Rookie Schmookie!

From this day forward I will no longer refer to myself as a rookie motorcycle rider!

Yesterday’s Fall Colour ride for London’s Children’s Hospital only attracted about 1/3 of the riders who came out last year.  The ride of ’08, which I was not a part of, was filled with glorious sunshine and seasonal temps.  We knew we had a dodgy forecast yesterday but some of us were determined to go anyway.  After all, we had taken pledges and packed our rain gear.  As I readied Bernice for the day the sun reflected off her new engine guards.  As we pulled out of the driveway, the sky opened up and wet us in a brief shower but it was over by the time I got to Hully Gully, the start and end point for the day’s event.

I didn’t know anyone at the ride except Thane Silliker, former Iron Butt champion rider, who I had met on the Ride for Dad.  He was one of 3 ride captains and I pulled up to be part of his crew.  We took off in the sunshine in what was described as an “easy-going” 3-hour ride through the country.  Now remember, this is my first ever group riding experience on my own bike.  It’s not as easy as it sounds when you’ve never done it!  In a group of a couple of dozen motorcycles, all riding in staggered formation, you want to maintain the proper distance between those around you but still remain part of the group.  If you have, say, a massive Gold Wing in front of you that can’t seem to keep a steady speed, you have to match it and you hope the dude behind you follows suit while the dude to your left, doesn’t crowd you either.  Still it’s very enjoyable but also, like all bike riding, commands all of your attention.  You simply cannot “zone out” on a motorcycle like you sometimes do in a car.  It requires you to live in the moment and that’s one of its best qualities.

We got about 45 minutes out and black storm clouds began to gather. En masse, we pulled over and suited up in our rain jackets.  We got smacked by the storm but avoided its full brunt.  On the upside, all of the bugs get washed off your bike when you’re in a downpour.  I don’t even have to point out the downside, do I?  Strong wind gusts threatened to push Bernice out of formation but I leaned into them and kept her in her place.

We carried on through beautiful countryside and one small town, weaving our way back to London, and just as we approached the end of the street I live on, the heavens parted and some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever experienced poured down upon us.  Water ran in streams down Bernice’s gas tank and onto the seat and I didn’t have rain pants on. My stirrups came apart and dangled off my chaps and after their removal, rain poured in around my ankles and down into my boots.  I briefly considered zigging while everyone else zagged and just going home! We were SO close.  But I carried on.  As we rose a small hill, my glasses completely fogged up and I was unable to see a thing. I actually lowered my glasses and rode with partly unprotected eyes, just so I could see!  We were almost there and I concentrated on thoughts of a warm bath and flannel jammies later at home.  We pulled in to applause from Hully Gully staff and Hospital reps.  That helped!

We raised $10,000. for the Hospital and I’ve put a very large, figurative notch on my riding belt.  Aside from one moment when I almost went through a very deep puddle, and the glasses incident, it was a fun, if not ideal, ride.  I’m so glad I went because it was truly a confidence building exercise.  Some man I’d never met came over to me inside Hully Gully during the post-ride pizza and music fest and told me, “I heard you telling someone this was your first group ride and I just want to tell you, you did great. ”   A moment like that goes a long way toward keeping me and Bernice on the road, rain or shine.