Monday, August 27, 2012

Post Isaac

It was a gray day today that started out with immense winds and rain on my drive home, slowing the to thirty miles an hour as cross winds slashed the bridges of highway one with horizontal rain. By the time I woke up before noon the sun was out and winds were rattling the palms around the house. It was pleasant to be out removing the hurricane shutters and organizing the deck furniture knowing the storm was off somewhere to the north, threatening other unfortunates...

life returns o normal tomorrow as everyone gears up or a return to work. I stopped by the gas station to buy some celebratory ice cream and the disconsolate clerk told me he'd been counting customers since three in the afternoon. I was nu ber eleven at seven thirty in the evening. Boredom was written allnover his face. Everyone got gas before the storm he laughed.

It's good to be finished with storm, and I hope none other approaches for a while.

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My Bonneville In The Mountains

This has been a summer of peculiar vacations, a week snatched here and another snatched there, vast amounts of what J H Kunstler derisively calls "Happy Motoring" all quite unlike my usual method of one three week stretch to allow for the batteries to be recharged.

Thus it was that I abandoned wife and dog and took to the Bonneville one more time to ride the great superslab highway north out of Florida. I live in the Keys, and mainland Florida is pleasant enough to pass through, though not my cup of tea as a place to live. I have explored almost all the peninsula and lived in a few places and found flat suburbia not to my taste. So my Bonneville and I pressed the speed limits to escape Flatistan's orbit to find the mountains.

It was hot on the road and wet, downpour after downpour forcing me in and out of my Frogg Togg waterproofs. Vehicles were wrecking right and left as I pounded the freeway north. How I evaded the skidding tumbling sliding cages and trucks I don't know. Well I do actually, because I took cover that first night in the downy softness of a bed at La Quinta. Eventually though we made it to the foothills, about 12 hours out of the Keys, and a Kermit chair and a tuna fish sandwich made a fine picnic in the woods.

I enjoy the solitude of riding, no cell phone no music no radio, just my thoughts inside my head and the sound of wind and motorcycle. It is the purest form of travel involving an engine and gives me a similar meditative state to that which I used to get watching waves while out sailing. Unlike travel by boat it is easy to come across signs of civilization in all it's forms, even the delightfully ungrammatical.

The rolling hills of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge present views of life that are American iconic, totally different than those tropical seascapes that surround my home. Barns, cows, shaded winding roads and farmland spread between dense forests are the stuff of mountain travel.

It is breathtaking to see miles of sloping forest completely devoid of human habitation. Yet off the main roads are many minor roads that sometimes lead to tracks fading to green...and farmsteads hidden among these forests. There was a movie years ago called Deliverance which set the stereotype of Hollywood nightmares in these hills: crazy toothless peasants intent on the violent buggery of intruders. My experience has been that residents of these hills are gentle, reserved and excessively polite shy people. Among themselves they may be violent sociopaths but I've yet to encounter it.

I stopped by my brother-in-law's place which sits in a forest in the shadow of Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak in the eastern US, though at something under 7,000 feet it's a pimple compared to western mountain ranges.

My ride the last few miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway was a race to beat the darkness, along an empty highway with a 45 mile per hour speed limit and the constant threat of deer, law enforcement, cross winds, sudden shadows across the road and around Mt Mitchell itself I had the unexpected joy of freezing thick fog blowing across the road, impenetrable and gray and sinister. I expected the Hound Of The Baskervilles to leap out at me. Possibly flashing red and blue lights as I sped along.

Instead I got refuge and grilled shrimp and exotic French wines for dinner in the cozy wooden lined dining room at the in-laws. It was a welcome end to a difficult ride. And I had days left to enjoy sunshine and scenery and winding roads before I had to plough south on the freeway once again.

I wasn't alone on two wheels enjoying the winding roads...

...though I think traffic was a lot lighter than it might have been as the impending school season was forcing people to end their vacations by going to box stores and buying ball those things needed to educate and discipline modern young people.

I had no such strictures and could enjoy relatively empty roads at my leisure.

The Bonneville was perfect as usual, nothing to report except it keeps going strong. At the end of this 1600 miles jaunt the speedometer crossed the 67,000 mile mark. This October will mark the fifth year since I bought the bike brand new in Fort Lauderdale for $8,000 out the door. What a bargain! My ride home took 28 hours from Tennessee and the new Sargent seat proved it's worth. My bum got sore but never unbearably so.

I was alone and spent my days ambling, riding curves and sitting in my Kermit chair contemplating life. Which it turns out is good, when you live in the first world even as civilization appears to be crumbling at the edges. I remembered to feel privileged. Happy motoring really can be happy.

I met a man who looks like James May from Top Gear, lives in Winston-Salem and rides a 1990s Moto Guzzi. In the land dominated by Harleys a nerd who rides a modern Bonneville qualifies as someone who "gets it" when confronted by an oddity from Italy.

We talked riding and camping and wrenching (not wenching) and drank non alcoholic fizzy stuff. It was a pleasant interlude, relaxed and mildly introspective in keeping with the rest of the trip

Finding a road blockage with a detour toward blueberries is the sort of serendipity I seek when riding GPS free. I got almonds and apples but the principle of being led by happenstance holds.

So where was I? Dunno exactly, and don't care. A well running motorcycle on an empty road...

...and splendid views. What more could a man want to recharge his batteries?

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