March has arrived at last, signaling the end of winter. Along with the annual celebration that is Daytona Bike Week, it also heralds the beginning of serious riding and touring season. For as long as I have ridden, I’ve been a year-round rider, but winter is always a catch-as-can season. Sometimes I can ride every week, sometimes only once a month, and there have been winters in memory with two consecutive months of totally inclement weather. While I no longer have to worry about that since moving south, I can remember, and that memory still makes me break out with Spring Fever every year, just like when I was trapped in snow country.
I find it funny how one becomes programmed to respond to subtle changes in the seasons, often without really noticing. Usually sometime in February I will be out and about, running an errand or heading to a favorite restaurant, and I will notice the first sign of impending Spring Fever. This comes in realizing that it is not dark yet—the subtle but delightful recognition that the sun is up a few minutes later than last week. This awareness stays with me for a few wonderful days before it is blasted away by the next cold snap, but it always sets Spring Fever in motion. Like being infected with the flu, it only needs a little time to incubate.
And incubate it will, starting with the planning and execution of the yearly pilgrimage to Daytona. This almost-pagan ritual of sun-and-fun worship, this refutation of Old Man Winter, along with a liberal dose of riding, sand, suntan lotion, and the de rigueur bikini-clad beauties reflected in motorcycle chrome, marks the full outbreak of Spring Fever. Simply put, it is on, so accept it.
Often for me that acceptance takes the form of almost daily rides. By late March or early April, most of America has traded snow-removal tools for gardening gear, dry sinuses and winter coats for spring allergies and shirtsleeves. The salt is gone from the roads and vehicles, to be replaced by the first bug splats of the year. It is a good time to be alive. But as a rider, it is still time to be wary of the last gasps of winter.
As the sun soars ever higher into the sky, bringing the temperatures up with it, almost every afternoon is a fine time to ride. This may encourage us to ride to work, yet mornings can still find winter lurking in spots that, by the nature of the terrain, are a few weeks behind the season change, holding black ice or even snow in the higher elevations for the inattentive rider. But if you know your riding area well and stay aware, it is a great time to ride and a fine cure for the Fever.
For me, though, day rides are not a complete cure; that only comes with the first long weekend tour of the season. Truly, this is the only sure cure for the Fever. I discovered this miracle cure many years ago, and while I sure wish I had patented it, it is free for all to use, if you use it wisely. I remember one adventurous spring when I had the Fever real bad. I did the only thing a biker could do—I packed the bike with all the transitional season gear and spent the week getting ready. Having been on a tight work schedule, I needed some loose time, unfettered by places I had to be. This had to be one of those trips where I let the front wheel take me where it would, back roads all the way, turning only in directions that looked like fun riding.
After an early start, I was able to cover several hundred miles. At the end of my first day in the saddle, I was tired but refreshed. I selected a roadside chain motel with a restaurant across the parking lot, and after a hearty meal I settled in for a great night’s sleep. I awoke the next morning ready and roaring to ride. As I drew back the curtain to check on the bike—a morning road ritual—I found to my surprise and horror that the whole world was white! There were several feet of snow on everything, including my bike. Old Man Winter had surely been lurking in wait for me. I spent the next two days right there, waiting for the local roads to clear so I could head home. Seems I had overlooked one thing about the spring season: don’t wander into snow country without a weather radio. Less than a hundred miles in another direction and I would have awoken to a pretty spring morning. Well, lesson learned. But snow aside; I did cure the Fever!
Machine Gun Pie
When you bike into this pie, You’ll hear the rat tat tat of machine gun fire, which sounds just like a straight-piped Hog racing up an alley. It is a favorite of mine when I want something Italian but not pasta. This recipe is a variation on a classic ratatouille baked into a pie that will make veggie lover’s pizzas look anemic.
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-size onion, cut into matchsticks
4 canned chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, minced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 medium-size eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium-size zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch slices
3 cups small brown mushrooms, cut in half
1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch squares
One 29-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, quartered, with their juice
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 box piecrust mix, prepared for two 9-inch deep-dish pies
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water. Allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the tomatoes from the water, reserving the liquid. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and return to the liquid.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and chipotles, stir well to coat with oil, and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and bell pepper, and cook, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the sun-dried tomatoes with their liquid, the peeled tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, and black pepper, and cook, stirring a few times, until the sauce just thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Divide the filling between the two piecrusts. Cover the top of each evenly with the mozzarella. Bake until the cheese and crusts are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Makes two 9-inch pies
Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2020. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.
EAT HOT & RIDE SAFE
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