Racing the rain

Racing the rain

All the odds were in my favour. It was a sunny day, I had knocked off work early and it was daylight savings. I had planned to meet up with my friend at his place then head for a spirited ride out to Wiseman’s Ferry, a small rural outpost on the edge of civilisation, an awesome ride to awesome food. It was going so well.

I got to my friend’s place, and found we were waiting for his mate to turn up. I pointed to out that I had never doubled on a road bike before and he offered to take me out for a lap of the area. I didn’t realise how different the riding style is on a Harley, where you lean back, wind on the throttle and punch through the air. I am more comfortable with my crouched over the tank, causing little wind resistance way of riding. This caused problems because when we accelerated hard he would lean back, and I would lean forward, causing our helmets to collide.

We got back to find the extra rider waiting for us. This fellow is rather fussy when it comes to his Harley. One time he went to a bike show, and finding that he might have to park his bike in the sun, paid an entry fee to allow him to park his immaculate machine amongst all the show bikes. Due to the condition he keeps it in, this fastidious owner walked away with a couple of trophies. And he wasn’t even trying.

Heading off, the bike is running amazing, and I am feeling like I could ride forever. The Harley riders have a laid back riding style, which means I have to slow down every 10 minutes until I see a flash of chrome in the rear vision mirror, then I take off again in a rather spirited manner. In the far distance, on the horizon, dark grey clouds appeared.

Curve after curve I get more confident, maybe too confident. Leaving the Harley boys for the last stretch, I roar down the hill, and engine brake into town. My compatriots pull up, and compliment me on my riding ability and how well the bike runs for a 250 that had been parked up for almost two decades. We hook into our dinner, and watch the grey storm clouds get nearer. One of my fellow travellers gets a call from a friend, who tells him that the storm is even worse than it looks, and to be careful. We decide to leave, and quick.

Full of steak and French fries, and ready for a quick ride back to civilisation, the bike moves my bloated self up the hill and out of town. I had never ridden in the rain and was not planning on doing so until I had some wet weather gear. I push the bike into corners hard, occasional drops of rain splattering on my visor. My friends are well behind now, and self preservation overrides my desire to take a leisurely ride. The sky is filled with murderous grey clouds, looking to beat down on me like an ex girlfriend’s brother.

The sky darkens rapidly, in the rear vision I can see my friends have picked up the pace and are a couple of hundred metres behind me. Large flashes of lightning illuminate the sky, my 35 watt headlight bulb doing little to help me see. I see a set of headlights overtake both Harley bikes in one swoop, then come up quickly behind me. A European sports hatch, something generally driven by someone with more money than driving skills. I lean into the corners harder, there is nowhere around here I can pull onto the shoulder without a chance of spilling. Finally, on a blind corner, he drops back a couple of gears and takes off in a blaze of self importance and exhaust fumes. I drop back the pace to accommodate for my lack of vision.

I decide to try to get to my mate’s place, as it is the nearest safe haven from a big storm. We get to the last 20km stretch, only a ferry to cross, then we’re home free. Coasting down the hill towards the ferry, the heavens open up and the rains come down. Hard.

We pull up next to each other on the ferry, and decide that the extra rider and I will head for our places, and my friend will just head home. The rain is coming down so hard, it is getting hard to see ahead. I decide to leave my visor up, as it just mists up when I drop it down. I can’t believe it as it seems to be getting even darker. I am putting along at 30kmh, my new friend sitting behind me, regretting he wore an open face helmet. It’s really bad now, visibility is down to a couple of feet, my headlight doing nothing at all to cut through the downpour.

I start to climb a slight rise, but my bike is sitting at minimum revs, and I decide to drop down a gear. It’s not until later when I spoke to other motorcycle riders about what I did, that I realised how much of a mistake I made. The back wheel locked up, by some miracle I kept the bike rubber side down, and my thighs were so tight on the machine I left imprints on the tank. Later, the rider I was with said he doesn’t know how I kept it upright, it was the best death wobble he had ever seen. Then, with a flash of his more than adequate high beam, my riding partner turned off for home.

Like the song says, I was all by myself, which I didn’t want to be anymore. I kept on, the little 250 carrying me towards home, every part of me soaked to the core. Except for my feet. I was damn glad I paid extra to get a good pair of boots. Lightning occurred more frequently now, it being the only way I could see ahead any distance. A 5km stretch of straight road lay before me, with no street lights, and the rain seeming to come down even harder.

On any other day I could have done this stretch in a few minutes, but on that night it seemed to take 5 hours. Switching my attention between the front and the rear, I kept my eyes in front to make sure I was still following the road, and sporadically looking behind to check no one was coming up behind me. Most of the time I would choose a bike over a car, but that night I was jealous of the drivers and passengers in their comfortable cages, narrowly missing the little Suzuki on the side of the road and probably not even knowing it.

After an interminable amount of time, I cleared the death stretch of road, and crossed the bridge into the next town I could stop at. Parking up under an awning, I pry myself from the machine and get my phone out to call my wife. I am too late, she has already called numerous times, and is worried. I call her to reassure her I am 20 minutes away, and that the rain was subsiding, which it was. I wait five minutes, then as the rain finally stops I pull into traffic and am on the last leg of the journey.

I take this quiet time, or maybe cos I’m in shock, to take stock of the situation and think through the night’s events. Good ride out there, great dinner, and my first ride in the wet was more of a baptism of fire, which I am glad for. I was still upright, my clothes were soaked but at least my feet were dry and warm. I was pondering this to a degree where I didn’t think of why the road in front of me should look so glassy, and ride into a foot deep puddle that stretched over a good length of road. I am glad I made it almost before that happened, as my spirit was broken once that occurred and I pretty much let the bike take me home.

I rolled around the side of the house, and straight into the back sunroom, where the bike tried to slide out on the tiles. I wouldn’t let it, and I wasn’t going to park in the shed tonight, it deserved better than that. I turned to find my wife standing at the back door, warmth spilling out past her from the house. Felt damn good to be home again, and I could get those damn wet boots off.

Side note: My mate got hit so hard with the rain he rode past his street twice. Our companion got home alright, and although he was soaked through, still washed his bike before putting it away.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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