Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bearing John's Burdens

It's been a while since my wife and I rode with a large group of motorcycles, so when the pastor at my church announced a motorcycle run to benefit a fellow pastor who was badly injured after a fall, we made a commitment to ride.
My Dyna Wide Glide, a/k/a Annabelle, was among the 110 motorcycles that converged at Glad Tidings Community Church in Chepachet, R.I. on Saturday, Sept. 14 for "Bearing John's Burdens," a motorcycle run and concert which benefited that church's Pastor John Teeter, who was paralyzed from mid-torso down after he fell 30 feet while painting a house.

Anna and I arrived at the church and were warmly welcomed by an army of appreciative church members, who were dressed in bright orange shirts.  I saw some members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, including members from other chapters I had not seen in a while.  Our pastor, Joseph Campbell, was there, as was Romans 8 Riders chapter member Keith McGee, who bear-hugged my wife as he asked, "How's my favorite hillbilly redneck?"

The day was partly to mostly cloudy.  It was a bit cool while riding, but not uncomfortably so.  Beginning at noon, we rode about 75 miles through northwestern Rhode Island and into Massachusetts, with a mix of highway and back roads riding.  I was glad that I fueled up right after I left home in the morning, because some riders had to leave the group and stop for gas.  The organizers had given us a printed ride plan, but I lost it.  Since I didn't know the area that well, I was going to do everything I could to stick with the group  On the highway, some cars waited on the on-ramps until our whole group rode by, but a few cut in front of us.  Overall, though, our encounters with four-wheel traffic were pretty smooth.  Some of the busier intersections had police blockers, and other intersections relied on riders blocking traffic.

Large group rides are known for the 'slingshot effect,' where you have to continually speed up and slow down to try to maintain a consistent gap between riders.  It's kind of like negotiating an asteroid field (not that I've ever negotiated an asteroid field, mind you - it's just how I imagine it).  I tried to stay off the brakes as much as possible, but I sure shifted between third and fourth gear a lot.  We passed a couple other large groups of riders in our travels.

Among the highlights of our ride was a trip through Purgatory Chasm State Park in Sutton, Mass., which is a scenic spot and popular with hikers.  My wife liked one of the small New England villages we rode through, although she couldn't remember the name of said village, only that it began with the letter O (I'm thinking it might have been Oxford, Mass.).  I also recall pleasant riding near Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Webster, Mass.  The latter part of the ride was very pleasant; the slingshot effect evolved into a nice, steady flow.

We returned to the church two and a half hours later, stiff and hungry.  I had to keep bending my knees after I dismounted my bike.  A line formed for the food, all of which was generously donated, a church member said.  I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that the sausage and peppers sandwiches were the best I've ever had.  In addition to hamburgers, pizza, pasta and salad, there were also clam cakes and chowder.  Anna said the clam cakes were just as good as the ones she has had from Iggy's, a popular seafood take-out restaurant.

"God was definitely in this," Anna said of the abundance and quality of food, which was originally going to be just hamburgers and hot dogs. "He blessed the food - it was delicious."

She then went looking for our pastor, who was among the riders who split off from the group to stop for gas.  We found him, along with two members from our church who also ride.  They had gotten some wrong information on where the ride began, but caught up with us partway through the ride.  After food was served, we were treated to music from Collington and Jonas Woods.

Another thing that impressed Anna, who is a smoker, was a container for cigarette butts on a walkway in back of the church.  Earlier that day, she saw a marquee at another church that read, "Everyone's welcome - especially you!" That this church was accommodating to smokers, rather than judgmental of them, impressed Anna, along with the politeness and maturity of a 15-year-old youth group member she spoke with.

Pastor Teeter, who is in a wheelchair, made a brief appearance.  "He's in good spirits," our pastor said of him.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I'm baaack ....

It’s been over two years since I’ve posted to this blog.  A lot has changed in that time.

