A Conversation for Mostly Harmless MC- The H2G2 Motorcycle Club

Best Ride Ever!

Post 1

Blue-Eyed BiPedal BookWorm from Betelgeuse (aka B4[insertpunhere])

smiley - huh
Okay, Riders, take a moment to collect your thoughts, then tell us a story. What's your favorite ride you've ever taken? Where was it? What were the circumstances that took you there? What happened there and along the way? Did you meet anyone in particular or develop a new riding friendship? How did your bike handle during the ride? Describe the scenery in detail and provide us "the feel" of the ride, if you're so inclined.
smiley - biker

Best Ride Ever!

Post 2

Blue-Eyed BiPedal BookWorm from Betelgeuse (aka B4[insertpunhere])

--- Black Betty Flies Home ---

After carding through the electronic turnstiles of the Main Access Facility at the nuclear power plant, you take a short walk between the Central Processing Facility (on your right) and the Sally Port (on your left, where two hydraulic platforms "trap" any in-coming vehicle for initial security search). You pass through a small pedestrian opening in the Vehicle Barrier System blocks surrounding the site, making it the equivalent of a small fortress. You chuckle to yourself, remembering how you sometimes refer to the plant as "Schloss Callaway."

At the end of Shift, there are only a few bikes left arrayed along the short sloping parking area in front of the "Bread Shack" (where contract workers used to be paid during plant construction days): a variety of Harleys, a CBR600, a dirt bike, and your Honda Nighthawk 750. Most of the guys prefer the low'n'slow cruise to work, but a couple actually come in on the gravel County Roads that converge on the plant. You're not a big fan of gravel, and you're also not inclined to putt-putt along. Black Betty knows this, and she's patiently awaited your presence for the return trip home.

You like the way she looks today, as you do a walk-around. Her bright chrome glints in the afternoon sunlight in complementary contrast to her gloss black frame, tank, and panels. The hand-sized white outline decal of Betty Boop on the front fender pays homage to how she got her name. Her slightly oversized tires remind you of her sure-footedness and grip through the curves along your trek. The additional windscreen is clean and you know it'll help her slice the air when you hunker down in the sweet spot.

You pull the keys from your jacket pocket and unlatch the black cargo trunk; your helmet and gloves come out onto the pleated and padded seat; your lunch satchel goes into the cargo trunk and gets locked in. You slip your hand down along Betty's left side and open the fuel lever. You traverse the handlebars from left to right, setting the choke to mid-position, noting the trip odometer's count, engaging the ignition key and checking the gauge lights, flipping the engine cut-off switch, and then pushing the ignition button below the throttle. She greets you with a happy rumble and you feel her vibrate with anticipation. You appreciate the sound, yet slip on a pair of earplugs like the Site Nurse and the Safety Guru have recommended. The Fulmer M1 modular helmet rotates open and fits snug as you situate it for comfort; you close the lid and prop open the visor one notch for airflow. The Mechanix® gloves go on and the jacket sleeves Velcro® down over them. You swing your leg over Betty's back and grasp the controls on the handlebars. It's time to ride out…

You roll the throttle just a touch, look left for pedestrian traffic, release the clutch gently, and pull out of the slot. The tarmac rises upward and to the right on the way out of the Owner Controlled Area security checkpoint, so you give it a bit more and shift to second. Get on your pegs across the drainage grates, let your legs absorb the downward drop, then settle back on the seat as you pass through the sliding gate.

The Jersey barriers on either side of you hem you in as Betty gets her feet under her and you shift to third. There's an option of three routes out to the main road: Entrance A for the regular plant personnel, Entrance B for the vendors delivering consumables, and Entrance C for contractor personnel. The rebel in you makes the decision in less than a heartbeat. Look over your right shoulder, no cars leaving, blinker on, quick jink into the cross-over gap, and you're taking the shortest way out. Blinker off, level out, then dip into the hard sweep left that allows you to get in the first "lean" of the whole trip. The barriers are now only on your left, an open farm field lies on your right, as you come back upright and slow just a bit for the intersection ahead. No traffic along either of the other two exit tributaries, so you dip the bike low to the right, cutting the corner. Bump it up two gears to fifth as you pass the gravel parking for Reform Conservation Area on the left, and the farmer's field on your right slips behind. Take the wide sweeping left-hand curve at a slight tilt and start applying brakes and right-hand blinker as you approach the intersection to Route CC, shifting down to third.

You know you can check traffic to the left as you get nearer, because the trees and shrubs are always cut back from the verge, providing ample visibility up the curve past the Emergency Operations Facility across the road. A silver truck, small frame, is already half-way through the curve and heading your direction. Clutch down to first and bring it to a halt at the sign. Any other day, if the way was clear, you'd still be in third and heel it over to the right, and blow past the Stop sign. Not today. Hang onto your front end.

The small Chevy rolls by at a good clip and you feel the brush of its wake. Throttle up, clutch out, lean right, straighten up, gear up, blinker off. By the time you pass the intersection where the pavement crosses two gravel roads (Entrance D and County Road 428), you've already clicked into fourth gear and are approaching the back of the truck. The road has a slight rise, so you have to wait for its blind apex before passing: don't want to go nose-to-nose with the unexpected. You reach the crest, see it's clear, check the left mirror, over left shoulder, check front again, flick the left blinker, and roll out to pass. Throttle up, hit fifth, pull feet back off the shifter and brake to rest against the frame. Blinker right, check the mirror and over shoulder, drift right and plane out.

Now you can really roll on the throttle, to its full stop, because you have about two miles of straightaway ahead of you before the next turn. The wind begins to buffet you as Betty smoothly surges forward, pretending she wants to lift her front wheel. You hunker down behind the all-clear windscreen and she settles into what feels like a slipstream. The speedometer sweeps around to 100…110…115…120…and you know from experience you could whisper to her to coax the extra 5mph out of her, but you'll run out of running room by then. The truck drops behind as if it decided to put it in reverse. You fly past the off-site Automatic Emergency Power System diesel generators on your left, you zip past another conservation parking area, and start up the final rise before the intersection. Let the throttle roll back of its own accord and shed the breakneck speed. When you reach 75mph, you sit erect and let the wind resistance add to your braking. Your feet come forward to the controls as you gently apply the front brake, then add the rear brake. You come over the top of the rise and see the signs at the junction of Route CC and Route O, and note a trail of dust on County Road 133 straight before you. There's a red four-door sedan coming toward you, but you'll make the intersection and the turn before it bumbles its way that far. Blinker left goes on, down shift…fourth…third…second…wait for it…hold clutch and front brake at bay… Clear left, still rolling to the junction, clear right (though it sweeps in from behind a low tree line and over a hump), so you commit to it.

You lean hard left and fairly cut off the on-coming lane's corner, and goose it into third almost immediately. The road rises from the four-way low point at the intersection to curve right, so you adjust your weight and stance to tilt the other direction. It's good you gave Betty free run. A glance in your right rearview shows a champagne-colored van just coming off the blind curve behind you and through the intersection, passing the dusty red sedan and swirling the rest of its wake onto the tarmac.

Your attention snaps forward again as you click it up to fifth gear. The road drops downward in a straight stretch, woods on the left, a comm tower on the right, then a home with a separate garage / workshop. At the low point of the straight stretch, you know the road has sunken just a bit in the middle of your lane, so you hug the double yellow line, rather than deal with the bottoming-out of the shocks. The van is behind you, but dropping behind as you start up the slight rise. The tree line on your left breaks open to allow power lines to cross into a large field on the right; there's also a home situated just at the beginning of the tight S-curves that cut left, then right, then left again. Posted speed is 35mph, but Betty can handle it at 60 or a bit more; today you feel like 55 will be more than adequate. You decide to show off to the van why carving a curve on a bike is such fun. You don't even downshift to negotiate all three curves. With feet tucked back, knees tight against the tank, head down behind the windscreen, you lean the bike very low. You look through each turn, keeping your eyes level with the horizon, in a fashion you like to call a "doggie-HUH?" pose, because it reminds you of how a puppy will pay attention to something by cocking its head to the side. One, two, three and you're done, but stay to the right or the left of the broken ridge of tarmac in the center of the lane as it straightens out.

Once past the deformed patch, there's the wide rising curve to the right, followed by another good straightaway. You typically use this stretch to pass slower vehicles if there's no on-coming. There's a pasture on your left with a deer stand in the far corner, and Black Betty sometimes flouts her combined horsepower as she passes the horses cavorting in the paddock. The long red barn with the roll-up doors on your right belongs to a Security Guard who works at the plant; he houses and stables his collection of hearses and limousines there. As you barrel past his gravel driveway you shed some speed to enter the left-hand turn ahead of you. There's a truck parked just off the roadway in the middle of the curve, on a path leading into the woods. Hunters are out and about; good luck to them. Level out and glance at the beautiful brick home on the left someone built a few years ago. It's set back behind the natural tree line and surrounded by more forest.

Get ready for the right-hand turn with the repaired patch on the inside of the curve. You stay near the center line and lean in smoothly as the road once again rises. The Harmony Hill Christian summer camp is on the right, with its circle drive that goes around their outdoor covered amphitheater. You can almost imagine Steve and Donna, who live across the road on the left, sitting out on their front porch listening to the singing or other productions those folks might do. Steve owns a Honda Magna, and you sometimes wonder if Betty would get jealous knowing you've ogled it. A few seconds farther and you slow for a tighter right that sometimes gets water run-off across both lanes, from the two houses on the left. You prepare yourself for the next set of extended S-curves because of their limited visibility; no cars this time, so there are no distractions as Betty's wheels shift across the lane with each successive lean.

The road has one final rise before heading down into the Missouri River bottom land. An old abandoned diner / convenience store sits mutely on the high side to your right; on the left is a new house someone built for the scenic overlook. Its light gray stone façade and brown roof with fireplace flue suggest it's as comfortable to settle down in, as the home itself is nestled on the promontory of the river valley. You steer Betty left along the downward leg and set up for the hairpin curve with only a low guardrail a couple of hundred feet ahead. You like to hug the double yellow here, until just before leaning in close to the sharp right-hand switch. Just as you start your cut, a black truck rounds the curve; he's towing a trailer and both the vehicle and the load are several feet over the line. You lean further down, pushing harder on the right handlebar, and give the driver a quick "get in YOUR lane" sign with your left hand. Betty knows this drill all too well and sidesteps the wider frame of the trailer. You've both seen it happen often enough along these roads, especially on this curve. You level out to take the downhill straightaway and say a quick prayer of thanks for the God-given sense to think ahead for such situations.

Still in the low lean stance you had coming around the corner, you stay below the windscreen as Betty gains speed crossing the bridge over a river tributary coming from the hills and fields on the right to join the rest of the narrow river on your left. The road is only a feet above the river basin here in the bottoms, and this area has been known to flood and cut off traffic in a heavy rainy season. Today is bright and clear, though, with only scattered white clouds in a pale blue sky. You talk Betty into running up to 80 before you have to rein her back in for the next set of curves. The river basin lies on your left, but a tree-lined hill rises to give an angled wall on your right. Two sweeping curves bring you past a red brick house set into a small alcove in the hill. You recall the small kindness of the owner when Betty got sick on the way to work one morning. You had to pull over and let her rest, so you knocked on the door and the man who answered agreed to let Betty stay the day under a shade tree in his driveway, until you could get help for her. She remembers it, too, and beeps as you glide by.

