100 Miles

That was today's ride, more or less. From here to Galveston and back, accompanied by a guy I'd never met before but chatted with online, who rides a Honda Shadow 1100, one of those bikes I've always really loved. It's a very pleasant day in Houston... however, this was the first time I've ridden any significant distance on a freeway since removing the windscreen from the bike.

And it's a breezy day.

I got a taste of what this would mean first thing in the morning, when I hopped onto the North Loop near my house and suddenly felt like a buoy in a hurricane. Whoah, what is this? Then I kind of settled into it and was fine.

The ride down was nice. I get a kick out of passing the point a little north of Galveston where the temperature suddenly drops five or ten degrees. If you drive there in a car, you will never even be aware of this. On a motorcycle you can't miss it - you've suddenly moved from one airmass into another, and it feels completely different. Then you come to the causeway onto Galveston Island, and even on a nice day like today, it's shrouded in fog. As you enter it, it's hard not to think for a moment that you're going to just ride off into oblivion.

After a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe, we turned around and headed back. I noticed the clouds looking a bit darker and moving more quickly as we started up our bikes. When we got back to I-45, the difference between the morning and afternoon weather become quite apparent - I was riding head-on into the wind the entire way home.

Wind is hard to explain to someone who hasn't ridden in it. The worst wind is the gusty wind - I used to encounter that a lot on the roads that ran along the Potomac near DC. I can remember one chilly morning where a gust hit an suddenly I was several feet over from where I'd been a moment ago. Very strange sensation.

This was not that kind of wind. There was the sheer resistance of it - feeling the bike revving higher and having to concentrate on keeping the throttle up to maintain 65 mph. But wind is not steady. No giant gusts but just that constant buffeting - a little from the left, a little from the right, a stray gust catching your helmet for a moment, the collar of your jacket. It's disorienting till you get used to it.

And it's tiring. You can't get past feeling like a really good gust could knock you right over, so your muscles tense up, from your legs clenching the gas tank to your shoulders and your hand on the throttle. I didn't stop at all between the Strand in Galveston and the gas station in the Heights, nearly 50 miles. After all that, riding home through the neighborhood - at slower speeds and protected from the wind - was like a cooldown after a hard workout.

Good ride, good company, good way to spend half a Saturday. Oh, and I am getting a new windscreen for the bike this week.

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