because there are as many reasons to keep them on hand as there are colors and designs. It’s common practice to fold one into a do-rag to hide crazy helmet hair or wipe overnight dew off a bike seat. But you might also find yourself rolling ice cubes into one at a convenience store to tie around your neck and make crossing a hot corner of Mississippi in August feel a lot cooler!
Lip balm- Great stocking stuffer to protect not only against windburn, but sun damage too. Pick some out, SPF included.
Gift cards- When in doubt, gift cards or gas cards are always welcome! My Mom used to worry that these weren’t personal enough. Of course, they are! After all, it’s the thought that counts and you were thoughtful enough to pick one up. Christmas is about Christ, not stressing everyone out over presents. Just BE present. Enjoy this time with your loved ones over the holidays, and Merry Christmas!
Stevie Lynne rides a Heritage Softail, is an ABATE member, and resides in the Capital Region of Maryland. Originally from Virginia, and after living in Pennsylvania for a time, she loves exploring the roads of the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. Stevie was an on-air radio personality for over twenty-five years and is happy to now share tales as a part of the Motorcycle Times family. Stevie also blogs on writethisminute.net and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get A Motorcycle and Make Some Memories
Lately I’ve been happy to find a couple more motorcycle lovers and to share quite a few miles with them, that is when time and weather permit. Right now this is magazine deadline time and although I really do want to ride I just don’t have the time.
I always allow ample time in my schedule to organize, assemble, tweak, proof and re-proof the magazine as needed to ensure as high a quality product as I can manage. So it was a great burden on my schedule when I was subjected to “unknown technical difficulties” which resulted in a 9 day interruption to my schedule. My host provider worked with me on 3 levels of tech service but it soon became clear they were simply aiming me at the paid repair service. Now you must understand that in this world right here right now people upload billions of documents and images and files of every sort; every day, hour and minute and perhaps in some cases seconds. This is what I was trying to do. Upload a few simple documents. Maybe it is just me but it sure seems like when you are paying for the service to do that – it should do that. especially when you can upload to other places but just not there.
Long story short, it cost me a little more money and they literally put a band aid on it. They installed an uploading plug in as opposed to fixing their coding. So, I’m just busting my brain box now to meet deadline and wearing down my energy reserves with long days and nights at the computer when all I really want to do is go for a ride!
And that brings us full circle to my riding buddies. I know with certainty at least a few will respond to my call for a ride once I am free to do so. I know that whether we go ride all day or just for a couple hours we will be enjoying it to the fullest. We will be making Motorcycle Memories to reflect upon when you need some small slivers of sanity in your life as I do now.
Like the time recently, during the tech problems, I arraigned a short ride for my own sanity and two of my buddies came along. We were riding roads well known to me – it’s what I call my stress relief route. It’s about 80 miles looping out and back and of course very nice scenery for central (flat) Delaware. I had begun to feel the zen and actually missed a turn but I knew the roads even though I had not been on this specific one, and where the other end of this specific one was, so I just pressed on and they followed.
What I did not know was that the road had a middle unpaved section to it and it was a couple miles long and it was soft on top from all the recent freezing and thawing and yes some rain too. I was on my Sofa – a 2ooo Kawasaki Voyager 12, Mary was on her Intruder 800 and David was on his pristine Shadow 1100. The Metzeler tires on my bike were chosen for their street grip with nary a thought given to any sort of off road capabilities. I soon discovered any speed above just what it takes to keep the bike moving and upright resulted in muddy tank slappers combined with aggressive fishtailing.
Had I been on a dirt bike I would have gassed it and had some real fun but as it were I could only imagine this beast pancaking me into the muddy roadway and then slowly pushing me under as it sank on top of me until we were simply gone. So I kept it slow and I stiff armed the handlebars as needed and clenched the seat as tightly as I could with the crack of my buttocks and used my feet as outriggers when needed.
Imagine a loose puppet sitting on an angry pig running around in the mud.
Eventually we made it to the donut shop for coffee and donuts and got warmed up. I apologized to my friends and with a wince of concern I looked over at their bikes. They were still pretty darn clean! I assumed they had been riding in my wake.
So yeah, we made Motorcycle Memories that day, as we have many other days and to varying degrees of success. But it’s always been fun and always something to reflect upon when I need a pick me up.
Like the time we rode up into Pennsylvania three straight weekends in a row for “the leaf change” and once ended up on what seemed to be an off camber Jeep trail picking our way around fist sized rocks which continually threatened to pitch us way down the mountain and into the Susquehanna river after straining and pureeing us through the trees.
Alas, that is a memory for another time. If you already have a motorcycle go make some memories. If you don’t yet have a motorcycle, go get one and make some memories. It sure beats reading about mine or almost anything else you may be doing.
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