Archive for the ‘Moto’ Category

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My existence on this earth that Sunday morning. In a flash, it was almost over.  

Before I knew what was happening, my entire world was upended and I was sliding down the pavement under an oncoming car. My bike, wrecked. There’s not much more I can say about those critical few moments because, I just don’t know. This is what I remember:

I left my house around 2pm to go get some carb cleaner. You see, I had this finicky type generator that I had been neglecting all year and with winter not so far away I thought this Sunday morning would be a good time to get the oil changed and clean out the air filter and carburetor. I spent most of the morning working on that and when I finally realized I needed to go to the store, I got cleaned up, put on my gear like I do for every ride, and set out. It was a beautiful afternoon. Aside from the usual trouble spots, the roads were surprisingly not crowded and I enjoyed a spirited ride down one of my favorite cut throughs.  Point A to Point B, all as planned. Just like every ride. 

With the carb cleaner acquired, standing in the Pep Boys parking lot, I put the can in my pack and my helmet on. Out of the corner of my eye I watched a husband and wife ride by on matching Harleys not wearing helmets, or any sort of protective clothing. Shorts, flip flops and a prayer. I shook my head and let out a quiet snort of derision as I snapped the strap closed and started the engine. I could never understand how people can be so lax about their safety. I suppose they think it will never happen to them. 

But I digress. 

The plan for the rest of the day was to get the carb cleaned out, run a 10k in preparation for the Half this weekend and then have my parents over for dinner. You could say I had a pretty solid Sunday lined up. 

Most of the way home was quiet. I reached the main road through town which was predictably packed with people visiting the apple orchards and farm stands. I always expect the worst from these folks and I’m usually not surprised. I navigated through the confusion and made my way up to the one stop light in town. I stopped at the light for a little longer than normal, presumably adjusting something, and then rolled through the intersection. 

What happened next isn’t entirely clear. There was a car in front of me and the speed seemed normal for the road. Not too fast, not too slow. The last thing I clearly remember is riding up the steep hill just a couple minutes from home. 

Then, it was kind of like floating in a dream, only it was more like a nightmare. I saw things happening and I thought, “Man that would really suck if it were real.” What I saw were flashes of my accident. 

The car in my lane way too late. 

“Oh Shit.” Grabbing a fistful of brake. 

Hitting the ground. 

On my feet screaming at the driver to call 911. 

My bike visibly damaged, laying on its side on the side of the road. 

Finally, reality started to piece back together as I lay on the side of the road. The first thing I remember feeling was a woman holding my right hand. 

“I’m alive,” I heard myself say. It sounded like a question. And then, “My wife is gonna be pissed.” 

“No she’s not,” the woman said, “she’s going to be happy you’re alive.”

That’s right because, I am still alive. 

Then, as though she was never there at all, this mystery woman (read ‘witness’ to those without a concussion) was gone and I was placed into the capable hands of the local first responders. From my stretcher, I saw a lot of faces with a lot of different names. I spoke to the police, fire and emt crews that came out, all of whom helped me piece together the last thirty tumultuous minutes of my life.

After giving out my emergency contact information, I watched one of the firefighters call my wife. I can not adequately describe how awful that felt. She’d had to deal with so much. It wasn’t fair that she should have to get that call. 

“I’m alive.” I said again. Making sure it was real. 

“Yeah buddy, you’re alive,” one of the faces said, “and you’re pretty lucky.”

Later that night in the emergency room, the police officer that responded to the scene, called my wife to fill her in on what happened. He told her that the driver said he “thought he had time” to cut in front of me, initiated his turn and when he saw he couldn’t make it, he stopped, right in front of me. Before hanging up, the officer also told her that her husband was “tough as nails,” because apparently, after sliding up to my chest under the car, I pulled myself out. I have no memory of this. 

Tough as nails. 

If I ever wanted to be described as something to someone, it would be like that. I know it was all reflex and instinct but I’d like to think that there must have been some part of me refusing to accept death as an option that forced me to get out from under that car. After the fact I feel pretty proud of that survival instinct, although I’m not sure I can take credit for it. I stared death square in the face that afternoon and somehow managed to walk away. My injuries, relatively minor: a little road rash on my left knee and some other bruises and abrasions. I am battered and sore, but I am not dead. Lucky is right. 