Most importantly, Anna is now my wife, and my biggest blessing in my life.  We married in September 2011 at our church and honeymooned in West Virginia and North Carolina.

Also, since my last post, I am no longer a self-employed plumber, although this was by economic necessity rather than choice.  Business slowed to a point that I had to go work for another company for a steady paycheck.  I sold my Chevy work van and bought a vintage Volvo.

We also moved from an apartment, to a house with a beautiful yard that we rent.

Why did my blogging take such a long hiatus?  There’s no sole reason, although I have been riding less since the 2010 season, and therefore, have less to write about (after all, this IS a motorcycling blog).  In 2011 and 2012, I had less free time, due to no longer being self-employed, and more bills to pay.  My wife, who is my biggest fan, would urge me to write again, but I kept putting it off.  Perhaps the novelty of writing had worn off.

This summer seems to be rapidly flying by, more so than any summer I can remember in my 46 years, and Anna and I were both longing for a long trip (the last long ride we took was our 2010 ride to New York).  Finally, this weekend, I was determined that we would just get on the bike and go for it.  It turned out to be an eventful ride, and definitely worthy of a blog post, so here I am again.

Rain Ride II

Of all the motorcycle rides my wife and I have taken prior to today, the one that was least comfortable turned out to be the most memorable, and perhaps even one of her favorites.

Fast forward two summers.  Due to work commitments and the busyness of everyday life, my ol’ Harley has spent way too much garage time this season, and my wife Anna laments we have not taken a long ride yet this year.  We finally had an opportunity this Saturday, so the night before, I planned a ride route through Connecticut.

Remembering our “Rain Ride” from three summers ago (http://harley-bound.blogspot.com/2010/07/rain-ride.html), Anna was nervous at the overcast skies and sprinkles as I backed the bike out of the garage.  I assured her that the Turn to 10 forecast called for clearing skies after noon.  Since I needed some clear goggles, I stopped at nearby Home Depot to pick them up, and got a two-piece yellow rain suit for her.

With gray skies still sprinkling near the border of Rhode Island and Connecticut, I pulled over for a map check.  Anna made me promise to stop if it began to rain harder.  “I don’t mind the rain,” she said.  “It’s the cold I can’t stand.  I don’t want to be miserable at the beginning of the ride.”  We both wore leather jackets, and I could have used a sweatshirt underneath my jacket instead of a tee shirt.

As we rode west on Route 14 through the towns of Canterbury and Scotland – some especially scenic farm country – the rain began to end.  In Willimantic, we picked up Route 66, and began riding southwest, stopping for coffee at a Dunkin Donuts in the town of Hebron.

Incidentally, my wife and I will probably not stop in Hebron on future rides.  We encountered some weird people (and this was a suburban area, not the boonies).  While waiting to use the bathrooms, a man emerged from the women’s bathroom.  At first he apologized, but, then added, “I had a sex change.”  I don’t know it was an awkward attempt at humor or if he was serious (these days, you never know), but my wife and I were stunned.  Then, as we walked outside after eating our donuts, I was shocked as I saw a woman putting my helmet on the seat of my motorcycle (I always leave it on the ground next to my bike).  “I though it fell off your motorcycle,” she said, but my wife explained that I lay it on the ground so it can’t fall off the bike and get damaged.

By now, skies were still overcast, but at least the rain had stopped.  Another couple riding a cool-looking Yamaha (XV1900A, Raider edition) parked next to us.  The rider reported that skies were clearing to the west, where we were heading.  We got back on Route 66, riding past Pocotopaug Lake in Hampton (a nice spot for a picnic) and then through the town center of Portland, which was busy with people doing their Saturday errands.  Heading west, past Middletown, Route 66 turns into Interstate 691, which we rode until we hit Interstate 84 west.  We then got on Route 8, heading north until we got off at Exit 38.  We stopped for gas in Thomaston.  It was about 1:30 p.m., and I was hungry.  As if on cue, I looked around and saw a sign for Rozzi’s restaurant.  A rider who posted on www.motorcycleroads.us (which I use to plan my longer rides) wrote, “When you get to Thomaston go to Rozzi's for some great chow.”  I made a note about Rozzi’s on my ride plan, but did not expect to actually find it so easily.  True to recommendation, the food was excellent and reasonably priced.  I had an open-faced turkey sandwich on garlic bread with gravy, homemade mashed potatoes and summer vegetables

