Thursday, August 12, 2010

July 23, 3:59am

Fuzzy alarm clock digits faded into view. A moment later, the alarm blasts an AM talk radio replay of a taped interview with some unknown, self absorbed art critic bemoaning government cuts in arts funding. It’s normal for my biological clock to awaken me just before my alarm sounds. In fact, I can usually just tell myself when I need to wake up and an alarm clock isn’t even needed. I do that for work all the time, but today is far more important than work, so I set the alarm. I sprang out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning and slapped the button to silence the alarm.

My plan was to hit the road by five am and I was on track. I’ve always been an early riser. It’s probably hereditary. My mom was often in her office by 5am.  She would no doubt be ready to roll.  After forcing down some vitamins and a breakfast bar, I verified the bike was properly loaded, cargo secured, and otherwise ready to go.

My bike is a 2010 Scarlett red Harley Davidson Road Glide that I aptly named “Hester”. Nathaniel Hawthorne would be proud. I had spent a few months and more than a few dollars installing performance and comfort upgrades on Hester just for this trip. The newly rebuilt seat from Mean City Cycles with memory foam in the driver and passenger sections was far more comfortable than the stock Harley padding. The WheelDock center stand I installed makes loading gear and passengers much easier. I added rear speakers from HogTunes to the tour pack for better rider and passenger music during those long stretches of highway where no one wants to talk; even to themselves.

I had packed almost everything up last night, so once mom was on board, I saddled up for a long days ride and we hit the road. I can usually go 240 miles on a tank of gas, which makes for a comfort/gas stop every few hours or so. This is a pace that should be tolerable at most any age.

The ride from Dallas to Denver would be a long one, with very little scenery to note until we approached the Denver area and got into the mountains. I considered various route options, but I was leery of construction delays in Texas that would result in hours in single lane stop-and-go traffic. Riding a motorcycle across Texas in late July heat is a taxing proposition for a rider at any age. Mom had already been through some pretty extreme heat back in March and being from Texas, my blood is relatively thin. I didn’t anticipate any physiological issues as long as gas stops were also hydration stops. Yesterday, I called local Harley dealers in the cities along the route to find out about road construction and conditions and didn’t get any bad news. I took the most scenic route that Texas offers, which is about as scenic as a bar code and every bit as interesting.

This ride gave me an opportunity to test my new helmet comm gear. I’m very happy with the Cardo G4 headset. Bluetooth telephone audio was clear on both ends, even with the face open and shield up on my Shark Evoline helmet. I would normally never be interested in my cell phone when I ride, but traveling 14 hours on pretty much flat land made even work conversations appealing. My GPS downloads my phone's address book and displays the inbound caller’s name and if I accept, it passes the phone Bluetooth audio to the Cardo headset in my helmet. I can dial from the phone book using the large GPS touch screen.

I was at a gas stop in the thriving metropolis of Amarillo, Texas when a yellow bus pulled up the other side of the pump island. It was a short yellow bus, but the passengers were all adults from a home for people with special needs. They were falling all over themselves in excitement over seeing my bike as they poured out of the bus. They gathered around me and I felt like Richard Dryfuss when the bald little aliens surrounded him at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Only these aliens were tall and most of them (men and women) needed a shave. One of them eagerly reached out to shake my hand. As I reached out to him, a female chaperon yelled out “No, Reggie! “Elbows only. ELBOWS ONLY! He stopped and with a huge genuine smile, held out his right elbow. Confused but not wanting to show it, I extended my elbow and we did an elbow bump. He laughed and walked back to the bus. I looked over at another rider (who was traveling the opposite direction but just happened to be there gassing up when I was) and shrugged my shoulders. A male chaperon from the bus who resembled Urkel wearing scrubs looked over at me gesturing his semi-closed fist up and down and said, “He masturbates constantly; day and night”. How the hell do you respond to that?  I held up my right elbow, pointed at it, and winked.

The rest of the trip was pretty boring compared to that. I got a chance to play with the time lapse feature on my video camera. I'll have fun with that tomorrow in the Rockies. We caught a little rain in New Mexico, but most of it evaporated before it hit the ground. It made for nice, cool temperatures though. We caught steady rain in Colorado and pulled over to suit up in rain gear. Of course, it took longer to don the gear than actually spent riding in the rain. Within minutes, I found myself riding in 100 degree temps with a rubber sweat suit on, so I pulled over again, stuffed the rain gear into my saddle bag, and swigged a 5-Hour energy shot. Other than catching rush hour traffic in Colorado Springs, the trip was pretty quick paced.  I snaked my way through traffic and rode under the hotel overhang.  Dismounting from Hester was almost as painful as it was relieving.  I unpacked my gear and headed in for a much needed evening of sleep.