Fall Ride - Or the Joy of being a biker
Posting this here as it was a solo ride. I hope you get the same joy from riding that I got today.
It had been a tough week. Frustrations and interruptions had made work less than enjoyable. Saturday’s class and house chores, while a nice change from the workday routine, did not provide any satisfaction. I needed to ride.
Sunday morning dawned gray. The late October wind was blowing hard from the west causing the attic vents to moan, and the trees were raining a steady stream of gold and brown leaves adding to the pile already in the yard. I didn’t care. I was going for a ride. The thermometer said it was 48 degrees outside, and the weather report said the wind was blowing at 20 with gusts to 30+, with higher winds predicted. I decided to take the sport bike as I hadn’t been on it in a week or two, and I craved some of the joy which that bike can impart. I got out the heated gear and, remembering that I did not have a power harness on the CBR, started looking for the extra one I knew I had. 15 minutes of looking produced no results, and I decided to ride without heat. I got dressed and went out to the garage.
The bike started easily like it too, was anxious to ride. I mounted up and headed out, unused to the feeling of this gear on the seat. I noticed that it had much less grip both on the seat and on the tank than my summer gear and wondered what challenges that might present on the ride ahead. The streets in the city were dry, but as I got away from the houses and into the forest preserve, the roads were damp and littered with wet leaves.
The Forest Preserves were awash in color, from trees still green, through the entire range of fall color, to trees that were already bare and fully prepared for the coming winter. The gray sky brought out the brilliance of the color, making them seem as vivid as a Kodachrome print. Mindful of my still-cold tires I took it easy for a while, but when the car ahead started to pick up the pace I willingly followed. I found that the lack of grip on the tank and seat required adjustment of cornering technique, as there was no grip from the outside leg on the tank when attempting a deep lean off the inside in a corner. I made my riding adjustments while the sun started to peek from behind the clouds and started to dry the roads. The sun danced through the trees, flashing off the faceshield as I ran at a moderate pace carving my way through the forest on the still-damp but drying roads. Around one particularly sharp curve sat a Sheriff’s Police car, parked in one of the preserve parking lots. Luckily I had slowed to make the curve, and the officer did not give chase.
Up Archer avenue I rode, then west to Lemont and southwest to Lockport. The day was brisk but now the sun was out, the roads were dry and the traffic was thinning. From Lockport I rode west to Plainfield continuing west, headed for Sheridan. Stopping for gas at the Junction of Rt 47 and 71, I realized just how cool and windy it was, and how well my gear was keeping me warm even without the electric heat connected.
The wind had picked up substantially as I left the gas station, and was now blowing in a straight line, causing the bike to move sideways across the width of the lane. I played with the wind, as it toyed with me and my bike. Passing a house caused a quick shift to the right, then back left again as the wind, free from the blockage of the farmhouse, once again was able to play with me. Once I made the turn onto Sheridan road, the traffic was gone, and the wind was head on. My pace quickened as I ran through the curves leading into town, mindful of the challenging wind that was ever-present. The joy of the ride had kicked in.
Reaching Sheridan, I stopped at the Cemetery to pay respects to four generations of my ancestors, then once again remounted the bike. The wind had become stronger but the sun was out fully now, making the day seem much more inviting. My gear was blocking the wind completely, so while the wind-chill at speed was probably near zero, I was quite comfortable as I rode. As I headed through town, I reveled in the pure joy that riding can provide.
I crossed the Fox river and headed south. The crosswind where the fields had been harvested was intense, again playing with me, this time more aggressively as I rode. I had experienced the power of high crosswinds on touring bikes, but I marveled at how my now warm tires securely gripped the asphalt while the wind pushed around the rider and bike. I wondered if I could mount sport tires on my tourer.
Turning East on US52, I once again had the wind at my back, and my pace quickened. Entering Kendall County, the road presented some inviting elevation changes and relatively easy curves, which were made much more challenging by the now persistent and strong crosswind. The day was beautiful. Corn stalks waved at me from the fields along the road, and tossed dried leaves in my path. Being just after noon, the sun warmed my back while the wind chased me down the road, catching up to play with me again at every curve.
Seeing fresh oil on the road ahead, I turned south again at Rt 47 and headed through Morris, turning east on the far side of the Illinois river. Once again the pace picked up, as there was no traffic on this road and the wind was mostly at my back and attenuated by the trees and foliage that follows the river northeast. The road runs through some relatively undeveloped areas, and past the last section of native prairie in the area. Birds were flocking in preparation for their flights south. Prairie grass was waving wildly in the wind, spreading its seeds for next seasons growing. And the trees continued their show of color. It felt good to be alive and on a bike. This road ends at the Interstate, and mindful of the strong crosswind, I decided to take the frontage road to the next road east. After turning, I passed a sign saying Rough Road, and it wasn’t kidding. The road is probably one of the worst in several counties, sending me airborne twice in just a few short miles. My bike and I rode out the terrain, taking joy in the ride and the challenge. The next road east is one of my favorites, running along the Kankakee river into Wilmington. Although more populated than the roads farther west, it still is a fun run into town.
Stopping in Wilmington for lunch, I decided against riding south along the Kankakee, as much because of the thought of riding back north in the crosswind as because of the work awaiting me at home. I instead headed east on county roads towards the city. My trip took me through rural fields, some harvested and some not and through some northbound stretches where even 45 mph was too fast to keep the bike in my lane against the crosswind. The wind had continued to get stronger, and was no longer just playing with me as I headed home. My eastbound paths allowed me some joy at pace, but the northbound roads had now become serious work as the relentless wind kept trying to keep me from enjoying my ride. Turning north on Harlem ave, I knew that it would be just a few miles until the houses and shops of the suburbs blocked the wind from it’s intent. Crossing I-80, the traffic accomplished what the wind could not, slowing me to a snails pace in traffic. The ride from there took me through some more of the Palos forest preserves, past forests and meadows and swamps, all basking on the late October sun and dancing to the wind.
Arriving home, I put the bike away. My joy continues. Rides like this can last in the memory long into the winter and keep me sane until the first ride of spring once again renews the joy of riding.
I am truly blessed.
Last edited by beac83; 10-26-2008 at 04:08 PM.