Polar Bear, Lake Hopatcong, NJ; January 16, 2011
By: Chris Loynd
28 degrees F. to start, hovered around freezing mark for much of the day in mostly bright sun
This Sunday was about driveways and delays. It had been a long time for me since I had been on my motorcycle. I was having withdrawal symptoms.
In August of 2002, I got a PR opportunity for my client Bridgeport Harley-Davidson. Bridgeport H-D was a top 10 percent Harley dealer back then (not so much now, after a change in management the business declared bankruptcy). Joe Zibbel, a reporter from “The Business Times” asked a seemingly simple question, “What is it about riding a Harley-Davidson that makes it so special?”
Since I had only been riding since May, I turned to General Manager Domenic Maturo, who had been riding Harleys most of his life. His answer was that you just had to ride a Harley to understand the appeal. Joe was baffled, expressed disappointment.
As expressed in his article, Joe's takeaway was this: “The responses were somewhat inconclusive. 'It's difficult to put into words.' 'You'd have to get on a bike, take a ride on the highway and experience it for yourself' (they said).”
Joe was working on a story about the Motor Company's upcoming 100th anniversary. You can read it here: http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing-advertising/925451-1.html
Me, I knew why I wanted to ride. It was “Then Came Bronson.” Just 26 episodes aired on NBC-TV September 1969 through April 1970. There was that premise, that promise, expressed in the theme song, “gonna live life my way.” I was 13 years old. Ah, those formative years.
It took me 33 years to get on a bike. This past summer, I took a four week, 7,500 mile ride out to Arizona and back. It was, is, everything I wanted. But I still can't fully explain the appeal.
I can feel it. I just find it difficult to put into words. I don't apologize for that.
Back when Joe asked his question, I did not understand riding like I do now. If I did, I would have had a better answer for him. I would have asked him to explain what it was about music that made it so special, or sex, or romance, or sports or anything else you love to do.
I think I would have asked Joe if he could explain what it is about writing that makes it so special for him.
From when I started riding in May of 2002 until today, I don't think more than eight contiguous weeks have gone by that I did not get out for a ride of some sort.
Because riding is so special to me, I go into “withdrawal” when I can't ride. I even dream of riding.
That's what attracted me to the Polar Bear Grand Tour in the first place. It offered an excuse and thereby an opportunity, to ride all year round.
I honestly never expected the camaraderie and fun that developed as other riders joined me, and some, like Captain, surpassed me. Some of my best rides of the year now happen on days when most motorcyclists have their bikes in deep storage.
Russ, remember that first Polar Bear year when you had suspended your bike insurance for the winter?
Still, I cannot ride in snow. The holiday calendar and not one, but two, blizzards kept my big girl garaged since December 19. I was going into withdrawal, thumbing through my cycle magazines and accessory catalogs, looking at old photos and maps. But just like porn, these activities only sharpened my desire for the real thing.
A holiday blizzard was followed by another storm bringing yet another foot-and-a-half of snow. Snow was followed by bitter cold. Sunny days allowed for some melting, but generally only when supported by salt or similar chemicals.
Those of the Connecticut Polar Bears that live in deeper country find their motorcycles trapped in their garages. Some made extraordinary efforts to get their bikes out. Others had it easier.
My wife and kids know that my major snow shoveling objective is always getting my bike out for the upcoming Sunday. Fortunately, our narrow driveway means the cars create two tracks down the edges. That leaves the center clear of packed snow or icy spots.
So last Sunday I was very ready to ride. And the roads were clear. There was a mostly clear strip down the center of my driveway.
Some of our regulars were not so fortunate in their driveways. Bart lives in the boonies. His driveway alone is quarter-mile challenge. Then the secondary roads can be tough in his neck of the woods. John J. claimed the same secondary roads issue, but he lives in Milford for heavens sake. Maybe he really just wanted to see the Patriots lose their postseason bid as it actually happened.
Sunday was a gorgeous day for a winter ride. The temperature was cool, but sun made it feel warmer. The distance to our destination was just a bit more than 100 miles. The Interstate highways were dry and clear.
It felt great to be back on the bike. I was so eager I shocked my compatriots by showing up 20 minutes ahead of our departure time. I had to run into the Dunkin' right away to tell them not to choke down their coffees or rush their doughnuts. I was afraid my presence would make them think the time was later than they thought.
Three bikes were in the parking lot when I arrived: Captain, Grumpy and Jim. As we were suiting up, Fonz rode in. On the way down we picked up Pogy at the Darien rest stop.
Fortunately he was able to find his way there. (More on that later.)
Token2 was waiting for us at the Tappan Zee Bridge to make us seven for the ride.
Maybe the other guys were feeling the same cabin fever. They all remarked on what a great day it was for a motorcycle ride.
Fortunately Grumpy was leading, because there is a set of quick, right-angle turns that we have missed in year's past. As I watched it unfold on my GPS, I would not have made sense of it in time to make the turn, were I leading. But Grumpy did it from memory and smoothly. All I had to do was not run into Jim's bike in front of mine.
The Wearhouse Grill (sic) treated us well. A banner out front declared us welcome and a special menu was prepared for the Bears.
Pogy mentioned that we missed a good spread at the Five Points the week before.
We had our usual raucous lunchtime conversation. Captain is looking for a flex-fuel Ford. He's making practical application of his convictions. Ford is the one American car company that did not take government bailout funds. I applaud John for putting his money where his heart is.
I had to rib Pogy a bit about his GPS challenges. He called me the day before, once again expressing dismay at the Grand Tour's directions. Admittedly, I did not get it the first time around. When I entered the destination as being on “Route” 181, my Garmin couldn't find it. But then I remembered the foible of Garmin being picky about whether something is a Route or Highway. When I asked it to find simply “181,” it did just fine and assigned the designation of “Hwy.”
Pogy had called a couple times before with similar issues. And if you read his blog account from last week, you know he ran Captain into a cornfield, following his GPS.
Pogy even sprang for the Garmin upgrade, downloading it before last Sunday's ride. Now, he says the Garmin is displaying instructions in English and Korean. I wonder if the voice prompts are from that Eastern European guy “Peggy” from the Discover Card TV commercial?
When the discussion came up, Token2 was kind enough to remind us all that I am no genius of GPS myself.
I admitted to the group that my secret was to first look at a map, a rendering of the actual land route, and then consult my satellite receiver. In fact, on my misled Montgomeryville ride, I clearly knew where I wanted to go, could see a picture of the map in my mind. I just could not get my GPS to take me there.
Fortunately Grumpy and his GPS and memory got us there and back. And I got my riding “fix.” Here's hoping next Sunday gets us out again.