Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the Cold Dark of Morning

The nice thing about having a semi-heated garage is that the transition from indoors to outdoors is more gradual than, say, going from a warm house to a freezing cold garage at 5:30 in the morning on a cold December day.

And so, as I backed the bike out of the garage, I was actually working up some body heat which held me well until the Warm 'n Safe heated jacket liner got fully up to the task. It is 40 degrees outside in the unheated space.

This first part is easy, even in the dark, as Beltway 8 is so well lit, one doesn't even need headlights to see. Then it was over the Ship Channel Bridge and next thing I knew, I was on I-10 heading east. Next stop is my favorite Valero station east of Baytown. Steve's yellow Gold Wing was parked in front of the C-store and we greeted each other and took a few minutes to have a coffee before getting on with the task of riding 500 miles to Milton FL for the night.

I was in a nice comfortable cocoon of heated gear, neck buff, full-face helmet and quilt-lined riding pants and admiring the silvery streaky sky ahead of me as the sun pushed its light through the low layer of clouds. But then Steve pulled up along side of me and signaled his need to pull over by taking both hands off the handlebars and making motions like someone who's freezing to death. There was a rest stop right there and he pulled ahead and exited, pulling over into a parking spot with me behind him.

When he came to a stop I saw him throw his arms up in the air and I wasn't sure what the deal was. But when he walked back to me, the news was a surprise: 1) his heated jacket liner never heated up after our Valero stop; and 2) his motorcycle died as soon as he stopped and now there's no power at all. It didn't take him long to figure out the dead motorcycle problem (loose positive cable on the battery) but the lack of heated gear was going to tough for him. He pulled on a fleece layer under his jacket and knew he'd just have to suck it up. I saw temps as low as 39 degrees in some sections of I-10 going across far eastern TX and western LA.

My first planned stop was the second exit in Rayne but as we neared, Steve pulled up along side and indicated need for gas. I knew he would probably be about on reserve at that point so exited at the first Rayne ramp, rather than the planned exit 5 miles further down. It was a fast gas stop and we got back on the interstate with the agreement that the next stop would be just east of Covington, since my originally planned stop in Gulfport was beyond his bike's gas range.

I never tire of riding across the Atchafalaya Basin on the causeway. The light reflecting on the water is ever-changing, always giving the swamps a new look each time I ride by. I didn't see any geese - it's that season - but did see a small squadron of egrets take off, flapping their way slowly into the air, and a large heron balancing precariously on a highway speedlimit sign.

In Covington it was a Texaco with Domino's Pizza so we used this Covington stop as our lunch stop. It was close enough to lunchtime at that point! We're still on track for a 4:00-4:15 arrival at the hotel on the east side of Milton. I wanted to get there before dark, and it was looking good for us to accomplish this.

Traffic got heavier as we neared Mobile and both lanes were filled nearly bumper to bumper with cars. Fortunately, many of those cars headed north on I-65 in Mobile and the road opened up again, as the packs of cars loosened up and we could return to some semblance of lane discipline.

I stay at this hotel in Milton often when I make my many treks across the FL panhandle to various events if it's a winter trek, when the days are shorter. If it's summertime, with longer days, I usually make it to Marianna. When I checked in today, I learned that the desk clerk is an alumnus of my old high school here in Milton. We chatted a bit about how different things were when I went there (school was 1/2 the size it is now; it was segregated; the football team went to state my sophomore year). He was bright, articulate and very professional for such a young man: Class of 2008, MHS!

An uneventful (for me, anyway) first day of the trip. Tomorrow morning should be warmer by almost 10 degrees and we should arrive in Lake Buena Vista before dark tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I read your comment on your ride, and you mention towns I know of, especially Marianna. I have a neice (34 yr old double breast cancer survivor! that lives there and my sister did too, until she passed away suddenly almost 2 yrs ago this coming March. My Parents and other family live in Tallahassee. Be making a road trip there my self soon. But in my Stang Cage for sure! Who knows....down the road, maybe one day a road trip on my bike (lmao) Be safe and take lots of pictures! LOU