27 July, 2011

Loneliness of the Long Distance Rider

Not bicycling this time; I was riding my fully-laden KZ1100A across Canada one summer long ago, tenting as I went, blasting upwards of 1,000km/day. How I loved that bike.
When in the big sky country of rural Manitoba I saw a huge storm brewing on the horizon, so I pulled over to the gravel shoulder of my two-lane road to pull on my rainsuit. I set the bike on its kickstand and turned away to shove a leg into my rain pants. Unfortunately the shoulder's camber was a tad steeper than I counted on, so the bike was perched quite vertically. Sudden gust of wind, followed by a terrific crashing sound. I spun around to see the bike laying on its side, tilting downwards towards the ditch. Gas was spouting out of the tiny vent hole on the gas cap. I looked down each direction of the highway... nothing but the cliche heat shimmers. Crickets chirping. It would seem I was on a more isolated road than I realized. Or was I?
Standing there with mounting panic I somehow got that sense that I was being watched; it turns out that a herd of cows was lining the fence at the roadside. They were chewing their cud, not a care in the world, just watching - I suppose - to see what my next move would be. Somewhere in a field a cicada buzzed.

It is amazing what fear, adrenaline and leaking gas can do to motivate a person. I wedged various body parts into the "pile" I had formed myself into under the bike, incrementally raising it. I was so hot and tired after that I think I dispensed with the rain suit in the hopes a soaking would be refreshing. Turns out the storm blew to the north and I missed it anyway.

I am truly blessed to have ridden all of the great motorcycles I have (GPzs of every size, Ninja Turbo 750, 6 cyl. Honda CBX, Suzuki Katana 1100, KZ900, etc.) without ever hitting the pavement. Sure, I've had my share of clipless falls on my bicycle but never have I felt as silly as when standing on stage in front of an audience of indifferent bovines. Tough crowd...

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