Saturday, November 12, 2016

30 years ago today

I made this ride 30 years ago today. Here's the story I wrote for the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America magazine:
I knew when I woke up in my Baton Rouge, Louisiana motel room I had to go for it.
My end-of-the-season ride to the warmth of New Orleans and Louisiana was about to end. The 'Siberian Express," a killer blast of Arctic air, was charging into the eastern half of the United States, dropping temperatures to record lows and threatening my return ride to Indiana.
Even without a proper cold weather riding suit, I figured I could handle a little cold, but the vision of freezing rain in Tennessee or snow in Kentucky added a real sense of urgency.
The alternative of holing up for a couple of days meant I'd miss seeing my son star in his high school musical, I knew I had to race the Express to Indianapolis.
The massive cold front was advancing on a northeast-to-southwest diagonal, and my plan was to avoid it as long as possible by riding northeast to Birmingham, Ala.before making the dash north.
It was in the low 50s and misting when I rolled out of the motel parking lot at 7:15 a.m.
Over jeans and a turtleneck, I wore my Eclipse electric vest and chaps, and my lightweight Fairweather riding suit. A fresh pair of
foam earplugs were firmly in place to fight wind noise fatigue, and a silk balaclava and pair of Thinuslate-lined riding gloves completed the ensemble.
About two miles up the road, I pulled over to add a heavy wool shirt to the outfit.
In doing so, I had the optimistic thought I'd probably shed it soon as I rode east and into the warmth of day.
The 1000cc BMW made quick work of Louisiana, boring a neat hole in the wind east along I-12 to Hammond and north on I-55 to the Mississippi line. The mist came and went. But after a refueling stop at McComb, Miss., it got heavier. And colder.
I tucked in behind the RS fairing,looking for warmth.
Despite the nagging realization that frequent stops were counterproductive, I pulled into a rest park to see if my Rukka rainsuit would fit over everything else I was wearing.
It did, but zipping it up meant rerouting the power cord from the vest and chaps down my right sleeve to the outlet near the right handgrip.
Back on the road, I was relieved to find I was - at last - reasonably comfortable.
Now for some serious riding.
Except for a 15-minute breakfast stop at McDonald's somewhere east of Jackson, Miss. (the hot air hand dryers in the restroom were great for restoring feeling to chilled hands), the only stops for the next eight hours were for gas.
My Rl00RS goes onto reserve around 200 miles, but I started looking for ethanol-free stations whenever the trip meter rolled up 175 miles.
The I-20 run across Mississippi and Alabama dissolved into a blur of impressions-log trucks laden with long, dangling, bouncing pine tree trunks; a dead deer at the side of the road, leapfrogging the some slower traffic after each gas stop.
The sun came out around Birmingham and I was able to switch off the electrics for a couple of hours as I rode north on I-65 through Alabama's autumn colors.
Crossing into Tennessee, however, it become clear I was on a collision course with the Siberian Express.
The light was fading and it was misting as I wolfed down a bacon cheeseburger at a Hardee's south of Nashville and studied the map. Time was running out, and it was getting colder by the hour.
I wondered if Bowling Green or Louisville might not be prudent overnight stops, but realized it would be colder still the next morning. There was no choice but to go on.
As I sped north, I noticed people in cars were beginning to stare at me in surprise. The temperature was down to 38 when I stopped for gas north of Nashville, and the cashier questioned my sanity.
At Horse Cave, KY, I stopped for coffee. Hoping my rainsuit seams would hold, I added another pair of pants and a light jacket to my outfitand stuffed a t-shirt into my helmet for added insulation. I was beginning to look like Mr.Bip, the Michelin tire man, but that was the least of my concerns.
At a gas and coffee stop near Jeffersonville, Ind., a motorist cheerfully announced it was snowing when he left Indianapolis earlier in the evening. No matter. This was the home stretch.
The cashier at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in Columbus, lnd., stared in disbelief as stomped up to the counter for a cup of coffee some 50 miles farther north.
The final 50 miles were the toughest as the mercury continued dropping and nasty crosswinds developed.
I occupied myself searching for on elusive spot in the air envelope where the wind couldn't knife around the edge of my face shield and sear my face.
A time-and-temperature sign just off l-65 in Indianapolis read 25 degrees when I passed it on the last few
miles to home.
It was about this point when I realized that, other than being excruciatingly cold, I didn't feel all that bad for having covered 880 miles in 15 hours, Had it been summer, I might have ridden another 120 miles just to make it on even 1,000.
Maybe next time.

No comments: