My First Ride on the Interstate

Diana is grinning from ear to ear

I have been feeling very confident on my new Dyna Superglide.  I put the first 1000 miles on in just 3 weeks. Despite the fact that she was at the shop for several days while I spent 4 days riding bitch for our Connecticut trip I still logged 1500 miles in 5 weeks.  I’ve been itching to ride my own bike on weekend overnight trips.  The problem is I have never ridden on a highway.  There was no way that I would be ready to take the Turnpike all of the way through Jersey for our Connecticut trip.

We were recently invited to my inlaws for dinner and this was the perfect opportunity to get a little highway experience.

The Plan:  Create a route to Mom & Dad’s that blends a small taste of busy highway traffic with some scenic roads as well.  We planned to start out on I-95, take the Fallston exit and follow some back roads through Harford, Baltimore, & Carroll Counties, and then hop on I-70 for the rest of the ride to Frederick.

I was perfectly fine with the plan, excited in fact…until we stopped to gas up.  Jay, bless his heart, was giving me pointers about highway riding: 

  • Stay away from trucks!  Avoid the “no zone”!
  • Ride in the center lane as it gives you more options.  if you do use the passing lane, don’t stay there! Some moron will insist on flying up on your ass at 90 mph. Beware on the right hand lane with its on/off exit ramp traffic.
  • Watch the demeanor of the cagers.  Aggressive drivers are likely to continue randomly darting in and out of traffic without paying much attention to their surroundings. 
  • Don’t overlook the seemingly complacent ones either.  You never know when a vehicle that has been stuck behind a truck for several minutes is going to run out of patience and dart out to get around the truck.
  • Think of the flow of traffic like a river.  Any interruption to the flow is cause for heightened state of caution.
  • And finally, the Art of the “Soft” Lane Change; don’t change lanes abruptly. Look in your mirror, put your turn signal on, check again and then make a gradual lane change taking your time. Give people that you didn’t see time to react. It’s not all about you out there.

This is all great advice, except that it was making me nervous.  I was fine before, but now I was scared to death!  (Thanks baby for making me a nervous wreck!)  I just thought to myself “You’ve driven this road a million times in your car…you know this stretch of road very well…relax…you are an accomplished rider…you will be fine.”

Tydings bridge

Jay had me lead so he could keep an eye on me without staring incessantly at his rear view mirrors.  We took the ramp onto I-95.  Traffic in this area is not particularly heavy since it is about 45 minutes away from both Philadlephia and Baltimore.  But it is 65 mph, and there are 3 to 4 traffic lanes in each direction.  And then there is the Tydings Bridge across the Susquehanna River.  I have grown quite accustomed to crossing at the Conowingo Dam & Hydro-Electric Plant.  It is only 2 lanes and 30 mph there.  The water is right beside the crossing on one side, and on the other it drops quite sharply down to shallow water and lots of rocks.  But the Tydings Bridge is 6 lanes total, very high above the water, and subject to severe crosswinds.  These winds frequently toss my car around, so I was very nervous about my bike (which is a good ton lighter)!  Luckily there was only a light breeze that day, so we crossed with no concern…other than my death grip on the handlebars (LOL).

Altogether we spent about 40 minutes on I-95 with no incidents before heading off down Fallston Road to Sweet Air Rd.  We took Paper Mill Rd to Hunt Valley, then Shawan Rd past Cal Ripken‘s house and several thoroughbred racehorse farms.  Now we were riding through my hometown…on the streets where I first learned to ride.  We took several roads that I always thought would be awesome to ride on a bike…and I was right!  After a quick rest stop at my brother’s house we headed out of Reisterstown, following Wards Chapel Rd through Soldier’s Delight.  Jay and I had taken this road once before when I had my Sporty, and it had been a disappointment.  On my Dyna with the lower center of gravity and superior handling capabilities, it was awesome!

horse farm

We soon found ourselves entering Howard County and preparing to get on I-70 for the last leg of the trip.  There is a very long ramp where you are technically on US-40 (Historic National Road) as it merges with the interstate.  I was well up to speed as I approached the merge area.  There was much more traffic here than up north since it was later in the day.  Many cars, SUVs, and a group of serious looking bikers were all jockeying for position to either move onto or off of the highway.  I saw an opening in front of an SUV, signalled with my blinker, turned my head all of the way to look over my shoulder and check clearance, signalled with my arm, and moved into the lane.  It was certainly not a sudden or drastic move, but there was not sufficient space for Jay to pull in with me.  We were separated as he got in behind the SUV. Then he moved over to the hammer lane to pass him and catch up with me.  In the meantime, the serious Harley dudes were collecting themselves back into some semblence of formation as I blew past them at about 80 mph… never looking back.  Jay just filed in behind me, looking over at the bikers and shaking his head as if to say “yep, that was my wife that just blew by you!”

We would be on I-70 for about 40 minutes, so I decided to try out my new cruise pegs that the chrome fairy put on my bike a few days before.  Two problems:  my legs are too short and the air cleaner cover is in my way. I had to kinda curve my leg around it to get to the cruise peg.  This left me sitting bowlegged with my right foot turned half inside-out, and my toes trying to grip onto the pegs through my boots!  It was probably pretty comical to look at.  It certainly wasn’t relaxing.  It was more like WORK!  Mental note:  don’t try that again until we can figure out a way for my feet to reach the cruise pegs better!

Altogether the ride took a little under 3 hours–a good combination of highway, country roads, and twisties.  And of course it was great fun!

Dinner at the parents’ house was fabulous.  I had just gotten my braces on a few days before, so I was not able to bite into the flatbread appetizer Mom made.  (I had to break it into small pieces with my fingers and put it in the back of my mouth.)  Dad grilled up some steaks (again I had to chew tiny little pieces with my back teeth), and Mom made cole slaw and the most fabulous potato salad I have ever had!

At the parents house

Mom & Dad both loved my new bike.  Mom named her “Pearl.”  Tony, the salesman, had already named her “Quick Silver.”  Personally, I just haven’t had anything grab me yet.

We hit the road early, knowing that we had a long ride back and wanting to be home before dark.  We made a few changes to the reverse route, going more through Carroll County.  We did start out back on I-70 for aways.  At one point, I had moved to the right lane to get past a slower moving cage.  Jay had issues with me passing on the right too often.  I wanted to get back into the center lane, and in my mirror I saw a ginormous gap that I could get into.  As I went to turn my head after signalling, I saw this huge truck closing in on the space that I hadn’t seen before.  He was still pretty far back, so I started to make my move.  As I did I realized why I hadn’t seen the truck before–he had to be going like a zillion miles per hour, and he was beginning to barrel down on me.  I knew that I did not want any part of being crushed by this giant truck behind me! I stayed my course and gunned the throttle to expand the distance between us.  (Mr Motorcycle, you can up my fastest speed to 85 mph now!)  WOW!  That was exhilerating! 

This section of road happened to have been part of our return trip from West Virginia, and the next landmark for that trip was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  After my mind made the connection, my next thought was “OK, Interstate down; next up: crossing the Bay Bridge!”  It’s only 4 miles long, huge, super high, lots of trucks, tons of traffic, open grates down the middle of the lanes, & crazy windy–what the hell, why not?

I reminded myself to take baby steps, and we took back roads the rest of the way home.  It was an amazing day of riding, we had a fabulous dinner, and I marked off another big milestone in my riding skills.  I still wasn’t ready for 2 hours on the Jersey Turnpike the following weekend, but my goal is to ride my own bike on our club’s spring trip to Outer Banks, NC.  Wish me luck!