A little over a week later, I finally worked up the nerve to go see my Bonneville before it got towed away. I wanted to say goodbye. I suppose that may sound silly to some, but I suspect other riders might understand. At any rate, we got to the garage too late in the afternoon and they had closed for the day. My wife called the next day and found it had been towed earlier that morning. My heart sank as I overheard the conversation, but as she said, maybe it’s best to remember the adventures and not how it was after the crash. She is, as always, quite right. In life, my 2014 Triumph Bonneville was an amazing motorcycle. In the 16 months and 5500 miles that I had it, it took me on some pretty epic adventures. I shall miss it terribly. 

And now for the sixty-four million dollar question. Will I ride again? The truth is that, for me, riding motorcycles is probably over. As much as I loved motorcycling, and the person I’ve become as a result of those experiences, after looking at the fear and shock on the faces of my family, it’s hard to do decide to go back to something that would possibly put them through that again. They all indulged my desire to ride and had faith that my planning and preparedness would protect me if the worst should happen, and I am grateful for that. Most importantly, now a few years later, I have a little man to think about and I can’t have him growing up without a dad because a pizza delivery guy got impatient. I loved riding, but there’s really no contest there. 

The gear:

Helmet: Shoei Neotec with Sena Bluetooth Communicator

Jacket: Dianese Crono Textile with Back Protector

Gloves: First Gear Rush Mesh

Pants: Scorpion Covert Jeans 

Boots: Alpinestars Oscar Monty

Backpack: 5.11 Tactical Rush 12

Individually these items all did their jobs and saved my life. Before my accident, and now more than ever, I am a vocal advocate for riding with the appropriate gear. Life is far too short and too precious to take unnecessary risks. That’s not to say we shouldn’t participate in things that might be dangerous. We should just show the proper amount of respect. 

All the gear, all the time. No exceptions. 

Ride safe.

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Amid a flurry of grass clippings and dust, I saw the USPS truck speeding around the bend in our street as though our few humble homes were the last deliveries standing between this mail carrier and the freedom of a holiday weekend off. I rumbled to the backyard on a mower that has likely seen better days, and when I came back, there was a box resting on the doorstep. As a self confessed Amazon Prime junkie, I knew I wasn’t expecting a delivery. I examined the return address and immediately knew what was inside.

ScooterBob had arrived.

When I first signed up to host ScooterBob I was the proud owner of a 2014 Triumph Bonneville. My third motorcycle, the Bonne turned out to be a perfect fit for me. In the two years that I had it, It took me on pretty amazing adventures. There was no ride too long, no adventure too daunting, simply nothing I could not do with that bike. The story of its passing is as dramatic as it is sad, and is a post for another time. I mention it now because given the untimely parting with my Bonne I was unsure if I was the right person to host ScooterBob. Would he still want to see New England if it wasn’t on two wheels? My correspondence with the current host (Toadmama )and moderators ensured me that Bob would still want a visit no matter how it happened. I was touched by their kindness.

So here he is. As I opened the box I was profoundly moved by the small wooden motor scooter I found inside so lovingly packed in bubble wrap and peanuts. I found the bag of souvenirs that chronicled his journey around the world. I carefully unfolded each piece, remembering where I had read about it before. There was no doubt in my mind that this little scooter, and the man who inspired it’s travels, meant a great deal to the people who are keeping his mission alive. Described as an imperfect human, I feel like maybe Bob and I would have gotten along.

So for this man I have never met, and the people who have taken such good care of the tiny scooter that embodies his traveling sprit, ScooterBob and I are going to kick some ass.

21 Days Later

Posted: November 30, 2015 in Life, Moto
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Note: on September 27, 2015 I was involved in a serious motorcycle accident with another vehicle that totaled my much loved Triumph Bonneville and nearly killed me. I have a post written that chronicles that event but I’m waiting to publish it due to pending legal action. I wrote this three weeks later:

Today I put on the boots of a guy that should be dead. That guy is me, and the boots are my Alpinestars Oscar Montys. 