The road ambles left then makes a wide right-hand curve. This one is a bit deceptive because it tightens quicker than most car drivers expect, coming the other way. With Black Betty beneath you, though, this will be a hoot! You actually roll on the throttle a bit more, shift your weight, and lean well past the 45-degree mark. Betty loves this curve, as well, and obliges the tilt by digging in her heels and zipping through the arc. You're not done yet. No sooner than you come back to center, the road rises on a left-hand curve that immediately drops to a right-hand cut at the apex. You're driving between two rock walls: the one on the right is still an extension of the hill; the rock on your left is an outcropping, the remainder of where the roadway was cut through it, so it wouldn't have to be built over the top of the stream on that side. In the Spring and the Autumn months, when leaves are sparse, coming in the opposite direction, the massive bulk of shale always presents itself as an imposing edifice. You can't spare a look in the rearview mirrors—memory will do—because you've got to negotiate a tapering left turn.

A short straight stretch, another left turn that curls back to the right, and you're headed across the last bridge in the river basin. Before the end of the bridge, the road begins to rise, but the first left-hand curve angles upward even more quickly. You've been cruising at 70 for the last bit, but now it's time to back it off because of a special curve halfway up the hill.

You shed a portion of your momentum and Betty settles down to an even 60 as you finish the left-hand sweep. There is hillside on your right and a steep wooded drop-off past the edge of the other lane; a scary, treacherous place in Winter or in the wet. You let the thought drop away and fall behind so you can focus on setting up for the sharp curve, because you'll be blind to on-coming traffic until you're committed. You know you've got to keep Betty tracking between center and right in the lane, so as not to hang your head over the double yellows. You push hard left and lean as the reducing arc of the curve finishes, then you snap hard to the right and almost level out as the final right-hand curve carries you to the top.

Normally, you'd roll on a little more throttle and lean out over the right edge, letting Betty dig in at a steep angle, but you smell the first hint of danger. The fresh scent of chlorophyll washes over you, carried on the warm breeze. Hand brake, feet forward, foot brake, level out, click down to fourth. You've dropped 15mph just in time: as your head crests Haymart Hill, you see the riding lawnmower, rider facing you, grass chute toward the road, a swathe of green clippings scattered almost to the center line for a good fifty feet or more. Foot down for third, but release the brakes, just as Betty's front tire rolls into the green carpet.

He's managed to coat the whole lane from several passes of the mower between each of the entrances to the salvage yard he owns. No time to check out the empty husks of trailers, the rusting gutted automobiles, the skip pans filled to overflowing, the claw machine filling the dump truck, or the cows trying to graze amongst all the debris. Keep your eyes scanning the clippings for anything bigger or more detrimental to Black Betty's tires. It wouldn't do to have her lamed and laid up. As you leave the last of the chaff swirling in your wake, you make a mental note to stop by for a quick chat and work at educating him about how lawn clippings can be almost as slick as gravel to a motorbike. Maybe he'd heed the advice; stranger things have happened.

There's an earth-contact house, buried to the eaves on the facing side, to the left on this straight stretch. A small incline and the road turns right and down into another straightaway. There's a sign on the corner of a split-rail fence offering tool sharpening services; it's a large saw blade about four feet across, painted with flames and supplying a telephone number. You heave a sigh, as if to berate yourself for passing it for the umpteenth time without stopping to write it down. Betty picks up speed because she knows you like to challenge the left hand curve at the top of the next rise, past the white two-story house that almost always has geese escaping from the fenced yard into the ditch. First, a slight drift to the right, then push left and lean it, staying well to the right because you can't see traffic along the long extended left turn ahead until you crest the hill. Once you clear it, you've got a long easy run where Betty can kick it up a notch; the road isn't exactly straight, only set with languorous curves for the next mile or so. This is open field territory with houses interspersed at uneven distances.

You zoom along and listlessly roll right and just as leisurely roll left. Then your gaze locks momentarily on the corner posts of a cow pasture ahead and to the left. The farmer still hasn't repaired or replaced those two posts just past the corner, even though you know the insurance paid for it.

