Thursday, November 24, 2005

Empty roads and bulging waistlines

Two days of riding under the belt, turkey roasting away in the oven, freshly opened Corona and the first of two football games on the TV. Can life get any better than this?

I guess it could, but the odds of Angela Jolie knocking on my front door wearing not much more than a lustful smile are pretty small.

Since my office was going to be closed for Thanksgiving and the days either side of it are some of the slowest in my industry, I took advantage of the casual dress code and rode my Deuce to work on Wednesday. It was just a short ride and on a heavily commuted city road, but just being on the bike made the other traffic and lights fade into the background.

What couldn't be ignored was the cold weather. We had a cold front come into South Florida and the temperature was 59 degrees at just after nine in the morning. The leather jacket was a given and thankfully I didn't follow the urge to take off the windshield (I figured it would only be local riding and not much wind, besides the bike looks so much cooler without it). Even with the windshield, the slight wind that swirled around my face was certainly chilly enough to make me realize it was staying firmly attached to the Deuce for the duration of winter.

My leather gloves are full finger, but perforated for cooler riding in the southern sun so although my fingers weren't freezing they could definitely feel the chill.

All this may sound a bit wimpy to the riders in any state more north of say Georgia, but not only will this be the first winter I'm riding but us Floridians have blood thin enough to live on the sparce atmosphere of some distant planet. That is if we could stand the cold planet surface.

He was a purple Deuce rider
One of the more interesting social aspects of riding on city streets is the conversation between bikers from light to light. When you start a conversation at an inital light neither of sure if you'll meet at the next one so whatever you're talking about has to be short, sweet and wrapped up at a moments notice. You say goodbye, but sort of don't especially since the odds are you'll be at the same place but one light further along.

This happened on the way home with our topic of conversation around both of us riding a Deuce, his a 2003 sharply painted purple with customized handle bars and excessive (but beautiful) amounts on chrome. He liked my windshield and I commented now good his sissy bar holding a solo saddlebag looked. We both agreed how ridiculous Harley has made it, not to mention complicated and expensive, to add proper saddlebags to the bike.

Of course we finished and started the conversation over three lights. The whole thing did prove once again that the most hardened looking, bandana wearing biker is really just the nicest and eloquent person you could meet.

Turkey Time
I had set aside whatever time I woke up until noon to get out on the bike Thanksgiving day, but with no-one to ride with and no particular place to go there wasn't much of a hurry to get out too early. By 9.15am I was heading south on Federal towards I-595 with the idea of heading west but nothing further in mind than the road I could see in front of me.

Roads normally congested with commuters were empty and the temperature slightly warmer than yesterday with hardly a breeze. Everything was perfect for a comfortable cruise somewhere, but where?

The thought of stopping at some diner for breakfast came and went. Why spend valuable riding time stuck at a table when you could be on a bike in this near perfect riding weather?

The Florida Highway Patrol had a nice little speed trap set up just west of the Turnpike overpass on I-595 and boy did they come prepared to give some unsuspecting drivers a lasting memento of Thanksgiving 2005. One Trooper stood with his radar gun and obviously radio'd descriptions of speeding cars to the pool of seven patrol cars waiting either side in the medians. Fortunately, I'd settled into the middle lane among some cars doing just over seventy miles per hour which wasn't enough to get official attention.

It was about this time I 'd decided to head south on Knob Hill Road through Davie and Cooper City, at some point turnning west to make my way to Holiday Park out in the Everglades. Knob Hill Road is a two lane road through a rural residential area giving a nice view of manicured developments, open fields and parks with traffic lights only appearing occassionally. The road is a series of slight curves allowing comfortable speeds of anywhere around fifty to sixty miles per hour.

It was on this road I started a conversation with the rider of a Kawasaki Cruiser. It may've been a 2003 but between the chrome, customizations and red paint job, it could've come straight off the showroom floor. One of the additions he'd made was a charger for his air intake increasing his horsepower from 88 to 105!

Not long after he took his left turn and left me on the road without any other riders around, I realized that I wasn't sure which road lead directly west into Holiday Park and even though I had a strong feeling it was either Sterling or Griffin Road, I went right past both of them until Pines Blvd. It was at this point I knew I had to head west until Hwy 27 and then go north until I saw Holiday Park. Highway 27 is the furthest most western road which separates Man and the Everglades, so on one side are industrial parks and the occasionally housing development and on the other scraggy looking trees and swamps.

Holiday Park had more riders than I would've thought and consistently kept twenty to thirty bikes in the parking lot. The Harley/Kawasaki/Suzuki Cruisers rumbled, BMW/Goldwings glided and the Sportbikes revved, all of them making a circle around the one way parking lot until they found a spot to park.

Photo's from my last visit to Holiday Park

A cup of coffee and few bike-related conversations later and I headed back out onto the highway so I could get the turkey in the oven in time for a dinnertime thanksgiving meal.

Is different good?
It was interesting watching the riders on the road as well as at Holiday Park. There are two points to this observation. Why is there a huge difference between not only what riders wear, but also why is it accepted?

From no helmets, to skull caps all the way to full face helmets.

Cowboy boots, tennis shoes and boots designed for both cruisers and sportbikes.

T-shirts, long sleeve shirts, leather vests, leather jackets and padded scientifically designed fiber racing jackets.

We're all on the same basic vehicle, an engine mounted on a frame with two wheels. The roads we travel are the same ones, made of asphalt or concrete. Taking into account speed, the effects on our bodies will be similar so why do we have differing levels of protection and why is it considered okay to have those various standards.

The final answer has to be as with anything we do in life, everyone has their own level of acceptable risk. It would be interesting however to ask someone who's permanently scarred from an accident if they could turn back time, would they wear that bulky jacket? Would a accident victim who finds themselves in a wheelchair change history and wear a helmet?

This leads me to my final thought. We should all take a moment on this day of days we set aside for retrospective and thank whatever we believe in for the many safe rides we've had. Be thankful for the ones that although they left us with a scratch or scare, at least they were'nt as bad as they could've been.

And we should certainly have thanks that we were shown maybe we could've ridden or dressed a little more safely.

Maybe even giving thanks we're wise enough to learn our lesson from those mishaps and take that extra step on our next ride.


Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of yours. Ride safe.

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