Let’s just stop and think about that for a minute. I should be dead. It’s a funny thing when the thing you love nearly kills you. I’ve been mulling that over for the last few weeks. I’ve spent the time since my accident resting and healing and tying to come to terms with the fact that I had a one percent chance of surviving that scenario and somehow managed to make it out alive. Talk about beating to odds.

Anyway, I had been meaning to write some short reviews of the gear that saved my life, and today I finally got around to it. I took a few pictures and for the first time since before the crash I put my hands on those pieces. Everything is trashed except my boots. They’re scuffed up to be sure, but are otherwise in good shape. So, I decided to clean them up and put them back on. Why? 

Because fuck you cosmos, I’m still alive.

Ahem… Let’s move on.

Now that the shock has (mostly) worn off and the wounds are healing, I’m left with questions that have no obvious answers. The most asked question of me recently is, will I ride again? The more existential questions like, Why am I still alive? Should I be living my life differently now? Should I ride again? These questions are harder, and have no real answers.

Great post, Matt.

I know, right?

I’ll start with the question everyone seems to want an answer to: will I ride gain? I just don’t know. Most people I know assume that once you’ve been nearly killed doing something, you would never again want to take part in whatever it was that nearly killed you. It does sound logical, doesn’t it? Remove the threat from the equation and voila, one less way to die. I get it. Immediately after the accident I was sure I would never ride again. Twenty-one days later, that answer seems less certain. In finishing my article on the Mt. Washington adventure, I got to relive some of those moments, and was reminded of what motorcycling had become for me, and why it had become such an important part of my life. What started out as a passing interest developed into a passion and eventually a new way to have adventures, not just a different way to get to the store. When that was taken from me three weeks ago, the loss I felt…. feel… is palpable. Not just the loss of my Bonneville, but the loss of those future adventures. There were many things I had yet to do.

So, why would I be willing to accept all that risk again? Because fuck you cosmos? No, we covered that with the boots. The reason to buy another motorcycle is personal, and I think only other people who have had similar experiences might understand. The adventure I found on two wheels in the last few years, has done a lot for my soul. Spending a day exploring roads on the map that “look like they might be fun” provided me an opportunity to put aside what ever troubles I might have had and be present in a different moment. Even if that moment was fleeting. Giving up motorcycling means giving up those moments.

The reasons for not riding should not be surprising: It’s dangerous, I almost died, the accident was hard on my family, I almost died, my local friends would not support me in buying another bike, and that means the risk of alienating them, and also, I almost died. Those things are all legitimate. I don’t really expect those friends to understand, and it definitely makes a decision to buy another bike seem selfish. I am fortunate, however, to have a supportive family. Not one of them, including my wife, has told me that I can’t ride motorcycles again. I mean, I know that I’m all growns up, but it was nice for me to hear them say that if I wanted to buy another bike in the spring, that would be ok. It’s a kindness I’m not sure I deserve.

Why am I still alive? Right now I’m going with the Seven P’s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I planned for the crash, ergo I survived the crash. It’s a very simple way of looking at things, but right now it’s the best I can do

Should I be living my life differently? This one is heavy. It sort of makes me thing about what I would want people to say about me if I hadn’t survived. He was kind to people? He loved his family? He loved his dog? He was a good friend? I would hope that I have lived a life worthy those compliments. I know that I’m not the easiest guy in the world to know sometimes, and I can be….. less than flexible about some things. So as I’m trying to find meaning in this survival story, perhaps I can use this opportunity to work on those flaws.

You can see, I have a lot to think about.

As I said, the answers aren’t obvious. So until I can figure them out, these boots are staying in the rotation as a reminder to be kind to people, love my family and my dog, and try harder to be a good friend. I guess that all any of us can do.

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Yesterday we bid farewell to our TU250. Even before the events of a few weeks ago it had become apparent that Beth’s interest in motorcycling was waning, and I had been thinking about selling it. Her decade long search for a horse had finally yielded an Andalusian and she was riding the TU less and less. She finally admitted to me that while she like doing it with me, she didn’t really like riding all that much. For the record, I was, and especially now, am totally cool with that decision. Riding motorcycles is not for everyone, and I’d be some kinda terrible husband if I insisted that she do something she didn’t like.

