Rain rolled into the Midwest on Saturday and decided to stay for a few days. It has a way of throwing a wrench in the plans for off-the-beaten path motorcycle travel and photography. Because it’s wet. And slippery.
My dad and I woke up Sunday morning and loaded up the bikes at the farm as it started to come down again. And it came down hard. We had plans to take country roads from New Glarus through more of this amazing pastoral setting on to Chicago, Ohio and eventually back to Pittsburgh where he lives. Unfortunately, we had to abandon that plan almost immediately. At that point, the trip went from scenic stroll to get there alive.
Instead of the usual routine – making stops at road side stands along the way, chatting up the locals and taking photos – we decided to limit our time out in this stuff and jumped back on the highway to speed things up and battle it out with the semis, pickups and other large vehicles hurtling down the road at 75 mph. (Unfortunately, documentation of this part of the trip suffered. Sorry for those of you enjoying the photos.. They’ll pick up again soon.)
As I was starting to feel sorry for myself, a little chilly from the combination of rain and wind whipping me up and down, I looked over at my dad and immediately shut up. If you can do that mentally, that is. You see, my dad is a bit of a minimalist. And a tough guy. Not like ‘look at me’ tough guy, but quiet ‘nothing bothers me’ tough guy.
I was covered head-to-toe – full faced helmet, gloves, waterproof jacket and pants covered in armored plates and padding, and knee high motorcycle boots with loads of metal, buckles and protective “heel cups”. My dad had, uh, less on.
He was wearing, as he always does (why should a motorcycle trip require anything else?), sneakers, khaki pants, a t-shirt, button down dress shirt and a light jacket. No gloves. And a ~25 year old helmet with what can only be described as minimal protection from the elements.
If you’ve never ridden through rain at highway speeds, you should try it some time. It ain’t fun. Cold and wet SUCKS. Imagine taking out the windshield from your car and then driving through it. That’s what it’s like.
Talking to him, you wouldn’t be able to tell. As we pulled over at the first rest stop, I could see that he had barely a dry spot on him. But he was barely fazed. Unbelievable. My hands were cold because the leather gloves I’d been wearing were wet. He wasn’t even wearing gloves and the rest of his gear had effectively turned into a sponge. I’m either a huge pussy or he’s just a hardass. I think it’s a bit of both but ,damn, I think they just bred them tougher back in the day. Anyway, the old man changed my perspective and the internal complaining stopped.
Soaked from head to toe, 10 minutes into our stop, he was ready to go again. Unbelievable. Nothing a borrowed barely water resistant jacket and a little coffee can’t fix. No way to hold your coffee cup on the highway? No problem, pour it into a waterbottle so you can slug it and store it as you motor.
The clouds and rain didn’t let up for the next three days – the entire length of the trip we’d planned together. At his urging, we carried on and were fine. We managed to miss some of the big stuff the last two days, but not exactly ideal riding conditions. No matter ’cause we had a blast. I haven’t spent that much solo time with him in a while (sort of hard when you live 2500 miles away) and absolutely loved it. Suspicions about where I get some of the bizarre ideas, behavior, physical traits and sense of humor are confirmed. We are bizarre people. And it’s good.