The stop at Rozzi’s also perfectly situated because it is located near the eastern end of Route 109.  “This is, in my humble opinion, the best road in Connecticut for motorcycles.  It has everything – twisties, sweepers and scenic vistas – also giving riders the additional thrill of elevation changes throughout the route. The pavement is also perfect – no potholes or pavement inconsistencies,” wrote a rider from Bridgewater, Conn. on Motorcycleroads.US.

There began the best part of our ride:  full gas tank, full bellies, and by now, the sun was shining and it had warmed up considerably.  Route 109, which runs nearly 21 miles, is truly a motorcyclist’s nirvana.  The country road runs through small farms, with every hilltop bringing new breathtaking vistas, and passes through some small-town centers.  The stresses of everyday left melted away.  I was glad we decided to go forward with the ride despite questionable weather conditions at our departure.

Route 109 ends in New Milford, where we rode south briefly before getting on U.S. Route 7 North, where we had been on our ride to New York in July, 2010 (http://harley-bound.blogspot.com/2010/07/push-for-new-york.html).  Route 7 follows the Housatonic River and Appalachian Trail, and portions of the river reminded Anna of Coal River in West Virginia, where she grew up.  We reached the village of Gaylordsville, and passed an antique shop where had stopped three years ago.  I was looking forward to the town of Kent, which we had stopped just short of on our last long ride.  Suddenly, we got caught in a downpour, with no good place to pull over, only a small tree.  I helped Anna put on the rain pants, and she gave me the rain jacket.  The rain showed no signs of letting up, and Anna did not want to stay under the tree, so we decided to get back on the bike and ride until we found better shelter, which turned out to be a gas station less than a mile up the road, at the junction of Route 341.

A group of about six other bikes was parked underneath a gas pump canopy.  Anna, who has been trying to quit smoking, begged me to buy her a pack of cigarettes.
The rain cloud was isolated and rain gave way to sun in about 10 minutes, so I mounted the bike, jeans soaked.  There was some sort of show or festival going on in Kent that afternoon, and pedestrian traffic was heavy.

We continued north on Route 7 under sunny skies, and in Canaan, we turned east on U.S. Route 44, passing some large farms in East Canaan.  Traffic was pretty light, and by the time we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts in Winstead, my jeans had dried out.  We didn’t get to linger over our coffee too long, though, because we saw dark clouds getting closer. 

As we rode east on Route 44 into Hartford, a bank of dark clouds with visible rain bands seemed to stay just to the north.  I was optimistic the rest of our return ride would stay dry as we picked up Interstate 84 to get through Hartford.  But, by the time we got off at Exit 60 in Manchester, the dark skies caught up with us and it began to sprinkle.  That sprinkle turned into heavy rain, as we took shelter under the canopy of a closed gas station on Route 6 in Bolton.  We got back on the bike when the rain lightened, but then it got heavy again, forcing us to stop at a Shell gas station in a busy commercial area somewhere around Willimantic.

Another couple on a Harley stopped to change into their rain gear.  “What happened to this nice afternoon we were having?” the man said.  Given the unfriendly demeanor of the gas station cashier, Anna and I rode on, heading east on Route 6.

Although we could see the setting sun in the rear view mirrors, we stayed in the rain for the remainder of our time in Connecticut.  But there was one blessing to the rain:  we were treated to a beautiful rainbow.  It seemed like we were riding right into the end of the rainbow, which then became a full rainbow (there was even a second, partial rainbow).

At the next Dunkin Donuts, I stopped so Anna could use the bathroom.  I stayed on the bike.  There were no customers, so the young man behind the counter came outside and said, “You’re welcome to come inside and dry off.”  I declined.  At this point, we were losing daylight and I just wanted to get home as soon as possible.  “Be safe – I ride and I know what it’s like riding in the rain,” he said.

The rest of the ride back was misery and the rain stayed with us, sometimes heavy.  Anna felt bad because her helmet had a visor and mine did not.  I didn’t mind the rain stinging my face, except for the fact I just had eight stitches removed from a nasty cut on my nose and the injury was still tender.  I had to cover my nose with my left hand at certain times.

I felt a bit better as we crossed the state line into Rhode Island and the rain got lighter.  I noticed I was low on gas, so I stopped at a station near Route 94.  Both of us were stiff, and I was low on patience as the person in front of me as I waited to pay for gas took her sweet time buying lottery tickets and chatting with the cashier, as puddles of water formed around my boots.

By now, it was dark and I was having trouble seeing due to the glare of headlights from oncoming cars.  I had to look at the white line to the right to avoid going off the road.  When I had to make a turn to stay on Route 6, I had to slow down almost to a stop, my wife said, and there was a car behind us.  (“Honey, you were weaving,” my wife said afterward.)  Part of the problem was safety glasses I wore over my prescription eyeglasses, so I took off the safety glasses and could see much better.

From there, we got on Route 102 South.  Another reason I had trouble seeing was that my headlight, for some reason, was aimed high, so I pulled over to adjust it.  Before we stopped, I began hearing a popping noise I assumed was my bike backfiring, but the noise continued after I turned the bike off.  We were in a pitch black, densely wooded area, and I told my wife it sounded like heavy gunfire.

“It’s dark,” she said, her voice panicked.  “What could they be shooting at?”
“Not us,” I hoped, as I quickly adjusted the headlight.  Stiff as she was, she hopped back on my bike super fast.  As we rode a bit farther, we were relieved when we realized the noise was from people shooting fireworks, not guns.  “It was like the twilight zone,” Anna said.

Eventually, we made it to Coventry, the town where we live.  From Route 102, I turned left onto Route 118, also known as Harkney Hill Road.  Although the road is less than six miles long, my wife said it felt like forever to reach the other end on Route 3.  Ironically, the roads in our town were dry.  We arrived home some 290 miles and 11 hours later from when we departed, stiff, sore and dying to take off our wet clothes.  Anna said, “I feel like we were rode hard, and put away wet.”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Experiencing Freedom This Easter

I confess that the title of this blog is also the title of my pastor's sermon on this Easter Sunday, but it was so fitting that I had to use it. Often, I feel like I haven't been doing enough as a Christian, even though the Bible clearly says salvation cannot be earned ("For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9).

But, lately, I've come to realize more and more that Jesus loves me no matter what I do, or fail to do. Of course, I want to please Him, but He loves me (and all of us) unconditionally, which is why He chose to die on the cross for everyone.

This morning, my girlfriend Anna and I had hoped to attend a sunrise Easter service in another town, but it was cloudy and threatening to rain, so we decided to attend our regular church, which served a full breakfast before the service. The fellowship and worship were uplifting, but we were especially blessed by Pastor John Wheeler's sermon, What Can Jesus Set Me Free From? Well, four things: guilt over my past; worry about my future; purposeless living today; and, most importantly, having to earn my way to heaven.

By mid-morning, the skies cleared and it became very warm, in the 70s, so Anna and I chose to celebrate our freedom in Christ with a motorcyle ride. Annabelle, my Harley, started right up, and we headed south and then west to Connecticut, for one of our favorite roads, Route 49 through Sterling, Conn., a scenic farm road.

It was invigorating to see the trees beginning to bud and flower after a very long, snowy winter. I could smell fresh mulch. Bugs bounced off my face.

There was very little traffic around 2 p.m., since most people were probably sitting down for their Easter dinner (ours was not until 6:00). A good portion of the vehicles on the road were other motorcycles.

During, and after the ride, I reflected on the works God has done in my life since I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior in 2008. I had a peace deep down that could come from nothing else but knowing Christ. Anna also experienced an intense feeling of peace today.

"I noticed a lot of praise and worship on my Facebook today," she said, "and not just from the regular Christians. The body (the church) lifted up the head (Christ), and it was a peaceful day."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blowing the Dust Off

Man, it's been a looong wait for the kickoff to this year's riding season. Back in February, the last time I posted on this blog, we'd been hammered with one serious snowfall after another, and it seemed like the white stuff would be on the ground until June. Okay, that's an exaggeration ... actually, the snow had disappeared by March, but then, I was waiting for a day that was at least partly sunny, and 60 degrees or better, before I would venture out. Oh, and that day had to be on a weekend, since my girlfriend Anna and I both work full-time (I was blessed to find a full-time job, which I started on March 1). Our New England weather has been stuck in a holding pattern the last few weeks, with most days reaching only into the 50s, so, I decided that today's forecasted high temperature in the mid-50s was close enough. That's right, time to ride ....

My 2002 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide (nicknamed Annabelle), hadn't been started in four months. I never installed a Battery Tender trickle charger after I bought the bike, because it had started after the 2009/10 winter without one, so I figured it would be okay through another winter. Wrong. The starter cranked slowly, and then the starter solenoid just rattled. I took the seat off my bike, and asked my girlfriend to bring a set of jumper cables, but the owners of the house where I store the bike returned home a few minutes later and graciously produced a pair of jumper cables that got Annabelle's motor purring in a jiffy. After letting her idle for a few minutes, I shut the engine off to make sure it would restart, before I ventured out on the road. It restarted under its own power now. Lesson learned: a Battery Tender is a must-have.

I discovered a curious fact about my motorcycle. A factory quality control sticker on a wiring harness underneath my seat was dated 09/12/2001 - which is the day after the terrorist attack that downed the World Trade Center in New York City. Also, a mouse or mice apparently had taken shelter in my seat at some point in the past, as some shells of sunflower seeds fell out of the bottom of the seat as I lifted it off the bike. Fortunately, the wires seemed to be intact.

Anyhow, my girlfriend arrived at the garage shortly after I got the bike started. She couldn't wait to ride. My bike desperately needed a bath, but this "ice breaker" ride wasn't about showing off - it was about a revival of soul and machine.

Even the route or destination wasn't important. We headed south, riding through West Greenwich, Exeter, North Kingstown and South Kingstown, stopping for lunch in Wakefield. By then, my fingers had started to turn white and numb, even with insulated leather gloves (oddly enough, after I thawed them out under warm water, they didn't get numb for the ride home).

On the way home, we stopped at Summit General Store in Greene, R.I., which bills itself as "Rhode Island's Only Real General Store." Anna had wanted to take me there in the past, but had been unable to find it.

During our ride, we covered a little more than 80 miles and passed a fair number of motorcyclists, though nowhere near as many as we would have seen on a Sunday with temps in the 70s or 80s. Admittedly, 'ideal' riding weather hasn't arrived yet, and true fair-weather riders' bikes are still in hibernation, but I wasn't about to let another weekend go by without blowing the dust off my bike.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Waiting It Out

I'm writing a quick blurb just to let readers know I'm still alive. My motorcycle blog has been very quiet the last couple months because, frankly, I've had very little to write about on that subject. My bike sits, thankfully, in a garage while we endure one snowstorm after another. Already we've had at least three major storms with 10-12" inches of snow, and a few moderate storms of 4-6", and it's only the beginning of February. There has been at least one storm every week the past several weeks, and kids have missed several school days. We're running out of places to pile the snow. It seems like some snow mounds are so high that they will linger on until May (well, I hope not).

