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!

15 Responses to “My First Ride on the Interstate”

  1. Wow…I didn’t realize you’d never ridden on the big slab before, not even on your Sporty?

    It does take some getting used to for sure. The tips you listed are all good. You wanna talk about trucks, you wouldn’t believe how many we dealt with on Rt 80! All I can say is, yes, stay OUT of other drivers blind spots, and don’t be afraid to roll on that throttle to give yourself some room. The only good thing about the highway is the biggest danger to you is eliminated – a cager coming towards you and turning into your path. The only thing is, if something does happen, there’s really no margin for error.

    Sounds like you did well. Congrats on going to the next level! So when are you going to try doing a burnout on Pearl? 😉

  2. She hasn’t done a burnout yet, but I can’t stop her from doing wheelies up and down the culdesac as she yells “hey look at me, I’m Pinky Tuscadero!”

  3. I’ve ridden state roads & divided highways plenty of times, but never an actual Interstate.

    Feel free to ignore Jay’s comment…I think someone spiked his ice cream!

  4. Pinky Tuscadero? God, we’re old!

    For my money, even when she was in her day, Roz Kelly had nothing on Diana. Especially up top!

  5. All kidding aside, Diana did fantasticly on the Highway.

  6. Pinky tuscerdero? holy shit that’s a name I haven’t heard in years lol
    I geuss now it can be told
    Brando ,Fonda or even Hopper were not my inspirations to ride a motorcycle.
    It was Harvey Lembeck.
    He was My Ideal.
    My Idol
    Bonus point for whoever can say who it was he played.
    Btw I hadn’t spoke or trhought of him in years
    a friend and I were talking old steryotypes one day and the went to a motorcycle swap meet…..LO and behold there was his actual jacket hanging on a canopy with documentation for sale.
    bummer couldn’t afford it.

    Looking good Mrs Rc ;]

  7. Lembeck spent part of the early ’60s playing the lovable bad guy Eric Von Zipper in six of the seven American International Beach Party films, with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. (He did not appear in the second “beach” film, 1964’s Muscle Beach Party.) Among other things, Von Zipper displayed a notable penchant for pronouncing his judgments on others by saying “Him, I like”, or “Him, I do not like”.
    -Wikipedia
    Man, I love the internet!!!

  8. 1) Pinky Tuscadero… LOL! Ironically, My wife and I were just discussing her last night jokingly. My daughter just got a stuffed animal named Pinky. We talked about Pinky, and her friend Leather from Happy Days. We joked about how they used to slap their thigh’s two times, then point the finger gun as they entered, or left a room.

    2) Diana, I’ve given you a bump on the speed demon list, even though I said I would allow no re-dos.

    3) I think you should name your scoot “Dayna”, kind of like Dyna, and Diana.

  9. Yeah for you! Sounds like you did great, and I know how good you feel about your accomplishment. 🙂

  10. Aww, you cheated!!
    Using wikpedia lol
    Good job though;]

  11. Thanks for sharing! Good plan to work up to the interstate in limited doses. Weirdly enough, as Joker says, the freeway is actually safer than a lot of places we ride. It just seems scary.

    You had some adventure and some learning experiences. Positive outcome all the way around.

    I really like the photo of the tree and horses by the water!

  12. Mr M,
    Pinky & Leather were sisters, if I recall.

    Thanks BB,
    the best part of any of my accomplishments is that I get to share them with you all. (My non-rider friends and family just don’t “get” it like you all do!!)

    Dan,
    I grew up (hell, I lived there for 35 years) just a few blocks from Worthington Farms. They breed thoroughbred race horses there. And the “Hunt Cup” steeple chase literally ran through my back yard! Guess I always took it for granted. But now whenever I visit, I delight in the old sights and sounds…and the smells!! (Baltimore Spice Co makes Old Bay seasoning in my old home town too) Mmmm….. 😀

  13. The highway lessens your chances of having an accident but an accident on the highway will be more severe if not fatal. Your busy local roads of course increase the likelihood of an accident but the severity of the accident will be lessened. It’s a trade off.

  14. Good for you. I would much rather travel on the freeways than in the city or traffic. It’s all about being seen and assuming that the cagers around you are going to do the most F’d up thing right when you don’t want them to. I think most of the experienced bikers I know develop psychic abilities or what we like to call “spidey senses”. If you don’t get that then you will one day and it is like someone switched on a light in a dark room when it happens. Don’t know how else to explain it but you know it when it happens if you ride enough. I had it happen today as a matter of fact!

    That pict of the horse farm is one of the best picts I have seen in a long time. I must have gazed at it for almost 15 minutes. It’s almost too perfect. Amazing.

    I think you should name your bike “The Steely Dan” 🙂 LOL! or SteelyD for short. It vibrates and gives you a thrill, right?

  15. I wish I could take credit for that picture of the horse farm. But its a little difficult to take pics while I am riding my own bike! (Besides, the leaves have not changed that much color yet!) I pulled the photo from the internet. But it is a typical scene from the area, and it really is beautiful!

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