Don’t Worry About That Weather Report…

June 23, 2006

Every rider experiences it. A rainstorm. You just realize you’re going to get wet, put your head down and go.

However, it’s sometimes smart to pay attention to the weather reports — or at least tune in.

When I called my wife to find out about the status of the rain 30 minutes north of where I parked she said, “It’s pouring up here. It has been for the last half-hour. Why did you ride your bike today, didn’t you see the weather report this morning?”

I replied no and proceeded to curse the sky for dumping copious amounts of water onto my ride home. I should have suspected the day was going to be a washout after I stopped for coffee that morning. The police officer and the auto mechanic, both at the local Starbucks for their morning jolt, asked the same question as my wife. The officer went onto explain that it was expected to rain all day. And not just a gentle summer rain but periods of torrential downpours interrupted by moments of driving rain and violent thunderstorms.

I rode on pooh-poohing them. It was dry, after all, and the sun was shining — somewhat.

“Where are you?” my wife asked.

“Right now I’m parked under the overhang above the side doors of a middle school,” I replied.

“Do you want me to come get you?”

“Naw, I’ll wait it out for a bit and try to run home when it lets up.”

A few minutes later the rain had all but stopped and I saw my chance to head north with the hopes of outrunning any further bursts of thunderatic activity. I probably rode a half-mile before the heavens opened up again so I turned around and made my way back to the overhang above the front doors of the same middle school.

I dismounted from my bike and hung my helmet, gloves and jacket over anything I could find to give them a chance to dry out. The intensity of the rainstorm increased, I pulled out some articles and sat down on the concrete to wait it out. Within minutes I heard the familiar tune Chava Nagila, the ring tone I have set on my cell phone, coming from the bag on my bike. I answered it.

“Are you still at the side doors of the middle school?” My wife asked.

“No,” I replied, “I made it around to the front doors.”

“Well I just checked the weather map and it shows a solid block of thunderstorms from here to the Indiana border (three hours to the west). Do you want me to come get you in a dry car?”

“But what do I do with the bike?”

“Leave it there with a note explaining. I’ll drive you back in the morning to get it.”

But I kept thinking, It’s just a little rain, I can handle this. Sure I’ll get wet, no soaked, before I get home but I’ll be fine — I’m not some sissy. Then the sky lit up with a lightening and thunder show reminiscent of the homerun fireworks at a major league ballpark.

“Okay come get me,” I conceded.

The rain showed no signs of easing by the time my family arrived 45 minutes later — of course both sons had to come so they could witness my soaking status. In the interim I called a friend in town and arranged to leave my bike at his place. I thought it wouldn’t be wise to leave it parked by the middle school front doors. Even with a note explaining my predicament, I worried the police and school officials wouldn’t find it terribly amusing that I rode right up the sidewalks to the front doors.

After a brief explanation of the change in plans, which somehow managed to include both boys running to the front doors to share in the experience, we took off for the friend’s house. At one point, while waiting for a light to turn green, I turned to my family in the car behind me and smiled. They all laughed. I would later find out that at that approximate moment the song Crazy by Aerosmith had come onto the radio and my family was laughing back at the appropriateness of it.

Into every motorcyclist’s life a little rain must fall, but this was ridiculous. As we drove home I began to realize how dangerous it would have been for me to continue, particularly in the low road areas that were flooded. These weren’t just puddles on the road that I would have to negotiate, these were rivers of runoff that I would literally have to ford. At one spot a truck blew through a low point and sent up a wave that would have surely knocked me off my bike.

Finally back home safe and dry, and a little less for wear from all the ribbing I took, I sat down to look at the weather maps. Nearly every county in the state was under a flood warning or watch. Several communities near the lake were dealing with the Venice Effect — streets of water with boaters ferrying people around; those living close to rivers were warned to remain vigilant throughout the night.

By 5:30 the next morning the rain had stopped. I made some coffee, read the newspaper and watched the weather on T.V. At 7 a.m. I woke my wife and said, “Come on, you’ve got to get me to the bike so I can get to work before the morning rainstorms start.”


The Brotherhood of the Bike

June 9, 2006

It’s something you don’t really notice unless you’re a motorcyclist. Next time you’re driving along behind a biker and they pass one coming from the other direction, watch their left hands. In most cases you will see one salute and the other return the salute. It’s what I call “The Brotherhood of the Bike.”

My wife finds it very amusing any time we’re riding and we pass a bike approaching from the opposite direction. I salute, they return; my wife gets a kick out of the culture. Occassionally you’ll see truck drivers salute. Sometimes drivers of distinct foreign cars, hot rods and antigue autos will salute each other but mostly it’s bikers who salute and return the salute.

Now some bikers won’t salute or return one and I’m not sure why but I suspect one of four reasons: 1. they don’t want to remove their hands from the handlebars, either for safety reasons or fear; 2. they haven’t been riding long enough to understand the salute; 3. you’re on the wrong bike or; 4. it’s somehow beneath them.

Before I go too much further I should explain what I call the salute. First it’s not really a salute in the terms of a salute one might see between members of the military, it’s more like a wave. But it really isn’t a wave either. It’s more like sports figures sticking their hands out for a “low five.” It’s an acknowledgement of the other bikers — that’s why I call it The Brotherhood of the Bike.

But in truth it’s unfair to call it strictly a brotherhood because female motorcyclists will salute as well. Brother/Sisterhood of the Bike doesn’t flow well and Personhood of the Bike just isn’t right. So for now please allow me a little latitude to call it a brotherhood and maybe we can create something new later.

I don’t really know how the salute got started. I suspect it’s because as motorcyclists we all feel the need to stick together and acknowledge each other. When I started to write this post I did a quick Google search and found one article called, “The Wave:” Protocol or Endangered Species written by John Cerilli. John’s article goes into the protocol of the wave (what I call the salute) with interesting comments like, “Harley riders tend to wave only to other Harley riders,” and “The sport bike crowd tend to wave to their own kind,” or some riders who, “Only wave if the other rider waves first.” In my own experience I haven’t really seen a breakdown by bike brand or style.

When I started riding over 30 years ago the salute was a raised clenched fist, a little like the black power salute of the sixties and seventies. I remember one of my buddies, who started riding with his dad when he was very young, told me that it was proper to salute and return a salute between motorcylcists. He went so far as to suggest that not doing so was a serious motorcycling faux pas. Okay I don’t think he said faux pas, but I have a vivid memory of him implying that it was on the level of a grave insult.

So there we were, riding along and raising our fists in salutes to other members of our exclusive organization.

Now we do a salute that, as I mentioned earlier, is a little more like a low five between sports figures, and I do salute whenever I pass another cyclists — except if I’m shifting, turning or coming to a stop. In those instances I usually nod in response. But I’m not insulted if the other rider does not return the salute. Sometimes I get a Harley rider (and I stress they are few and far between) who don’t return a salute; on occassion the sports bike rider won’t either. For those times I do get turned down on return salutes, I just figure the other riders don’t understand The Brotherhood of the Bike.

If you want to read John Cerilli’s article, “The Wave:” Protocol or Endangered Species, you can access it at http://www.motorcycleshopper.com/articles/the-wave.htm