Spring riding season for bikers (motorcycle riders) is here. I usually go up in early May and ride with 65-70 of my Christian biker friends from the Chicago area. We usually ride in Kentucky or Tennessee for a long 4 day weekend, but of course it was cancelled this year because of that detested word COVID-19. It is rescheduled now for the end of August.
So moving along, I got a call from Terry, a close biker friend from the group, asking if I’d like to meet up with five of my close friends to ride around southeast Ohio, just outside of Athens, for a long 5 day weekend. I told him I would.
Well, with all the high winds and heavy rain we had been having for the week leading up to my leaving on that Friday, I was watching the weather between here and there very closely. On Thursday afternoon I called Terry and told him I would not be able to make the trip because of all the heavy wind, rain and flooding between us on Friday, my scheduled departure date. The heavy rains and winds on my route up in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia along with all the flooding made a Friday trip seemingly impossible to make. Light rain would not be a problem. Heavy rains and high winds… something else.
Then on Friday I began looking at all these same places and there was little or no rain, partly cloudy all the way up. So I sent my friends a text message letting them know I was coming up on Saturday and would meet them there for the rest of the riding time together. That was what I did. I still ran into rain in the Virginian and West Virginia Mountains, but it was only around an hour’s worth. If I had left on Friday it would have been heavy rain for the whole twelve hour trip.
Yes I am a biker, and I have the necessary rain gear to ride in the rain. I have stopped with cars on the side of the interstate waiting on the rain to slacken up just so you could see more than 15 or 20 feet ahead. That is no fun. But if you haven’t started a trip out in the rain, it’s always a good thing if you can wait it out before you start off in it. Unless it’s a short trip bikers don’t enjoy riding for hours on end in a heavy rain. I have been caught on the road by an unexpected stray rain shower that drenched me before I could find a place to stop and put on my rain gear. No fun there.
This same friend, Terry and I, left out of Chicago once to ride up into Minnesota for a weekend ride. It was late September, or early October and we stopped that Friday night at a motel. We got up the next morning and there were 5 inches of snow on the ground! It took us 4 or 5 hours to drive south 40 miles or so to get out of it. The joys of riding. I told Terry that the next time it snows while riding my bike; I’ll either wait on it to melt or preferably call a friend with a trailer to come get me. All of these stories are common to bikers, plus many more.
So I rode up on Saturday to ride with my 5 friends from Chicago land in Southeastern Ohio. There was Terry Niven, Cal Zimmerman, Ken Julison, John Lazarz, Mike Powers and myself making up this group of riders. Each of us has biker names, and I know some of my readers are sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to see what my biker name is. Terry is Dufus, Cal is Wiz, Ken is Jules, John is Laser, Mike is Abuelo (grandfather for those who don’t speak Spanish), and mine is Be Rad. Mine is not a secret, it’s on my bike’s license plate as is Terry’s. We had rented a cabin and paid the lady we were renting from to grocery shop for us to be able to cook our breakfasts and suppers there. We ate lunch out on the road.
There are a lot of twisty, turny roads. There is a group of 9 roads in the area that bikers know and ride because of both the challenge and the beauty of them. They are called Ohio’s Windy 9.
If you are a biker you can look them up and down load the routes for your GPS or order a free map at “Windy9.com”. The word “windy” is pronounced meaning twisty and turny roads not like high winds. Isn’t the English language fun?
We had a blast riding them. Four of these guys are taller than I am, six foot or more except for Mike who is my size. Mike is 80 years old and rides a trike, but he still loves to ride. All the others were up to nine years younger than me. Terry, as I said is a good friend, so our last day of riding, he led us on a couple of different routes for that day. Terry loves to find short cuts on his GPS to get us where he wants us to go and start a ride quicker than the long way around. As it turned out, two of these times, his short cuts inadvertently took us onto gravel roads which were several miles long each up and down hills and around downhill curves. I hate gravel roads on my bike! Let me repeat that: I hate gravel roads on my bike!
As I said earlier, I am the shortest of these guys on our two wheelers. They have a wider stance with their feet down than I do, which makes for better control when you have to put your feet down on a gravel road or kick your foot out when the bike fishtails. When we got back to the cabin that evening, the guys were laughing, good humouredly about Terry taking me on the gravel roads. I even asked Terry if he had done that on purpose and he never answered, just looked at me a smiled. I have ridden on gravel before, and have never enjoyed it. The rear of the bike can easily fishtail around and or you can easily fall. You have to remember to not use the front brake at all. It is just a struggle that I have no enjoyment for at all on my big Harley touring bike. In my younger days I took trail bikes out on dirt and gravel roads but, those bikes didn’t weigh over 900 pounds plus the rider’s weight.
The ribbing was all good natured, but it was only after I got back home in South Carolina, that Terry let me know that he didn’t know the roads were gravel until we ended up on them. None of the guys enjoyed the gravel. They just enjoyed giving me a hard time about it. I have to mention that last year in the same area, John also lead us down a gravel road that was much worse than these last two and lasted for almost 9 and a half miles. It was unintentional too. Right John? John really enjoyed these two gravel roads, because it took the heat off of him this year.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV) says “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I wonder, did Christ say that looking into the future with bikers on gravel roads?
Or as Terry says with his biker buddy wisdom, “…life isn’t always a bowl of cherries, sometimes ya gotta go through some rough spots (gravel) to hey, where you really wanna be!!! And sometimes not by choice.” Well said Terry. Just remember next time, NO GRAVEL ROADS!
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at email@example.com. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 13 of which have been for the Times.