The riding season of the Romans 8 Riders chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association began Sunday with a bike blessing at Precision Harley-Davidson in Pawtucket, R.I., for the Blackstone Valley chapter of the Harley Owners Group.
I woke around 5 a.m. so I could meet Cam, another Romans 8 member who lives in southern Rhode Island, at the Mobil station on Route 138 in Richmond for 6:30 a.m. From there, we planned to get on Interstate 95 north and rendezvous with other chapter members in Coventry before jumping back on I-95 north to our final meetup point at Cardi's Furniture in South Attleboro, Mass.
Having been a boy scout, I should have been better prepared, but I was running around like a headless chicken that morning getting my gear ready. I arrived at the gas station eight minutes late, but saw no sign of Cam. I assumed he'd left for Coventry, so I got on the highway headed for the next rendezvous point. The sky was overcast and it was in the low 40s. Even though I wore glove liners and insulated mittens with chemical heat packs in them, my fingers still went numb. I caught up with Cam at the Cracker Barrel parking lot, where we were joined by Bob Levesque and Ed Kershaw. Rubbing my fingers against my jeans, I thawed them out for the next leg of the ride. Then the rain began somewhere around Cranston. But my bigger concern was my low fuel situation. I prayed that I would not have to switch the fuel petcock to reserve (no easy task with mittens, I'm sure) on the Thurbers Avenue curve or the Pawtucket S curve, but I made it to Cardi's no problem. There, we joined our chapter president, Spike and his wife Pam; road captain Mike Chretien; Roland and his wife Sue; and guests Manny and his wife Denise. From there, we stopped for gas on our way to Precision.
After we parked our bikes at Precision, we huddled under a tree to escape the rain and wait for the Blackstone Valley riders to arrive. I didn't count how many showed up, but I'm guessing there were no more than 10, including Firm Locke, the chapter's director. A few members from another CMA chapter, God's Posse, also attended the blessing. It was definitely a day for diehard riders.
Ed and I teamed up to bless a couple of Blackstone members' bikes. I like the way that Ed, who is a longtime Christian, shares the gospel message with bikers - simple and direct. Several of us blessed Manny's bike.
From there, we rode to Old Country Buffet in Seekonk, Mass., for a breakfast buffet before a 50-mile ride through several Massachusetts towns, including Seekonk, Rehoboth, Mansfield and Taunton. Weather was a mixed bag - sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny; sometimes raining, sometimes dry; but temperatures by this time were in the low 50s. I've ridden in a group plenty of times with my Yamaha, but this was my first group ride with the Harley. It didn't help that the roads were wet and/or sandy. Because of this, I took corners very slowly for fear my rear tire might break loose, and I often had to catch up to other riders after I came out of turns.
Besides the less than ideal conditions, I had issues with my bike stumbling every time I gave it just a bit of throttle, especially around 35-40 mph, which was the speed we rode at most of the time. I think my carburetor may need to be re-jetted.
The ride ended back at Precision, and after the Blackstone Valley H.O.G.s left, most of the Romans 8 Riders went to Spumoni's restaurant to celebrate Roland's birthday. On the way home, I rode with Cam, and I noticed another issue with my bike - I felt some wobbling or instability while riding on the highway around 65 mph. At first I though it was just wind turbulence, but then I remembered hitting a pothole earlier while I braked approaching an exit ramp. I checked my front wheel spokes at home and found that a few were definitely loose, which can cause a wobble at higher speeds. My Harley is definitely turning out to be a high-maintenance girl.