Being the Craigslist guru that she is, Beth listed it for sale a few weeks ago and waited. Aside from the Nigerian princes who generously wanted to pay more than we were asking, and the inevitable tire kickers, we didn’t get any real replies until this past week. A nice couple from Massachusetts replied to the ad looking for their first motorcycle. They had just taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginner Riding Class and were excited to buy their first bike. They came up late in the afternoon and we stood in the garage for a while talking about the TU. I answered their questions and shared a few stories of my riding experiences. It did good for my soul to see this couple enter into the world of motorcycling by making good decisions. Start small, spend money on gear and training, and practice. Not that I’m cynical about riding right now, but I kind of envied their inexperience and enthusiasm.

We packed the TU into their van, shook hands and they drove off with their new bike. We didn’t have the TU for that long, and aside from the week that Johnny was here, it didn’t get a lot of miles. It was a nice little bike to have around, but I would rather see it go to a good home and to people who will make their own adventures, rather than be wasted sitting in a garage.

So to that couple, I wish them the best of luck and the best of adventures on two wheels. I hope it turns out to be as awesome for them as it has been for me.

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Turn the key. Adjust the idle. Ignition.

The engine rumbled to life and I put on my helmet. Before I even climbed aboard the Bonne I knew this was going to be a long day. If I’m going to be honest, I probably planned this trip the day I bought my first bike. And now, three years later, I feel like I’m ready for it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to stand on the summit of Mount Washington. At 6288 feet, the peak of this geological behemoth stands as the highest point in the eastern United States. Up until three years ago, I assumed that would be the result of hours of laborious hiking. While this is still a goal of mine, that venture been put aside many times for a multitude of logistical reasons, namely the investment in time, which I have in limited supply. Fortunately, there’s another way to reach the top.

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In 1861 a team of engineers completed and opened to the public the Mt. Washington Carriage Road. Starting at an elevation 1527 feet, the now renamed Auto Road, climbs 4618 feet over the course of 8 twisty miles, which boasts and average grade of 11.6%, and no guard rails. Naturally, the The Auto Road makes standing on the summit a far more attainable goal, and thus attracts thousands of tourists every year. This year, that includes me. Driving up the mountain always seemed like cheating, but riding up the steep, winding, partially dirt road notably lacking guard rails on two wheels adds a level of adventure that was right up my alley.

While the engine was warming, I double checked my gear. With everything strapped securely in place, I raised the side stand, dropped into first and rolled out of the garage. If I followed Google Maps, it was going to take me three hours of freeway riding to reach the base of the mountain. But I wasn’t going to do that, was I? Nope, the route I was going to take was going to add an hour, but an hour well spent. My plan was to take Rte. 93 up to Lincoln and then ride the Kancamangus highway east to pick up Rte. 16 north to Gorham and the entrance to The Auto Road. Kind of killing two birds with one stone. The Kanc is one of the most highly recommended motorcycle roads in New England. Cutting through The White Mountains, it provides beautiful scenery and 32 miles of sweeping corners and one pretty exceptional hairpin turn. It’s not Stelvio, but for New Hampshire, it’s not bad. But first, I had to get there.

Last year, I reached the Kanc by way of back roads. Between the quaint New Hampshire towns and the long stretches of scenic deserted roads, staying off the freeway really was the best way to go. The downside was that it took twice the amount of time. Since I was going all the way to Washington, it made the most sense to take the freeway and save myself a little time. I settled in at comfortable 65-ish and maneuvered through the busy interchanges of Manchester and Concord. As I left the Capital I was pleased to notice the traffic melting away. While trying to stay engaged in the long ride, my scan of my immediate area often revealed that I was the only person on the road. Again away from distracted drivers inadvertently trying to kill me. Occasionally a car would pass, and I’d be alone again motoring north towards the mountains.

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With a quick stop for gas it took just under two hours to reach Exit 32 in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Being the creature of habit that I must admit I am, I pulled into the usual gas station to top off the tank and then rolled next door to the all too familiar Dunkin Donuts on Rte 112 for a quick bite to eat. After checking in with Beth I strolled back out the Bonneville to get set up for the next leg of my journey. I had a general idea of where I was going, but I didn’t really care that much because finding the way is part of the adventure, right?

