Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lost And Found

There are many things that can go wrong when you're new to motorcycling. Embarrassing breakdowns in gas station parking lots, stalling and dropping the bike while pulling out in a crowded intersection (Sorry, I won't be writing about that one for a while yet.), and of course losing the keys.

Thanksgiving morning rose warm and sunny with 50 degrees and clear skis. Perfect for one more ride. Unfortunately my keys were somewhere in my backyard. Or in the parking lot at Otto's. Or where ever they fell out of my pocket. Sometime after my Wednesday ride, after I garaged the bike, and after I ran errands across town, I lost them. I didn't realize this until well after everything closed for the holiday. Needless to say, I was a little anxious.

I began to retrace my steps on Friday morning. The backyard was a mess. A heavy rain and stiff wind had come in and scattered my remaining leaves, as well as the neighbors. The local strays had been using what was left of my piles as a community cat box. Who knew what was lurking under there now, and I wasn't relishing the idea of combing through it all with a rake. Besides, I had already checked the yard on Thursday. Nothing. So I headed out to Otto's pub and brewery. The staff was great. They looked everywhere, but found nothing. They took my number and promised to call if anything came up. By the way, their Red Mo Ale is great. Very crisp. Goes well with turkey and stuffing.

Depressed, I came home and began rummaging through pockets, coats, drawers, and toy bins (I have two daughters, anything is possible). Late in the day I began to accept the inevitable and started to read up on changing out the ignition on a slash-7.

Saturday morning promised another beautiful fall day, and I was still without my keys. A cold front had passed through during the night and the leaves had shifted. Tired of my brooding, my wife—who always finds things—offered to pitch in. We walked outside and there, in plain view, were the keys. Fortunately, I spotted them first. I don't know if I could have handled the added humiliation of missing something right under my nose.

I have lost a variety of keys over the years. Lockers, apartments, and just last month, the spare set to the car. Somewhere in the 20 feet between the driveway and our front door there is a set of VW keys just waiting to be found. And after today, I'm feeling pretty lucky.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Quick Ride

The weather held on Wednesday afternoon and I was able to slip out early for a quick ride. I don't ride as much as I would like now that the days are shorter. And for a new rider like me, this makes the late afternoon run all the more enjoyable.

I had initially planned on a short trip down a back road to Spring Creek. Usually I would be here with a fly rod. But today I was here for the winding road.

The more I ride the more aware I am of my environment. Everything comes alive. Subtle changes in temperature and visibility that would go unnoticed become relevant. A sudden rise in temperature on cold day can turn a 20 mile ride into 30. By the time I got home I had racked up 40. Not a bad way to start the holiday weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hoping For One More Ride

The first snow of the fall has hit the ground here in State College. I'm beginning to wonder if my weekends will now have to revolve around things like cleaning the garage and basement.

Looking out of my kitchen window I seen the remnants of a full summer and fall. The grill and the canoe are now covered in snow. The leaves, abandon after last Saturday's day of raking, lay in soaked piles waiting for me to them to the curb.

This is the time of year that seems to separate the enthusiasts from the fanatics in the cycling world. While I'm wondering if I should get the bike ready for winter storage, my friends—those with younger, healthier knees—talk of off-road romps through the muck that these wet snows leave behind. Other riders break out the winter suits and upgrade to the heated gloves. Then there's me. I'm waiting for that five day forecast to come true and get in a Wednesday afternoon ride (60 and sunny) before the family invades for Thanksgiving. If I'm to maintain my sanity with eleven adults and five kids, not only will I need a ride, I'll need to make sure the liquor cabinet is fully stocked.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Knocking Off Early

Usually when I leave early it's because I'm trying to catch up from a long morning.

Tuesday around 11 a.m. I realized that the weather was turning. A miserable morning of wind, rain, and unscheduled meetings was breaking into a warm fall afternoon. I emailed my friend Pascal (he just bought a new Triumph) and we agreed to meet up for a quick ride. Over lunch, I ran into Matt (he's has a Honda 250 that he picked up from a MSP course) and that made three. Beating the afternoon commute, we were out of town on the back roads by 4. We managed 25 miles and were home before dark.

Riding back against the evening commute I realized how lucky I am to be able to slip away every now and then. Passing car after car as they head home I began to think about how great it would be to do this every day. To ride to work. I would have to exchange a 20 minute walk across campus for fifteen minutes of congested local traffic. I would be in line with them—eating their exhaust and waiting my turn at the traffic light. But the chance to ride on a moments notice if the weather shifts … very tempting.

My friend Steve lives out of town. He rides most days and has wonderful morning commutes with detours down back roads and country lanes. I'm pretty sure it adds a little time to the trip, but I doubt he minds. For him, every day has the possibility of a good ride, even when it's cold and miserable. You can catch his thoughts and his photographs at Scooter In the Sticks.

If I lived out, I'd be tempted do the same. Even get up earlier to log a few extra miles before work. But for now, I'll have to settle for knocking off early.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Doing Things Other Than Riding

My father lives in a cabin about a mile down a township off of route 144. I met up with him at the Sunset West (a little diner on the edge of Pleasant Gap) for a Saturday breakfast with a few of the guys that come up from Philly to hunt deer on his property. They drive up every year at this time to help cut wood for the winter, get the last of the hay into the barn, and shut down the nursery. In return, he lets them hunt for a few days in late November.

Fall with dad has a way of making me feel as though I never left Central Pa. It could be the smell of the greenhouses or the saw dust and exhaust from a two stroke engine. Maybe it's the cheap lager that he keeps in the bunk room refrigerator, I don't know, but it adds to the magic of autumn.

This is my favorite time of year and I'm ashamed to say that I haven't ventured out on the bike in nearly three weeks. Days like last Saturday were perfect, and we had a string of them here in October. I've missed riding, but is sure has been nice to catch up with my father after a long summer.