There is one positive thing I can say about all this snow, however: I did learn how to operate a snow plow and tractor with a front loader. That was about the closest thing to 'fun' I've had with snow as an adult, since I don't ski, ice fish or ice skate.

Due to circumstances, I can't work on my bike over the winter, so all I can do is patiently wait until spring and occupy my mind with other things. Usually, I'm not much of a big reader of fiction, but I'm reading an excellent book, "Patriots," that is helping the time pass.

Most importantly, though, a relationship with Jesus Christ and frequent prayer is the best antidote for my winter blues, I've found.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Motorcycling Year In Review: 2010

My sophomore year of motorcycling, 2010, began with me looking to replace my beginner's bike, a 535 cc Yamaha, with the Harley-Davidson I'd dreamed about. I fell in love with a used Dyna Wide Glide at a dealer, but when the deal fell through, the hunt was on.

In early January, I saw a similar Wide Glide for sale by an individual in Massachusetts, but didn't have quite enough money to buy it. I scanned the Internet the next few weeks and looked at a few bikes, but nothing materialized. But, by the end of that month, I managed to save more money, enough to buy the 2002 Wide Glide for sale by private owner. I wasn't allowed to test ride the bike, so I had to purchase it on faith, but when I first rode it during an unusually warm spell in January, I found the bike was indeed as solid as the owner said it was. The difference between my Yamaha and Harley was like night and day.
But the snow and cold quickly returned, and the hard part was watching the Harley sit in my garage, waiting for spring when I could really ride it. February is a difficult month for a motorcyclist in New England; my visit to the Northeast Motorcycle Expo in Boston that month only made me itch for spring even more.

In March, I did very little riding, but I prepared my bike for the upcoming season by replacing the rear tire, changing the three types of oil and buying tools I needed to work on the bike. More important, though, I gained a passenger, my girlfriend, Anna, who I'd met a few months earlier. She had not been on the back of a motorcycle in more than a decade, but when I took her for a ride over the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge that month, she was instantly hooked and rode with me whenever possible.

Around here, the riding season really doesn't start until April. My ego at getting a Harley got deflated a bit when I dropped the bike in a parking lot early that month, but fortunately, I was unhurt and my bike suffered only minor damage. The first official event for my Romans 8 Riders chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association was the bike blessing for the Blackstone Valley (Mass.) Harley Owners Group, followed by a group ride. The last weekend in April, I went to the second annual Motor Officer Bike Blessing and Rodeo at Rendezvous Leather in Uxbridge, Mass.

May is the month when riding weather gets comfortable, and the 2010 CMA Run for the Son was a very memorable event, even more so because Anna accompanied me. We rode to the Living Stone Foundation in Leominster, Mass., a privately owned and operated homestead where God's Word is carved into numerous stones on the property. The weather was warm and sunny, and except for some tense moments of highway riding on the trip up, the whole day was a blessing and very relaxing. On the way home, we took mostly country roads. Another major event I experienced for the first time was the 25th annual R.I. Blessing of the Bikes on Shipyard Street, near the Port of Providence. I had never seen so many motorcycles converging on one place in my life, and the exhaust rumbles of so many bikes sounded like constant thunder.

Also in May, I rode to Laconia, N.H. as part of CMA's Laconia Prayer Ride, where we prayed at the site of the big motorcycle rally in June (which I did not attend). This was my first long-distance ride. I started the day early, and by the time I got home around 10:30 p.m., I had ridden 426 miles, riding solo. Not having a fairing or windshield on my bike, I was rather tired by the end of the day.

Although I wrestled with whether to keep or sell my Yamaha Virago, I decided to sell it in May, and used the proceeds to pay for some upgrades to my Harley in June, including new exhaust pipes, high-performance air cleaner and a carburetor rebuild. I did all the work myself. The modifications improved the looks of the bike, but more importantly, helped it to run much more smoother.

