Feeling Rusty

Jay and I have not had a chance to ride our motorcycles much this year partly due to the roll we played in helping plan the 2012 Maryland/Delaware State HOG Rally. Most of our weekends were filled with trips and meetings that didn’t work with our idea of motorcycling. So we spent many hours in the Toyota Corola. After driving 2000+ miles in the Toyota scouting out ride routes and destinations for Maryland HOG Rally participants to enjoy we were eager to actually get a chance to ride some of these roads on two wheels.  Pretty much the only motorcycling we’ve done all year was our trip to the Outer Banks over Spring Break.  So after the Maryland/Delaware State HOG rally concluded, we planned a four-day trip that would take us back to Deep Creek and into five states and encompass events from the 4th of July through our 5th wedding anniversary on July 7th. 

ready to ride

We would take in the “Fire on the Mountain” fireworks display as Wisp Resort in Deep Creek Lake Maryland (host site of the rally), visit Seneca Rocks in West Virginia, see the Green Bank Telescope and take a tour of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and explore Skyline Drive along the way back home.  It was a rather ambitious plan (if not aggressive)…especially for a week of 95-100 degree temperatures.  But we were aware of the risks and managed them appropriately.

seneca rocks

green bank telescope

The part of the trip that I did not anticipate was just how nervous I would get after the second day.  We were cruising along WV-32 and US-33 between Blackwater Falls and Seneca Rocks when we came upon a couple of 15-mph downhill 12% grade hairpin turns.  I have very little experience riding in mountains like these, but what I do know is that “when riding in West Virginia, if it says 15-mph, then you needs to slow to 15-mph!”  …so I did.  This required downshifting, braking, and then downshifting some more so that I could get to the perfect entry speed.  To say that I did not feel comfortable on these turns (particularly with the “locals” in monster pick up trucks barrelling down on my ass) would be an extreme understatement.  Teetering on the edge of control just as I was teetering on the edge of a cliff is probably more like it!

I knew that I would be rusty because of the very few miles I’ve ridden this year, so this was not exactly a huge revelation.  But what I did not expect was just how much this would freak me out later.

That night I awoke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat (which was pretty difficult considering it took four hours for the AC unit in our motel room to knock the temperature down to below 80).  I tossed and turned for hours with this horrible feeling like a rock in the pit of my stomach.  All I could think of was the extreme curves on the map as we were to enter unfamiliar territory and ride across US-250 from Green Bank, WV to Staunton, VA the next day.

Below is only a 3-mile sample of the road we spent nearly 2 hours riding!

4 mile stretch of road US-250

It occurred to me that this was what Jay must feel like when he worries that something might happen to me.  Well, I was sure that he was already worried enough, so I decided not to share my nervousness with him until after it was over.  (After all, we were in Cass, WV.  We had no choice.  The only way out was to cross a mountain range or two!)

So in the morning, off we went.  It was actually a bit brisk when we left, but by lunch time it had climbed well into the 90s again!  The cool temperatures had a way of calming my fears as we hit the road.  After about 40 minutes we arrived at the first mountain peak.  We climbed a dozen switchbacks in succession, and as we approached the summit I actually announced on the CB radio “I could do that all day!”  Then we started going downhill…

I felt like an amateur in a professional’s arena.  I was in the lead this time, so the cages were on Jay’s ass, not mine (thank God).  I felt like I was in way over my head.  But yet, I knew in my head that I really wasn’t.  I know how to to this.  I may not get much practice from riding all the long, straight, flat roads in Delaware, but I do have the knowledge.  Outside-inside-outside.  Slow to the appropriate entry speed then throttle through the turn.  Don’t brake while leaning!  I was going so slow sometimes Jay thought my bike would fall over.  But I knew my bike was stable, and I wasn’t going to fall off any cliffs! 

hairpin turn US-250

By the fourth mountain peak (yes, I counted them) I was starting to get a bit more comfortable looking all the way through the turns.  I still like going uphill way better than downhill, but my anxiety attack proved to be groundless.

Lessons learned: (1) Don’t go ride in West Virginia when you are rusty, and (2) Even seasoned riders with tens of thousands of miles under their belt can get rusty!