Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Day Before

My first ride in 2013 was not on January 1, 2013. Traditionally, I can be found cruising around on the first day of January every year; this year, however, it just did not work out. Many  factors pulled together to work against me. I guess beggars just can't be choosers. 

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I had the opportunity to meet up with some climbers in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Who could resist to ride on a 39 degree windchill day? Not this rider who was suffering from major withdrawals. I had it timed perfectly. Or, so I thought. But it turns out that my gear/prep checklist took a tad longer than I thought. Mainly due to my brain being on standby. When I remembered I needed keys and went to go get them, I forgot what I wanted by the time I got to where I thought my keys had been. This happened a lot while getting my stuff together.

  • backpack
  • camera
  • cell phone
  • wallet
  • hot tea
  • water
  • notebook
  • book to read should I get there first
  • upper body layer #1
  • upper body layer #2
  • upper body layer #3
  • upper body layer #4
  • upper body layer #5
  • long underwear
  • synthetic wind resistant pants
  • jacket
  • winter gloves
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • boots
  • keys 
  • scarf
  • helmet 
  • music player
  • glasses so I can see stuff
Yes, I make winter riding complicated. But, at least I'm warm and hydrated. I think what I love most about motorcycles is that every ride is an adventure. Cars are my fire breathing dragons.  Undecided squirrels are my strategy changing enemies. Perception really is everything. I love every moment, road, and tree I see while riding. 
So I got off to a later start than I thought. Since it had snowed, the road from Meers into the Refuge was covered in dirt, gravel, and other nasty stuff. Good thing my music was playing. Otherwise the cussing echoing in my helmet may have turned my ears red. I lost a little bit of time making my way down yucky gravely hell since my tires were cold.

I saw a lot of buffalo along the road in the Wichita Mountains. They have a whole 59,000 acre refuge to chill out on, and they pick the area along the road. As I approached the prairie dog town, there was this one buffalo rubbing his neck on an open gate onto the restricted area. He was slightly surprised when Blueberry's exhaust caught up with him. So surprised that he freaked out and stormed off to the other buffalo who then proceeded to freakout. Yes, Blueberry and I actually started a small stampede. I was very tempted to get off my bike and dig out the camera, but I thought stopping in the middle of a buffalo stampede might not be such a good idea. I would like to avoid using the phrase "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

I, therefore, continued on my way. Shortly before the turnoff to the Sunset picnic area, I came across a flock of turkey. I turned around, put Blue in neutral, pulled the gloves off my frozen fingers, shimmied the backpack off my heavily layered upper body and dug for my camera. The Refuge cop probably thought I was having a fit of insanity as I was prancing around trying to get the feeling back in my toes and fingers. 
They were a pretty cool bunch. Didn't have a lot to say, though.
 When I finally made it to the parking lot, the car I was looking for was already there. I hadn't been to this parking lot in years since, next to Mt. Scott, it's a tourist trap. There was still one parking spot left. Now, I had no idea where Echo Dome was (and still do not know) other than it can be found in Charon's Garden. I assumed it was to be reached from the trail going around on the west side of Elk Mountain. I packed my stuff and started on the trail. It wasn't long before I came across a huge longhorn on the trail. Usually, I'm not worried about large animals on trails, but not being properly dressed to run from a longhorn kept me at bay. I decided I'd turn around and get some more miles under my belt. 

When I got back to the parking lot, I pulled out my notebook and wrote a note for the climbers. As I was looking for a place to stash it, I found the note they had left for me. Figures that I'd see it too late.

On my way over to Little Baldy, I saw some buffalo playing or fighting. I was brave enough to pull over and watch them for a bit. They calmed down and then started up again which is when I thought it best to leave. I do believe a buffalo would win in a buffalo vs. bike battle. Especially when the rider still has to put up a camera and pull on gloves.

 As I headed towards Cache, I eventually realized that I was singing off key in my helmet which is also when I realized that my music had disappeared and my mp3 player had turned itself off. By the time I reached Lawton, the resistant part of my pants decided to stop working and it got very cold very fast. So I headed back to Meers. It really was a great day to ride, but the cold kept all but four riders (including myself) from enjoying it. I was surprised that I only saw one cruiser out and about since usually they're always out riding.

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