So I went East. As it leaves Lincoln, The Kanc offers a series of tree lined sweeping curves for several miles, which were pleasantly devoid of other vehicles. There are few things I love more than having a road to myself. Without pushing the speed too much I finally arrived at the famed hairpin turn that starts your climb into the mountains. I’ve run this corner only a few times so I took it kinda easy, but not so much so that I couldn’t enjoy it.

Slow. Look. Press and Roll. What up MSF.

I climbed higher over the pass and on that beautiful afternoon I was rewarded by a clear view of the White Mountains. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view but time was tight and unfortunately I couldn’t stop to take it in. Disappointing perhaps, but I had a mission and I was pretty sure the view was going to be much better at my destination.

The Kancamangus Highway comes to something of an unceremonious end at the intersection with Rte 16. From here all I had to do is go north and I should run straight into the Auto Road leading up to the summit. While it turned out to be slightly more complicated than that, I managed to find the way with a minimal amount of u-turns. After another hour of empty roads and amazing views, I spotted the famed sign signaling the entrance to the Mt Washington Auto Road. From the time I left my garage, it took four hours to get there. It was already a hell of an adventure and I hadn’t even done the hard part.

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I rolled down the driveway and pulled off to the side. I was nervous. I knew that guys on Harleys ride this road and don’t go plummeting off the edge, even with a mile of dirt road, and not a guard rail in sight… At least not that I heard of anyway. I texted Beth to let her know I was heading up and if I could I’d sent her a text from the top.

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8 miles, 4600 feet, 22 minutes. Here goes nothing.

I’ll start by saying, this road is narrow. Like, a car and a half, narrow. When I crossed the bridge and paid the attendant, he reminded me that the speed limit was 15 mph. Yeah that not gonna be a problem, I laughed. There’s no rush to get to the top. I stayed mostly in first gear for the first half of the way up, and felt fairly comfortable winding through the blind corners, at one point pulling over for an adventure rider to pass.

With the increase in elevation, the trees began to shrink and eventually melted away. I was finally able to take a look around. Although the haze was thick that day, what I could see of the view was spectacular. The pavement abruptly stopped and the dirt began. I stole quick looks at the mountain ranges around me while simultaneously trying to maintain my focus on the road in front of me. I had a mile of climbing winding dirt road ahead, with the sun in my face, and vehicles passing from the opposite direction, so staying engaged was critical. I was soon reunited with my friend the pavement and the corners in the road loosened up. I could see the summit buildings in the distance and (finally) clicked into second gear. My pace quickened a bit as I closed distance to the top, and in short order the road ended at the parking lot. I rolled over the gravel to a spot with a nice view and killed the engine.

And for a moment, I just sat there, looking through my visor at the range ahead and listening to the quiet ticking of the engine as it cooled. I breathed in deep, removed my gloves, and took a picture.

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It was about 3:30 pm, so I had plenty of time to look around before making the descent. It took so long to get here, I wasn’t about to rush. First things first, I walked right to the summit marker. And there was a line… I had to laugh. I waited patiently while other people stood at the marker and took their photos. A group of Appalachian Trail hikers arrived, and I offered to take their picture for them. More than anyone else on the summit that day, those four kids earned that picture. I was happy for them and their accomplishment, and maybe just a little jealous. They kindly returned the favor, I wished them a safe journey and walked off the marker to let the next tourist take their picture.

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I walked to all the corners of the summit, making sure to stop and take in the view, hoping that I would be able to remember this day in the months and years to come. Before I knew it, an hour had passed and I knew I had to go. I walked back to the Bonne, politely passing a family with two small kids walking down the stairs. The dad, who looked younger than me, caught up with me as I was organizing my pack for the return trip.

“That’s a beautiful bike,” he said. “I always thought the Bonneville was a much nicer looking bike than a Harley.”

Who was I to argue? I thanked him for his kind words and got ready for the ride down. The road less of an unknown now, I just had to make sure I managed my engine speed so I wouldn’t overheat the brakes. The views I couldn’t see on the way up I was fortunate to have again for the ride down. I ended up hung up behind a slow going Mercedes for most of the way, but honestly, I didn’t mind. The slow pace allowed more time to take in the view.

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Twenty-two minutes later, I arrived in the parking lot just as a new group of riders rode passed the entry gate and headed up the mountain. I stopped at the little convenience store to text Beth and have some water. It was nearly 5:00 pm, and I had three hours to go before I would be home. Initially my plan was to run The Kanc again in reverse, but I was going to lose daylight fast, so I opted for the fastest route home. Which, I should add, was totally worth it. I found more empty roads and as the sun set across the valley I opened the throttle, and rode for home.

The Ton. Yeah, so there’s that. I read somewhere that if you have a British bike, you have to “Do the Ton.” To the Brits, this means going 100 mph, and apparently it’s some kind of rite of passage. With the freeway empty of all traffic, I made my attempt. It took three tries and a full tuck, but I did it. Sorry, there’s no picture. I did, however send Johnny this text when I stopped for gas:

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Yup, never again, but check it off the list.

I rolled back into my garage just after 9:00pm. The Mt. Washington adventure was the longest of any moto adventure I had embarked on. I learned much about myself, and my bike and what it could do. It was one hell of a day, and even though I didn’t walk up that mountain, I felt the the adventure was worthy of the photo taken at the summit marker. Next time, I’m doing it on foot.

What I didn’t know that night as I lay in bed with the dog snoring beside me was that this epic journey would be the last great adventure with my Triumph Bonneville. What a way to go out though.

More on that to follow.

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It’s no secret that from time to time life can be something of an a-hole, and provide unique challenges and issues that simply can’t be avoided. That was the case this particular week in August. As a result, when I rolled out of bed, I was feeling pretty beat up. Not the best way to start the day

I spent the morning kinda lounging around. I slept late, played a little Tetris, and had no plan for the afternoon. Beth was leaving to go camping with her friends, and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in the house and stew. So I started packing. To date, I hadn’t really done a good long ride, and I had the feeling it was the very thing I needed to break through the funk. I grabbed my 5.11 Rush 12 pack, a couple layers of clothes, some extra gloves, tool kit, and I think, the worlds last remaining 120g iPod classic, and rolled out the driveway. It was 3pm. I had no plan, no direction, and no schedule.

I started north because, why not? I figured I’d take 93 north for a little while and maybe ride up to the mountains. After I got through the second toll, the not so crowded freeway almost instantly became a parking lot. Oh that’s right, it’s Friday in the summer. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, from Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire was heading north for a weekend of fun at pretty much the exact same moment. It quickly became apparent that this plan wasn’t going to work. Trapped in the right lane I knew the next big exit was for 89 north, so I bided my time until I could finally ease out of the ever maddening traffic and onto the the exit ramp. Since I couldn’t go any farther north I decided maybe I’d try going east. I got off at exit 2 and made my way towards Concord. I knew that if I made it through there I could pick up Route 9 and take it east into Portsmouth. Beth had been there a month or so ago and had fun, and since I hadn’t been in over twenty years, it seemed like a good choice.

Route 9 eventually became Rte 4 which did in fact take me all the way into Portsmouth. This stretch of road wasn’t terribly interesting but did afford some nice views as it passed a number of small lakes. I followed signs for downtown and made my way into the heart of Portsmouth. Small shops, cafes and restaurants line the narrow streets which, at 5pm, were bustling with people. I made a couple passes of the downtown area until I settled on a decent spot to park. I backed in, dropped the kickstand and swung my leg over the bike

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Downtown Portsmouth has the feeling you’d expect from a old seaside New England town.

I had been riding for over two hours and was ready to find a bite to eat. Walking around a bit I settled on, what I found out later, is a pretty popular cafe. I ordered a small flatbread pizza and sat outside watching passers by, while enjoying the afternoon sun. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I didn’t want to rush either. So after lingering for a little while, I packed up my gear and walked back to the Bonne.

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A late lunch and people watching.

Once I got my kit strapped down I took a look at the map. From downtown Portsmouth I could ride over to Rte 1A and follow that south all the way down into Massachusetts. The road runs along the New Hampshire Seacoast through Hampton Beach, then Seabrook, and eventually into Salisbury Beach, Newburyport, and points south. I’ve never seen this stretch of road before and the map looked promising.

