BACK IN THE DAY
The last installment ended with me deciding that I should ride to Mike’s cottage at Nanticoke on Lake Erie – a distance of approximately 60 km. from my house in Hamilton – most of it highway riding. I found that once I got through the city and on the open highway, the bike became easier to ride, but harder to turn (at least in my rookie opinion, since I had absolutely no notion of push steering). Just south of Caledonia, there was a set of railroad tracks that crossed the highway on about a 45-degree angle. I ignored them, and was rewarded with no reaction from the bike as I sailed merrily over the tracks. Ignorance is bliss, eh?
Further along, I needed to make a left turn on a County road that was unpaved gravel. I was well aware of that stretch of road, since I had driven it in a car many times. This time (on the bike) was very, very different. Just my luck, they had recently re-gravelled the road, and there was an inch or so (2.5 cm.) of nice, fresh, loose stone between my tires and any semblance of traction. When I made the turn, I found that the bike started to swerve from side to side, so I slowed down. Unfortunately, that only made things worse, so I did the only thing I could think of – I sped up. Once I got going about 80 kph., the bike smoothed out – but I knew instinctively that I didn’t really want to have to turn or stop, since I would likely wipe out.
I managed to keep it upright through several stop signs, and finally reached the lake road which was packed mud. Luckily it hadn’t rained in a while so the traction available was similar to riding around the city on paved roads. I rode up to the cottage, and sure enough, Mike was there with his parents. I triumphantly dismounted and walked up to the cottage and found Mike relaxing in the sun. I dragged him back to look at the bike, and watched as his face turned green with envy. It was everything that I had hoped – I felt in my mind that he was absolutely regretting that he hadn’t sprung for his share of the bike. That wasn’t enough for me though – I needed to get him on the back for a ride so that (as I told him) we could get some practice riding two-up, so we wouldn’t be totally green when we headed to school. In reality, I just wanted to lord it over him.
After letting it sink in that I had a bike and he didn’t, I suggested that I take him back into the city – ostensibly to get that “experience” that I mentioned earlier. He agreed totally, but just when everything seemed to be falling into place, Mike raised the problem of his lack of helmet – the law requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet had just been enacted. Since we were both ignorant of the finer points of the law, I had a flash of brilliance! I remembered that I had left my lovely yellow Dofasco hard hat (with “Slacker” written on the back by one of my previous co-workers) in the shed attached to the cottage. I told Mike to wait by the bike, and I ran to the shed, picked up the hard hat and gave it to Mike to wear for a helmet. He enthusiastically put it on and got on the back of the bike, preparing to ride into the city.
Unfortunately, surrounded by his family, as we pulled away there was a gust of wind off the lake which blew his “helmet” off his head. He thumped me on the back and delivered the bad news. Needless to say, I was devastated by the fact that my goal of making him totally eat crow was crashing down around my ears. It was then that I had another brilliant idea! I told Mike to stay with the bike and I ran back to the shed and picked up a roll of electrician’s tape that I knew was there. I then proceeded back to the bike and told Mike to put the hard hat on and close his mouth, and when he did I took the tape and ran 5 or 6 times around his chin and the top of the hard hat. He climbed back on (complaining with his mouth taped shut) that he probably looked like a dork. I assured him that wasn’t true, and besides that, no one who was following us would notice the fact that his headgear was black taped to his head. We pulled away, and although the wind continued to gust, the hard hat remained securely in place.
After riding along the lake road, we turned onto the beginning of the gravelled section, and of course the bike started its wandering and fishtailing about. Mike was absolutely astounded and frightened by this action and clamped onto me like a drowning man clinging to a piece of driftwood, but I assured him everything was fine and once I got up to speed the wandering would disappear. Sure enough, once I got up to 70 or 80 kph., the ride smoothed right out, but Mike still had a bear hug on me in abject terror (in this case, he was smarter than I was, but who knew?). We managed to reach Highway 6 unscathed, and I sat at the stop sign for a minute to catch my breath (actually to allow my heart rate to slow to a somewhat normal rate). Mike mentioned (through gritted teeth – remember the tape) that it was ironic that it was starting to rain and we had chosen to ride a bike, but again I assured him that that was interesting but ultimately unimportant.
Once we were on the highway, everything settled down, including Mike who managed to let go of his “death grip” on me and let his arms dangle in the breeze (so he would look cool – at least as cool as anyone could look wearing a Dofasco hard hat with slacker written on the back, black taped to his head). All went well until just before we got to Caledonia – remember the tracks and the 45-degree angle? Well, I was experienced crossing tracks, wasn’t I? The only caveat was the rain – but that didn’t mean anything to me at the time. Unfortunately, I’ve reached my quota of words, so you’ll have to wait for next time to find out how the tracks were navigated.
Questions / comments, always welcome.