Right there. Several years ago. Headed in the opposite direction, going to work. You'd negotiated the hairpin a little farther back and were congratulating yourself. Then you entered the wide sweep of this curve, but too far to the right. The problem was that folks who live on County Road 477, in Nature View Estates, inevitably drag gravel onto the roadway when they come out to go into town. Your brand new Candy Plasma Blue Kawasaki Ninja 250 skittered on the rocks and drifted over the white line and onto the shoulder. You'd looked to where you were headed, instead of where you wanted to go. Three days before your Basic Motorcycle Safety course; twenty-five years after you'd last ridden with any regularity. One month to the day and 930.8 miles into your acquaintance, you and your new bike parted company. Good thing you did, too, as you slid upside-down across the dewy morning's grass on your Mil-Spec backpack, watching the bike flip end-over-end through the air to plant its nose into the lawn right at that corner. Now, you lean and look as you pass the spot, though your hind-brain still registers the faux pas, even as it recedes behind you.

Betty complies with the rollback on her throttle as you carve a deliberate path through the hairpin turn, then eagerly accepts more juice for the easier right-hand up-and-over that points you toward "the house within a house" on your right. You once again glance through the tall windows all along the side of the house. There's a front porch inside, and another set of windows on a second 'exterior' wall that reveal a staircase in the body of the home. You wonder if the owner had a good reason for encasing the original structure that way, or if it was done simply to turn it into a conversation piece and a local legend. A small turn right and down takes you around the anamoly, then the road rises past the skunk grass pastures.

You brace for the broken-S curves beyond, because the left requires a substantial lean and there is sometimes gravel there, too, while the right is a fight with uneven pavement in the midst of the lean. Once you've cleared both, you can give Betty permission for one last burst of speed. The high point out of the curve obscures on-coming traffic, and the hump in the middle of the straightaway can hide a small car for a couple of seconds. No one in front of you, though there's a Saturn coming up toward you and a cruiser bike with two riders coming around the far curve. Black Betty surges forward at your urging and she's chasing the wind at 90 as you fly past the other bike. Regardless, you still hang your left hand down and give the biker salute for "both tires on the tarmac"; the couple on the cruiser does likewise. Just as your hand returns to the bar, Betty crests the big hump. Gravity equalizes with centripetal force, providing a moment of weightlessness, though her feet never leave the ground.

Finish the straight and as you come up to a gentle right turn you once again marvel at the two-story clapboard house off to the left. It must have been a comfortable home in its day, but now stands abandoned. The whitewash paint is peeling from every surface, leaving dark grey ragged strips on every wall and window frame. Only a few of the windows are still intact; the broken ones showcase tattered, faded curtains that often flap outside in windy weather. It saddens you to see the state of disrepair and overgrowth in the neglected yard, in light of what may have been a vibrant home for a large family decades ago.

Another easy turn to the right leads along the straight stretch where the gouges of dirt have long since been overgrown by new grass. Halfway down, that's where it happened. You remember having to slow down for the flashing lights and EMT vehicle in your lane. The police cruiser sat just beyond, leaving enough space to view the wreck as the cop waved everyone around. The image of the EMTs hoisting the young lady on the stretcher out of the ditch still surfaces now and again as you pass by. You're thankful Betty didn't have to witness it.

Somberly, you set up for the sharp curve left in front of the Ebersole's home. The husband used to run a trash and waste disposal service for folks outside the city limits, but sold the business a few years ago. You've slowed to 45 to keep from leaning too low, allowing a quick shift into the easy right-hand hemmed on the left by the state's Teen Rehabilitation Center and on the right by the intersection of Route UU, leading to Toledo. Now you're picking up speed again, because the road winds steeply down left then right into a narrow wooded creekbed, then rises just as steeply up and left to plane out in front of the right-hand entrance to the State Prison. Just past it, along a steadily decreasing grade are: the County Jail, on the right; Hearnes' Forensic Center, on the left; Biggs Forensic Center, on the right; Guhleman Forensic Center, on the left.