Rand Macnally did not disappoint. Just a few miles outside the city, the road joins up with the coastline, and the views were nothing short of spectacular. Each turn provided a endless view of the Atlantic and the coastline ahead. I have ridden through some of the coastal towns in on the North Shore before, which has some nice ocean views, but pale in comparison to the uninterrupted vista I had before me. The road itself was in great shape and afforded some pretty incredible corners. My only complaint here was that it was pretty busy and the traffic ahead of me slowed to near stops at each hairpin. However, it’s a small complaint, and the slower traffic allowed me to take in the view and breathe deep of the sea air.

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Route 1A Southbound

Sunset turned to twilight as I made my way down the coast. As the busy streets of Hampton Beach soon gave way to Seabrook, and then Salisbury Beach, the road turned west for a bit and then resumed its southerly track down towards Newburyport. Initially taking a wrong turn when I entered the city, it looked like I was going to miss the downtown area altogether, but after a series of u turns, I managed to find the city center. With the light fading fast, I got off just long enough to take a couple pictures and check my map.

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The sun setting on Newburyport and miles to go.

I was committed to taking 1A as far as I could before surrendering to the hour long ride on the freeway to get back home. I found the way out of town, and the city streets soon melted away and transformed into rolling farm land that had a palpable air of tranquility in the last remaining light of the day. I rode by so many perfect pictures, but by the time I passed, I knew that the moment I saw was gone and turning around wouldn’t have been the same. The parks and farmland intermingled with small town centers, and with the temperature dropping, I thought it might be a good time to pull over, get something to drink and layer up for the ride home.

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It was completely dark when I set out for the last leg of this impromptu journey. Reminding myself to only ride as fast as I could see, I slowed my pace until finally linking up with 128 South for the long ride home. One hour and nine minutes later, I rolled back into my garage and was met by a very patient dog, who seriously needed to be let out.

Ive said it before: Good for the soul. Whatever was bothering me this morning faded away with the sweeping corners, ocean views and rumble of an air cooled 865cc engine. I dare you to find a better way to clear the head and heal the soul.

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I double dog dare you.

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Riding motorcycles is dangerous. I spent my childhood listening to my mom tell me that you buy your son a motorcycle for his LAST birthday, the last few years enduring stories from well intentioned people about the kid they knew in college who died riding a bike, or, my personal favorite, the facepalm inducing tale of my wife’s hairdresser who was dragged twenty feet through a field, on his face, while off roading a CBR600, wearing shorts and flip flops…. No shirt. He looks great now, but you know, less so back then.

There’s no arguing the point. Every time I throw a leg over my bike and start the engine, I’m assuming some level of risk. How much risk, I think, is up to me. There are several safety factors I can mitigate before I have to accept that the cosmos can punch my ticket anytime it likes. Things like appropriate gear, i.e. Helmets, gloves, and protective clothing. No, not just 501’s, something with Kevlar, and padding if you can fit it in. The technology exists to enhance your riding safety, so why not use it? It’s expensive, you say? This is true. It’s ninety degrees out and too hot for an armored jacket? Also true. But I would argue that leaving ones face in a puddle on the side of the road is probably worth a little sweat and spending a few hundred bucks on a decent helmet. Even this face.

So get some decent gear. That’s easy, but what else? I think I’d call it mindset. Mindset on a motorcycle is twofold. Once you leave the relative safety of your driveway, you have to assume that everyone on the road is actively trying to kill you. As much as I’d like to sit back and zone out while riding down what looks like a quiet road, I scan. I watch intersections, look through corners and every few minutes I check my six. I don’t just watch the car in front of me, but the car in front of him, and I keep a minimum of three seconds separation. If I stay ahead of the traffic, I can increase my survivability. Let’s be honest for a moment about who is on the road in America: Stressed out, distracted, Facebook posting, Wazers who, after they hit you, simply won’t understand why they never saw you before they pulled out in to traffic. They’re out there people, and they are trying to end your life. So I scan.

Who are “they?” In my few years of motorcycling, I think I’ve successfully identified the demographics of folks, who may be terrific people, but are most likely to kill me on the road:

The elderly. That’s right kids, Grandpa has glaucoma and neuropathy, and even if he could see you he damned sure isn’t going to slow that Lincoln land yacht down in time. The only upside is, he’s probably going pretty slow, and it’s not personal, he’s a threat to everyone.

Soccer moms. That’s going to offend people. Sorry bros, it’s the truth. Every minivan I come across in traffic seems to have a big sunglassed mom in the front seat, on a cell phone looking vaguely annoyed. This lady, while doing the admittedly admirable and thankless job of raising children, is simply not paying attention to anything happening outside that sharp mint green Toyota Sienna. When she hits you, she’s probably more pissed about getting little Jimmy to practice late.

The Prius. Sorry mom, more truth. Socially liberal folks in their gas sipping (I hate that phrase) hybrid, even WITH hands free Bluetooth technology, pose a real threat to the motorcyclist. Why? To be honest, I’m not sure. Looking in the window you can see them shouting into whatever microphone is hidden in the dash so as to not hold their phones. I think that’s great, by the way. No, I can’t hear you, but thanks for not distracting your driving by holding your phone. Now please call me back when you get home. I don’t get it, but I’ve had enough encounters with the Pri-i to consider this fact.

Teenagers. I’ve been there man. Just ask my driving record. Speeding tickets, accidents, you name it. As a younger man, I did plenty of dumb ass things in cars, and on a couple occasions, was surprised I survived. Only, I couldn’t blame a cell phone. That dumbassery was all my own. In the 21st century however, lack of experience paired with social media are the weapons of choice for this predator. Yeah they’re the future of our country and all that, but let’s not accelerate the attrition rate by weeding out the motorcycle riders.

Just today, while on my way home, in the span of about ninety seconds I witnessed two acts of unspeakable stupidity, so appalling that if I hadn’t been paying attention, should have killed me. I was coming up a hill behind three cars, all of whom were taking the exit going north onto the freeway. As I’m watching them stack up for the ramp, a green minivan, appears going the wrong way, up the on ramp. The driver had a cell phone in one hand and while nearly hitting all three of the merging cars never saw me as she entered my lane. I had plenty of time to adjust, so I came to a stop and leaned on my horn, while she passed in front of me without so much as tapping her brakes. Not forty five seconds later, from the left another driver in a corvette convertible started rolling into my lane looking the opposite way. I hit the horn again, they looked surprised and stopped. “Where did he come from?” I could see them saying. A minute and a half, and if I hadn’t been looking, I’d likely be in the hospital. Yeah, I get it. It’s dangerous.

So what’s the other part of motorcycling mindset? Call it, moto-zen. When you survive something that makes you wonder if your affairs are in order, youve got to let it go. Yeah I know, that’s a tough one. I struggle with it from time to time and on a couple occasions have opted to stop, get off the bike and collect my composure… All while looking for a new pair of shorts. Road rage is a real and dangerous thing these days and on two wheels, you are destined to lose any kind of ill conceived confrontation. So man up, and don’t be provoked by the lunatic good ol’ boy who just swerved into your lane while his Stars and Bars flag dislodges from it’s loosely attached truck bed flag pole. As one of my instructors once told me: Suck it up, walk it off. I’m not great at this yet, but I’m trying harder not to take attempted vehicular homicide so personally.

Hard on the nerves is right. So why do we do it? With the ever looming threat of multiple assailants, skin graphs and a grizzly end, what makes riding a motorcycle so appealing?

How much time do you have?

It’s for all the rides away from traffic. For the rides on long deserted roads with amazing scenery. It’s exploring a place you’ve never been because, in a car, you wouldn’t think of it. It’s being a part of the environment you’re riding through, not just staring at it out a window. Things like, smelling the pine trees up in the mountains, or just some dude’s grill when you’re hungry. It’s catching an apex just right and throttling out of a corner. It’s the rumble of your engine. Hell, it’s even the bike wave. It’s a million little things that do so much to fill the soul. I usually snicker with derision at the “thrill of the open road” cliche. I mean really, it sounds ridiculous, right? Sure, but after a few years of riding I have to admit, it’s a thing, and it freakin rocks.

So yeah motorcycling is dangerous, and does have its nerve wracking moments but those pale in comparison to how much good it can do for ones soul. Get some good training, some solid gear and a bike, and go forth and have an adventure. Even if it’s just meeting your buddy for lunch.

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