Rider on the Storm

The clerk behind the counter at the truck stop in Glade Spring, Virginia, wore an expression of shock when I rode my Harley into the parking lot Friday afternoon and walked into the building, shaking water off my rain suit and boots.

“Man, are you crazy?”

“Yes,” I said, “but Lithium helps.”

At least he laughed and pointed me towards the rest rooms so I could attempt to dry off.

Outside, the wind howled.  Inside, the TV screen showed tornado devastation in Indiana, Kentuck, Tennessee and Ohio.  Tornado warnings for Southwestern Virginia steamed across the screen.

I came out and poured a cup of coffee.

“Don’t you know there are tornado warnings in the area?”

“Yeah, the warnings flashed up on my Garmin as I came through Damascus earlier?”

“You knew about the warnings and kept riding?”

“Figured I’d find a place to hole up sooner or later.”

Of course, the place I picked to hole up was the same truck stop torn apart by the tornado that struck Glade Spring last year.  I figured the odds of one hitting the same truck stop two years in a row were slim.

At least that’s what I told myself.

As I sipped coffee, a trucker came in and asked: “Who’s the nutcase on the motorcycle?”

The clerk pointed to me, sitting at a table and sipping coffee.

“You got a death wish or something?”

“No,” I said. “Just wanted to take a ride today.”

“Boy, there are better ways to die.”

Dying wasn’t on my agenda Friday but neither was playing it safe.  At 64, I’ve lived a full, adventure-filled life. When the guy upstairs decides it’s my time, I hope I’m doing something I enjoy and not sitting at home watching a reality show on TV.

The sun shone brightly as I headed out of Floyd Friday morning.  After a stop to visit my mother, I headed out U.S. 11 to Pulaski, then down Rte. 100 to U.S. 221 north of Hillsville. Heading south, I veered off onto U.S. 58 for the ride over to Damascus.

The skies turned threatening as I rode through Mouth of Wilson.  I stopped a few times to snap photos of the sky and approaching storm but rain didn’t hit until Damascus.  The weather radar on my Garmin showed clouds all around me so I headed towards Glade Spring on Highway 91.  Wind buffeted the bike as I road through the mountains and rain pounded down.  I turned north on U.S. 11 and started looking for a place to wait out the storm.  The truck stop at Glade Spring seemed like a good refuge from the wind and rain.

The rain finally started to let up about 4 p.m. and I headed north on 11 towards Marion and then Wytheville where I had promised to participate in a service seminar at the Harley-Davidson Dealership.  Once there, I peeled off my rain gear and and hung it up to dry, fetched more coffee, and talked with C.J. Earles, the service consultant, about the evening’s presentation.  C.J. wanted me to talk about the value of careful maintenance on motorcycles since I ride a 2009 Super Glide with more than 75,000 miles on it.

The other motorcyclists who attended the evening event arrived in cars and most looked with shock at the waterlogged Harley sitting alone in the parking lot.  During the presentation, I talked about riding, safety and mentioned that I don’t mind riding in bad weather as long as I’m confident the bike is well-maintained and has good rubber on the tires.  I replaced both tires at the bike’s 75,000-mile service earlier in the week and the Michelin Scorchers provided good traction in the rain.

Radar showed a break in the rain and a window of relatively-dry weather for the ride home.  As I suited up, a younger rider came up to me and shook his head.

“I don’t care how well maintained that bike is,” he said. “You’re nuts to ride in weather like this.”

“Maybe so,” I said, “but I’m rather be happy and crazy than play it safe and be miserable.”

Not much traffic on I-81 as I headed north out of Wytheville to Rte. 8 at Christiansburg.  Ran into fog just south of Riner and it was thick and filled with moisture by the time I crossed the Little River bridge into Floyd County.  When I stopped at the light in Floyd, I saw Oddfellas Cantina co-owner Kerry Underwood out in front of his restaurant.  He looked at me and the waterlogged Harley, laughed, and shook his head.

Pulled into the garage just after 9 p.m.  Checked my email, drank another cup of coffee, took a long soak in the hot tub and hit the sack, exhausted but relaxed from a long day of doing something I enjoy.

My granddaddy used to say that “if you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room in life.”

Amen granddad.  Amen.

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© 2004-2021 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse