Sunday, November 25, 2012

Riding With Friends

Today was highlighted by participating in a ride celebrating a friend's birthday.  Fourteen riders, some I knew, most I didn't.  The birthday boy wanted oysters for his birthday, and you really can't beat fresh oysters from Tomales Bay enjoyed outside on a brilliantly sunny late November afternoon.  It was wonderful!

Like lots of riders, I can be a little uncomfortable riding with folks for the first time.  Plus, it was a little damp under the trees from recent rain, so when the route was planned to go straight up Hwy 1 from Point Reyes Station to Marshall, I separated myself from the group to go ride Marshall-Petaluma, a local favorite, then reunited with the group at the Marshall Store.

Listening to talk over lunch, it was clear I'd missed out some by riding apart from the group, so when the birthday boy said he wanted to ride Fairfax-Bolinas on the way home, it was time to re-integrate with the group.  As it turned out, the group of fourteen fractured a bit going south, and I ended up in a group of four, all of whom I knew, but only one of whom I'd ridden with.  As it turned out, all were superb riders, beautiful and smooth arcing down 1, sharp and surefooted over Fairfax-Bolinas.

Once we were over the top of the ridge and down the other side we stopped to talk, trade stories, ask question, and review the highlights of what we'd just ridden.  The conversation was full of laughter, sharing the raw joy of a great ride in a way that can't be fully shared with anyone who wasn't there.  What a pleasure!

It brought up a number of recent rides, with old friends and new, small groups and large, in which the intensity of the experience, combined with the need to be flexible and ride in concert with others over the road in a sort of dance, brings to light a part of the motorcycling experience that one can't really get riding by oneself all the time.  There is much to be said for the quiet and introspection of the solo ride, and they are an important part of the riding experience.  That said, the afterglow of today's ride is a vivid reminder that joy shared is joy squared.  Enjoy. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ride It/Pay It Forward Day

November 24th.  What a great day to remember all the folks who have help us out along our way as motorcyclists.

Time to remember that friend who used to let you rip around on his minibike because he had one and your parents forbid you having one.  Time to remember the guys down at the moto shop who let you hang around.  Time to remember the folks who helped you figure out how to work the throttle and the clutch - at the same time!  Time to remember the friend who helped you do your first valve adjustment.  Time to remember the folks who stopped to help you when you were broken down on the side of the road.  Time to remember the cool guys who let you come on their rides when you were just starting out, and then made sure you didn't get lost or dropped when you fell behind.  Time to remember the cop who cut you some slack when you were being a fool on your bike. 

The list goes on and on, doesn't it?  Folks often tend to view motorcycling as this intensely individual activity.  When you're riding it's all up to you.  Head in your helmet, by yourself (often), iPod blasting in your ears (sometimes), captaining your own ship (always), encapsulated in experience if not in steel.  Yet when I think back, motorcycling has often depended on other people to a great degree.  Not just the folks who helped, but the folks who've been there, who've shared the moment, the view, the road food, the buzz of a twisty road ridden quickly.  The folks who helped us keep going.  The folks who took care of us when we were hurt or broken down.  The folks who showed us the way when we were learning or lost.  The folks whose kindness made it all so much better.

Today is a good day to remember those folks, and having remembered them and all their many kindnesses to us, today is a day to make sure we pay those kindnesses forward.  Today is a good day to help a newbie rider, to share a favorite backroad, to buy another rider's lunch, to help someone work on a broken bike, to show the smooth way through a turn, to stop to help a broken down rider, to lead or sweep a group ride.  Today is a day to remember everyone who made motorcycling so much more than an intensely individual experience, and do the same for another rider.  Ride it forward.

Miss you, Colin. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Weekday riding is for some riders a rare luxury, and this week I was reminded just how luxurious they can be.  I'm not working right now, and Monday night a friend reached out to see if I could show some visiting Brazilians some of our local roads.  So on Tuesday I met up with Lynn and Lygia who were visiting from Rio on their Moto Guzzi Stelvio.

My friend who'd contacted me had highlighted a map of great Marin and Sonoma country roads for Lynn and Lygia to follow, and it included some of my favorite backroads, but since it was a weekday, and they'd never been here before, it seemed worthwhile to try out some of the routes I usually avoid due to overcrowding.  We rode straight to Tam Junction to pick up Hwy 1, then over the hill towards Stinson Beach.  A brilliant road, and recently re-paved!  Normally I avoid that section of Hwy 1 like the plague due to its usual crowding with frightened sightseers, overloaded minivans, stoned out surfers, and HOG chapter rides.  On Tuesday is was nearly empty at 11 AM.  Woo-Hoo!

Hwy 1 was so empty I even agreed to ride through Bodega Bay!  And even better, my head didn't explode! 

In the end, it was a great day of riding.  Lynn and Lygia fly down the road on that Stelvio.  We only rode goat trails for fun, not for the purpose of avoiding crowds.  If you get a day off, you should try a weekday ride on a road that's normally too crowded.  Like me, you may find you'd forgotten just how much fun can be had on a tourist road when the tourists are gone.