June was the month of our CMA chapter's second annual Oakland Beach Bike Blessing, and as I did the previous year, I had the assignment to greet people and help them park (as Anna said, I was a "fisher of men.") By now, Anna was beginning to show interest in learning to ride her own motorcycle, and her son Ricky, 11, also enjoyed himself that day, climbing on the motorcycle of my fellow chapter member Bob Levesque (who also happens to be Ricky's computer teacher) and wearing my helmet and goggles as he did his best biker impression.

Anna helped me get out of my comfort zone during the third annual Ride for Tomorrow in June, where she urged me to bless the bikes of a couple she met while looking at bikes before the ride. It was the first time I had blessed a bike without more experienced members of my CMA chapter nearby.

July is prime time for our biking season, and mine started with Hogs and Hot Rods, a fun family event at Ocean State Harley-Davidson, where I took Anna and Ricky. That month Anna rode with me on the fifth annual Ride for Corinna's Angels, a benefit ride I'd done solo the year before. I want to praise God and thank Him for answering my prayer that at this year's ride, I would have a woman to ride with me - preferably on a Harley.

In mid-summer, Anna and I thought about riding on my motorycle to West Virginia, where she grew up and still has a sister. The problem is, we would have only had four days off. After researching the idea, we decided that making the 750-mile trip in one day on a motorcycle, while possible, might not be enjoyable. Instead, we settled on some shorter rides in July, just Anna and I. One ride, in eastern Connecticut, started out dry, but we ended up getting soaked to the bone. On another ride, we rode Interstate 95 to western Connecticut, crossed over the border into New York, and then rode back home through the middle of the state. Anna was surprised we had only ridden 300 miles that day, considering how long we were on the road.

In August, I really didn't do much riding. My focus was on Anna, who learned how to ride a motorcycle by taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course at a local community college. She breezed the classroom portion of the course. The first day of the riding portion of the course, she dropped the bike, and, thanks to a less-than-encouraging instructor, she almost gave up. But she persisted, and completed the second day of riding without any mishaps, and passed the course.

September was a memorable month in a memorable riding season. It started with a ride to Massaschusetts to meet up with other CMA members for a pancake breakfast, followed by a scenic ride to The Cross in Barre, Mass., another site dedicated as a monument to God and Jesus Christ. There were a couple of shorter rides after that, and the month ended with the Station Education Fund ride, which was my first poker run-style ride. There was never a dull moment on that ride, which both of us were greatly anticipating, and we were blessed greatly that day.

The education fund ride was followed in early October by another new experience for us - the R.I. Motorcycle Association's annual toy run. It was by far the largest ride Anna or I had been on, with at least 1,000 motorcycles participating as police blocked traffic on major highways. Later that month, Anna and I went on a smaller, local toy drop, but by this time, the riding season was over for all intents and purposes. Neither of us can ride for long in the cold because our fingers go numb, even with gloves. We ended up getting an early snow toward the beginning of November. After that melted and we had some rain to wash the salt off the roads, I took my bike out one last time to change the oil, and it hasn't left the garage since.

In terms of milage, I rode 6,160 miles on my Harley in 2010, plus maybe a couple hundred more on my Yamaha before I sold it. That is about the same total number of miles I logged in 2009, my first year riding. I will say it took much longer to get comfortable riding the heavier and more powerful Wide Glide, compared to how quickly I felt comfortable on the little Virago. But, I feel like I am hitting my stride with the Harley, and having Anna as my passenger makes my riding experiences more enjoyable. In the fall, members of my CMA chapter elected me road captain for the 2011 season, so I'm evidently not the only one who feels my riding skills have grown.

Anna says it was her "best year ever," and I agree. We owe all these blessings to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My focus in 2010 was learning to trust Him, and although I have not had steady, full-time employment in a long time, the Lord was faithful to provide my needs in 2010. Although I have to wait a few months for the snow to melt, I am excited about the 2011 riding season, as I'm sure He has bigger and better things ahead.