This October has not been a good month for motorcycling, at least in the Great Lakes region.We have had, according to the TV weatherman today, 19 straight days of temperatures well below normal. In addition to temps in the 40s and low 50s (at best) most days have been cloudy, drizzly and windy. Not good weather for outdoor activities of any kind, except perhaps something having to do with waterfowl.
But with a forecast high today of near 50, and the promise of no rain and at least occasional glimpses of the sun, I deemed it a good day for a late fall ride. That dreaded time of year, when the bike is winterized for the final time, and parked in a lonely out of the way corner in the garage, isn't that far off, and one has to ride when conditions are even marginal in the Fall, or wait until Spring. Waiting six months is not an option in my mind, so with three layers below the belt, and four above, I headed into the countryside on one of my favorite routes along curvy roads lined with mature trees with foliage at the peak of its annual Autumn extravaganza. The orange and maroon of the Sugar Maples and bright crimson of Swamp Maples in particular, were simply breathtaking. All the remaining trees are just support actors in my mind, with their subtle shades of tans, yellows and browns. The occasional evergreen represents the final tint on the palette resulting in a beautiful mix of colors on nature's canvas. But the Maples are the belles of the Autumn ball in my opinion.
With speeds kept a bit lower than usual, both for the sake of warmth as well as being able to fully appreciate nature's spectacle, I had a marvelous ride of about fifty miles. This equates to one gallon of gasoline at the most on my particular bike, meaning I had a fun outing and witnessed some great beauty for a total cost of about $2.50! Cheap fun, if you ask me!
Fall riding does have some unique conditions, however, that require our attention. In any agricultural area there is going to be mud or at least loose dirt and other debris on the blacktop from agricultural equipment. Sometimes there are clods of hard clay akin to bricks that are on the road and anybody on two wheels best beware of such things. This is the harvest season and trucks and tractors are commonly encountered on back roads. We'd do well to remember that we are guests in the countryside, riding for pleasure on roads where others are working hard to earn their livelihood.
Several cautionary conditions are gifts of Mother Nature herself. The fruit of Walnut trees, which are common along many rural roads, create a unique potential danger as hitting one of these large nuts with your front tire can be like running over a baseball. And of course leaves on the road, wet or dry, require our full attention and lots of common sense. Needless to say, deer are running around like chickens with their heads cut off this time of year, and with about as much sense it seems, so we have to be especially on guard for these and other four-legged creatures.
I must say that I am really losing my patience with deer. I read of two motorcyclists, including one just a few miles from home, that were killed this summer and early fall when deer ran into them. One of these accidents was at daybreak, and the other in the late evening, which admittedly are the worst times to be on the road relative to deer collisions, whether on two wheels or four.
I have a background in resource management and I've been convinced for several years now that we have just too many deer in significant portions of the U.S. and we need to thin them out to a more normal level, compatible with the habitat in which we all live.
Deer populations are out of proportion to their natural habitat in places such as southern Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and so on where there is a mix of woodlands and agricultural land, creating ideal habitat for deer production, but without the natural limiting factors found in forest lands and wilderness areas. In those places where agriculture doesn't provide deer with an artificial food supply, occasional over populations of deer (and other animals) will inevitably result in die-offs until a more natural balance is achieved.
There is never a good season to ride stupidly, but one definitely doesn't want to be a foolish rider in the fall; Mother Nature can play rough, she makes all the rules, and she is the judge and referee with the final say in everything. Sorry, no instant replays or appeals allowed.
This time of year I add Sta-Bil gasoline stabilizer in my bike's gas tank every time I fill up, because I never know which ride will in fact be the last one for several weeks or even months. Sometimes we get a few "warm" day in mid-winter where a short ride is possible, other years, like last winter, it can be months between rides. Especially on a carbeurated bike it's important to put gas stabilizer of some sort in the tank, and run it through the carbs, so that during extended periods of storage the unmoving gasoline doesn't varnish and cause gumming in the lines and fine orifices and jets in the carbeurator.
I'm sure this won't be the last ride of the fall so I'll certainly have to add more stabilizer as I burn up additional gasoline, but that's a small price to pay. Besides, as I keep explaining to my wife, internal combustion engines, especially on motorcycles, are their happiest when they're running, not lazing about in a garage or shed!
And who doesn't want to keep their best friends happy?