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.

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