I'm almost recovered from my 1,000-mile ride up North, in time for my trip tomorrow to Pittsburgh and Detroit, a 2,000-mile journey. Let me make an observation.
There's no such thing as a bad motorcycle trip. By definition, you're out riding your motorcycle which is inherently joyful. Plus, long trips are an adventure. They can, however, be physically challenging. Extremely so.
My trip last weekend was grueling. It was the worst I've ever experienced. I probably came close to dying.
The problem was the cold. After I got north of Albany, the temperature dropped into the 30's. By itself, that's tolerable but only for short periods. Wind-chill makes temperature on a motorcycle feel 15-20 degrees colder. So riding in the 30's is hard on your body. You can stand it for about a half-hour, after which the temperature of your core lowers making you unbearably cold. There's no amount of gear that will help you then.
What I misunderstood was the terrain I'd be travelling in. On Long Island, you can't go 20 feet without seeing a Dunkin Donuts. DD's serve as warming stations for bikers. Sure, we'll buy coffee but it's the warmth we crave, to return our bodies to normal.
I knew I'd be facing 30-degree temperatures during the second half of my journey up but I was mistaken about having places to recover from the cold. It is remote, rural country up there and there are no stores, DD's, gas stations or even towns for miles and miles. I endured the cold for a half-hour and started looking for relief. Nothing. An hour went by and my condition started to noticeably deteriorate. An hour-and-a-half and I was in real pain. No place at all to stop at and warm up. At two hours, my body started shaking uncontrollably. I mean shaking. My arms and legs were vibrating like a Harley at a red light. My muscles weren't responding to my brain's instructions. You operate a motorcycle using manual skills so that's dangerous.
I finally found a gas station with a coffee bar. I staggered in, looking bad. The cashier was visibly concerned: we small-talked and she didn't say it but I'm sure she was getting ready to call 911. I sat down and tried to warm up. My body was out-of-control. Everything was shaking violently. Ten, fifteen minutes went by and I was still not warm. I tried making a cup of tea but my hands wouldn't stay still; the hot water kept splashing out of the cup. I eventually carried a cup of tea awkwardly with both hands, spilling a third of it on the way.
A half-hour later, I was slightly better but still suffering. I called Aimee (at the destination) and we discussed my options. Of course, she suggested prudent things like staying put overnight but I hadn't ridden eight hours so far to give up then. I knew I was going to complete the journey -- but between my location and Aimee were two more hours, in the cold, with no towns or places in between for relief. I'd have to endure another two hours in that condition. We made plans and I set off in her direction.
Two more hours of unlit, rural roads with no stores or towns. Even worse, the roads were covered with sand and patches of ice. Those road-conditions can cause a motorcycle to lose traction and fall, so my attention was on high-alert. Running along the side of the roads were deep ditches, the kind which, if you fall into one, you know you're gonna break bones and destroy your bike.
As I watched it get darker and colder outside, I realized my only hope was to ride without taking any breaks for the remaining two hours. I summoned my will-power and dug deep into my reserve of inner strength. The struggle became a psychological one as much as physical -- the natural impulse to give up and die was growing every minute.
I made it. Aimee was standing outside the hotel waiting for me. We had a delightful dinner and conversation as my body slowly recovered from the ordeal.
Today, I have no regrets about my decision to complete the journey. It was a challenge and I overcome it. Perhaps the choice to face increasing pain and serious danger was foolhardy but that's who I am. My friends call me "dogged," which is a nice term for stubborn. I never give up on my goals. It's what makes me who I am.
Here's a picture of my motorcycle's seat when I woke up the next morning...
So, tomorrow I'm heading West. Do you go on adventures?