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The Big Ride - Mansfield to Livonia, MI
What a Kick!

All of last summer (summer of 2005) when I was driving to different customers in Detroit, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, etc. I would see people riding cycles and think, "I could be riding one right now, and join fun with work."
So I bought the bike in December and started wrestling with how you actually ride for three hours and visit a customer. Well, yesterday, May 31, 2006, I finally did it.

As I started out, about 20 minutes into the ride, just as I was getting North of Shelby, I thought, "What are you doing? You will probably be caught in a thunderstorm, and you've never ridden this far in one day. You don't even know if you can do it. Maybe you better just turn around right now and get in your car while you still have time." But I dismissed that thought and rode on.

One of the big concerns was weather. The forecast was for 20% chance of isolated thunderstorms in the AM increasing to 60% chance by 4 or 5 PM. I had ridden to Columbus last week, half of which was in the rain, and rain itself isn't a big issue. The riding clothes I have keep me pretty dry and I put my laptop on the back wrapped in a plastic garbage bag. But a thunderstorm with the strong winds could be a whole different issue.

Riding up in the AM, it was overcast in Ohio, which just made it a little cooler, which I welcomed (the riding coats and over pants keep you pretty warm - or should I say HOT).
In Livonia, it was sunny and hot. A glorious day. I ate lunch at a KFC - sat on the curb next to my bike - it was great. I would have never done this if I wasn't on my bike.

While I was meeting with the customer it stormed. When I walked out, there was water streaming across their parking lot. I got my gear on and headed out. The streets were damp, the interstate was for the most part dry.

As I headed into Toledo, it seemed that God was watching over me. The clouds to the west were very dark and ominous and there was lighting. There was also a large storm just to the East. But straight ahead was a clear spot, like I was riding through a tunnel. Riding on I75 through Toledo at 6 PM is harrowing enough (lots of truck traffic) without trying to do it in a thunderstorm. It was rather disconcerting, but I kept riding.

The wind blew, there was lighting to on my right, the road was wet, but I think I saw a total of two drops of rain. I escaped and I thank God for his protection!

As I got headed East on Rt 20, the roads were wet and it was dark ahead. I was riding into the back of a thunderstorm. I stopped in Clyde, for a quick bite to eat. Back on the road, the road was wet, but I never was in rain.

Just as I was riding through Mansfield, the clouds in the West were very, very dark. I rode hard to get home. It stormed about 15 minutes after I got home. Dodged another one, thanks be to God!

All the stormy weather did was make it cooler for riding.

(post scripted 9/9/2008 - I didn't realize at the time how big a deal this weather thing was. I now firmly believe God was watching over this idiot rider who had no idea what the impact would have been of being caught in the possible storms that were all around me. I thank God for his wonderful care for me.)

Another issue is how to handle all the gear, primarily the laptop. I have to have the laptop with me. Its valuable and maybe a little bit fragile. I can lock it on the one bag that has a working lock. Yesterday I thought I needed the bags for other materials so I put the laptop in a backpack and put the backpack in a plastic garbage bag and tied it on the luggage rack. That worked OK, although I was constantly worried about it coming loose, or getting swiped while I was in the restroom at a gas station, but neither happened.

I put a folded dress shirt, shoes and socks in the saddle bag. When I got to KFC, I took off the tee shirt I was wearing and put on the dress shirt (I parked in the back of the place but yes, Connie, I still was changing in a public parking lot). That worked out OK. Also, I had my dress pants on under the riding pants. Its a little warm, and the pants get wrinkled, but in the 45 minutes before I got to the account, they were wrinkle free.

Just before I left, I grabbed a bottle of water. It was cold from the fridge and I didn't want it to sweat in the side bag, so I stuck it under the strap holding the Thinkpad on the back. I checked it once and it was loose, so I tightened things up. When I got to Monroe, MI and stopped for fuel, it was gone.

All in all, carrying stuff wasn't a big deal. Bigger side bags and a trunk would be a luxury.

The unexpected.
  • The smells. You can smell everything. When its food cooking or new mown hey, wonderful. When its manure or a dead animal, almost overwhelming. But fortunately, its gone quickly, not like in a car where it can linger a long time.
  • A very sore butt. I did expect to get sore, but not as sore as I got. By the time I got to Mansfield, I was hoping for a red light so that I could stand up.
  • The dirt from construction. As I went up I75 North of Toledo, the were working on the concrete highway and the dust cloud was bad. It got in my eyes. Not something that would happen in a car.
My wish list for a bike:
Softer seat, a way to move around, a back rest, more wind fairing, more luggage room. Hmm, seems like they built a ELHCLI, or Goldwing, or Roadstar with these in mind.