Well, with only a few hours left in 2009 as I type this, I guess it's time for a "year in review" retrospective (geez, I hope I don't sound too full of myself, lol). This was a very eventful year for me as a motorcyclist ... mainly because it was my first year as a motorcyclist.
My big goal for 2009 was to own a Harley. Although I did not reach that goal, I still consider my freshman year on two wheels a success.
In January of '09, I didn't even own a motorcycle, and was frantically scanning Craigslist for a ride that fit my modest budget of $1,000-$1,500. Good-running bikes in decent condition are hard to find in that price range.
In February, I went to my first big motorcycle show - the Northeast Motorcycle Expo in Boston - with Spike, Bob Levesque and Mike Chretien. There, I sat on my first Harley and drooled over bikes I couldn't afford. It was eye candy galore and sensory overload. The motorcycle bug bit me hard.
Then, at the end of February, I bought my bike, a 1987 Yamaha Virago, on consignment at Rider's Motorcycles. The original owner had hardly ridden the 22-year-old bike, which still had the original (dry rotted) tires and only 3,000 miles on the clock. I bought it for $1,000, a few hundred less than the asking price, since it needed new tires. Buying the bike was only half the battle, since I then had to get insurance and register it. I ended up having to sell some tools to get that bike on the road.
By the time I registered the bike in March, the snow had finally melted, and I rode that bike every chance I got, even though it was still fairly cold. Actually, I'm kind of glad I got my bike when I did - otherwise, I may have been a fair-weather rider. I was too excited to care about my fingers going numb from the cold. Plus, it made me appreciate the warm weather that much more! Because I had not ridden a motorcycle since taking my safety course the previous October, I started out slowly, sticking to side streets, until I became more confident riding in heavier traffic and higher speeds.
April was a very busy month. On April 5, I rode in my first group ride (the "ice breaker" ride), with my local CMA/Romans 8 Riders chapter. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, since I tended to fixate on the bike in front of me, instead of the road ahead, but eventually I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the ride. (I now look forward to group rides.) Later that week, I rode to Lincoln, R.I. and then to nearby Massachusetts to the home of a Christian biker for a presentation on sharing the Gospel at bike blessings (that was my first major ride on a highway and sort of a 'test run' for my 535 c.c. bike, which, I disovered, had no trouble reaching 95+ m.p.h. - not that I hit those speeds very often). On April 19, our CMA chapter conducted a bike blessing for the Blackstone Valley H.O.G.s in North Attleboro, Mass., where I blessed my first bike, followed by a hearty breakfast and a group ride. I didn't get to go on the ride with the H.O.G.s because I decided to take my truck instead of my bike that day, because it was just cold enough that my fingers would have been numb by the time I rode up there (yes, I caught a good ribbing from my chapter members for taking my cage!). On April 24-25, I earned my CMA back patch after completing a ministry and evangelism course at the "Seasons of Refreshing" conference in Greenfield, Mass. I rode up in a truck with another guy in my chapter, since he didn't have a bike at the time, and my bike is not set up for a longer highway ride. It was unusually warm for April on the 25th and 26th, the latter date being our chapter's first annual Motorcycle Cop Bike Blessing and Rodeo at Rendezvous Leather in Uxbridge, Mass. I had parking duty, but got to watch the motor officers handle their police Electra Glides as effortlessly as if they were lightweight scooters.
I missed some major biking events in May, including CMA's Run for the Son ride; the Providence shipyard bike blessing; and the special Olympics torch run. I hope to catch all three of these events in 2010.
In June, our Romans 8 Riders CMA chapter held its first annual "CMA by the Bay" bike blessing in Oakland Beach (Warwick), R.I. We were blessed with hot, sunny weather and a great location, stategically located near Iggy's, famous for its clamcakes and chowder, which I shared with Bobby Cesario and his wife Donna, when Bobby and I took a break from hamming it up as we greeted bikers and cagers driving by the park entrance. On June 27, I participated in my first big group ride, the 2nd Annual "A Ride for Tomorrow," (http://www.aridefortomorrow.com) a well-planned ride which began and ended in Attleboro, Mass., followed by a barbecue. I learned a rather embarassing lesson at this ride - when you hear the "start your engines" signal, you better be ready. When the pack began to move out, I was still fumbling with my helmet and gloves and was caught off guard, and had to duck-walk my bike off to the side so I didn't hold up the riders behind me (and I was close to the front of the rather large pack). By the time I got my gear on, I was toward the end of the pack. But I did enjoy the ride and the food afterward.
During the summer, I was voted in as a full member of my Romans 8 Riders chapter. In July, I attended three events: the New England CMA Rally in Chaplin, Conn. (July 10); the 14th Annual Ocean State Hogs and Hot Rods at Ocean State Harley-Davidson in Warwick, R.I. (July 18 - it was hot that day!); and the 4th Annual Motorcycle Ride for Corinna's Angels, in Cranston, R.I. (July 26). It had rained before the Corinna's Angels ride, but luckily cleared up. The guy I was riding next to bore an uncanny resemblance to Toby Keith (who just happened to be in concert locally that day), but it was not him. So he may not have been Toby Keith, but hey, at least he had a Harley and an attractive woman on the back ... maybe I will too by next summer, God willing.
August was kind of a quiet month, although I'm sure I did a lot of solo riding. In September, I installed a passenger backrest on my Yamaha Virago (a real test of my patience, let me tell you), and had my first experience carrying passengers, including two women from my Bible study group; my ex-girlfriend Beth; and a woman from Facebook, of all places. Riding two-up adds a whole new dimension to the riding experience, but my bike is really too cramped and lightweight to carry passengers comfortably (unless the passenger is around 5'0", which two of them were).
By October, the riding season was winding down, at least for the fair-weather riders. I was still riding when I could, but was having electrical issues with my bike, which left me stranded a couple times. I wanted to go on the The Artic Mission Toy Run in Coventry, R.I. on Oct. 26, since I had not been on a group ride in a few months, but was nervous my bike might break down again. I took a chance and went on the ride, and had no problems (I think the problem was due to a poor ground connection, which I corrected a few days before the ride). On the toy run, a deer hit a guy who was riding a Honda trike; thankfully, nobody was hurt (not so sure about the deer, though). The trike's owner, Bob, earned the nickname "Deerslayer."
November rides were scarce, but I rode to Mike Chretien's house in Little Compton, R.I. for a Romans 8 Riders fellowship/potluck. And, on Dec. 3, it was exceptionally warm for that time of year (about 65 degrees), so I rode to our Romans 8 Riders monthly meeting that evening. The first big snow storm about two weeks later, plus colder-than-average December temperatures, pretty much sealed the lid on the 2009 motorcycle riding season.
Okay, so I didn't get a Harley for 2009, but I did get a motorcycle, logged about 6,500 miles on it without injuring or killing myself, and had a lot of smiles to go with those miles. I learned a lot about my bike and its quirks, and got back into wrenching again, something I had not done on a motor vehicle since I drove clunkers in my teens and early 20s. I met a great group of guys and gals in my Romans 8 Riders chapter. All told, I would say it was a successful year, and I can't wait until the 2010 riding season begins. Happy New Year, and God Bless!
(Special thanks to Sue Caron for maintaining the Romans 8 Riders website on Yahoo. Without the calendar function on that site, my memory alone never could have recalled all the names, dates and locations.)