Thursday, November 24, 2011


Baby, it’s cold outside.
- Johnny Mercer

WHEN THE DAILY HIGH temps only rise to the 50 to 55 degree range, only the intrepid can be found enjoying the highways and back roads on two wheels.

Out state route 128 past Winters, there are few if any motorcyclists this day. The fifty-degree air slices through my layers. Every square centimeter of my being feels the chill – except for the middle finger on my right (throttle) hand which cannot feel anything at all and won’t until I stop for a cup of coffee at the café located junction of 128 and 121. Here I would thaw out the digit by simply placing it in the steaming coffee, until such time as I received feedback that feeling had returned.

A fellow in riding gear was finishing a burger and ordering a slab of apple pie. His V-Strom was parked outside, now with my GSA beside it.

The usual questions ensued. “Where you going?” “Where you out of?” “How long you been on the road?” “Any route recommendations?”

The gentleman told me that this was his third V-Strom. First one had been a 650. He wanted more power so after 40,000 miles, he traded for a 1000 model, which he summarily crashed after hitting a water hazard just up the road from this café. Opted for his current 650 since Suzuki wasn’t importing the bigger model. “It isn’t my only bike, however,” he confessed. This explained the Harley garb we wore while touring on the Japanese bike. “My Street Glide’s parked in the garage right now.”

I shared that I, too, had a second bike – a beautiful little black Guzzi.

He swallowed a bite of apple pie and washed it down with some coffee. “Kinda makes you sad, doesn’t it?”

I shook my head, unclear of his drift.

“The second bike.” He motioned with his fork. “Sitting at home and missing all this.”

I thought about the Breva isolated in my cold and darkened garage and nodded.

He said, “They know, you know.”

“Yep. I suppose they do.”

TEMPERATURES IN THAT LOW 50 range effect photos in a bad way. The pictures become non-existent. Inside the heavily insulated winter gloves, my hands are warm and my digits relatively mobile, with the exception of that one finger. I know that removing the gloves to fetch the camera will end with me slipping once-warm hands into once-warm-but-no-longer-warm gloves. Thus, rather than stop to record the flaming Big Leaf Maples or Black Oak leaves, or the row upon row of wine varietals – each changing hue consistent with their lineage and micro-location in the vineyard – I whisk by thinking perhaps I can resort to using words on a keyboard once I’ve found shelter for the evening.

Pictures would have been a good idea. My hands ultimately developed that chilled stiffness anyway, so I may as well have stopped now and then. By not doing so, I aligned no electrons to depict the rolling hills mostly covered in chemise, but blocked, in select places with cultivated vines. I didn’t pixilate the muted colors under a pewter blanket of cloud, nor the flaming cabernet, pinot and zin leaves against a deep azure sky where the sun had melted those clouds. I didn’t catch the remnant moisture from yesterday’s storm rising as mist aside a forested hill. I missed the golden English walnut leaves and the spare, spindly pear branches reaching skyward, already devoid of foliage; and the Victorian set back from the road in a cluster of pecans and mulberries; and the red barn with a corner of rusted corrugated roof peeling away. Also not photographed for posterity: the Great Blue standing at the edge of a gray pond; the placid water under a Napa River bridge; the small convention of geese gathered on some farmer’s front lawn; or the Spanish moss over the graceful curves of the still damp Silverado Trail. In general, of the elements that define the ride, none were captured.

I guess if I’d stopped for one photo op, I’da stopped for a bunch more. Darkness would have settled in and, along with that darkness, an even deeper cold. Maybe I’m just not intrepid enough to both ride and take snapshots.

OVER THE MEADOW and through the wine country, I would see and spend a couple of nights with granddaughter and her new seven-week-old brother. Perhaps I had reason to hurry. Perhaps not.

In any event: no pictures. At least, not of the ride this time.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

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