You've shifted down to third to be legit for the in-town speed limit of 30mph, which also puts you in good position to take the right turn onto Wood Street after the last praking lot entrance. Blinker, brakes, and really lean it at this low speed, because the intersection actally cuts back at a slight angle. Swish farther right, then level out for a nominal uphill grade. You glance left at the old brick power plant with its decommissioned smokestack and wonder what changes were made internally to prevent it belching black clouds. On your right is the aging silver-grey water tower with no city logo (like the other newer ones in town), set in a grassy field in the midst of the State Prison Cemetery. Those blokes never got alive.

Over the top of the rise, the road swings left around a wide curve. The sidewalk on the left borders a cemetery on a grassy knoll. Maybe someday... No. Not yet; not anytime soon. Too much riding yet to do. Lean into the curve; halfway down, shift to lean right, then straighten up. Feet firm on the pegs, lift a few inches to crouch, as Betty slinks through the dip at Morningside and East 8th. You keep it steady past Memorial Park on the left, then take it down one more notch to second. Bush Elementary is coming up on the right and the speedo is 20mph from 07:30am - 4:30pm. Betty ambles along until you bring her to a halt at Bartley and 10th.

Almost there. You give Betty a little nudge and ease out the clutch, letting her decide what's comfortable between 20 and 30 while strolling in third. Houses on the right, some of them dating back to the glory years written about in King's Row; golf course and clubhouse on the left, a sign that times have changed. You pass St Louis Road and Evergreen Drive on the right, Saint Peter's church on the left, and roll to a full stop at the crossing of Route Z.

Check left, roll forward a few inches to see past the branches and signs that can obscure on-coming from the right... And, sure enough, you have to let a burgundy Caddy, a metallic blue new Mustang muscle car, and a boxy forest green Xterra have the right-of-way before you can proceed. There's a black Ford Ranger coming from the left now, but you scoot across with plenty of time to spare. You've bumped it up to second in the process, but you let Betty plateau out as you flick on the right blinker and squeeze the remote in your left jacket pocket to roll open the two-car garage door. Betty tilts onto Westwood Boulevard and you're looking at your house (first on the right with two empty lots still available inward from Wood), its blue shingle roof and dappled grey brick exterior an inviting sight.

You shift to first and roll up into the double-wide driveway and look down the west side of the house, through the white arbor, along the paverstone walkway, to the cedar fence surrounding the back yard. You pull up with Betty's front tire nearly onto the doormat in front of the etched-glass double entry doorway, then clutch in to roll back and left with her tail to the gaping garage. Click up to neutral, put the kickstand down, toggle the engine cut-off switch, turn off the gauges with the key, and reach down to turn off the fuel. You leave the front forks unlocked to move the bike.

You dismount and flip up your helmet's modular face. With your left hand on the bar and your right hand on the chrome grab rail supporting the small trunk, you manuever Black Betty backward across the blue acid-stained and sealed floor. You park next to the ladder on the wall, between the two curtained windows, situating a wood slat under the stand to prevent marring the floor.

The gloves come off and drop to the seat. You wheedle the helmet strap loose, take the M1 off, snap it all shut, and set it next to the gloves. You pull the key from the ignition and open the cargo trunk. Out comes the blue cotton rag and the small bottle of window cleaner. Squirt the visor several times and wipe it thoroughly, making certain all the bug guts are gone. Step forward and do the same for Betty's windscreen, then the backside of her mirrors, and finish by wiping off the Betty Boop decal. The cleaning gear goes back into the trunk, and the lunch satchel comes out. Pick up the helmet, stuff the gloves inside, then set them on the end of the shelf above the ladder. Walk behind the vehicles and push the remote again as you pass the HVAC room, to roll down the garage door. Turn right and open the Laundry Room door.

"Honey, I'm home! Where are ya?"

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