What I Did With The Rest of My Summer

I know you’re probably wondering what I did with the rest of my summer. It was definitely a hard act to follow, returning from my big trip and all.

I found myself trying to find time to ride as much as possible, to replicate the trip, but riding alone for a few hours on Wisconsin backroads is a bit different than riding through state after state with 30 other women. Still, it was a good time.

I have a few riding buddies that I call from time to time to hit the road, and that’s just what we did. The girls wanted me to lead, and lead I did, heading east and doing an easy loop from Rosholt, to Clintonville, to Waupaca, and home. A slight problem though, when you’re used to riding for hours and hours, it’s easy to forget.

After riding through town after town after town, the girls were getting hungry, and finally one of them pulled up alongside me at a stoplight and said in a very exasperated voice, “Can we stop to eat?!” I almost burst out laughing at that point. I can get pretty focused at times, to the exclusion of everything else around me, and having been in the habit of riding for long hours, I kind of forgot. “Sure!” I laughed back.

We found a nice place just outside of King, that wasn’t overcrowded like the popular places on the chain, and had a great meal while we yakked up a storm.

Last month I took part in a Souls of Honor Ride, an annual fundraiser for veterans. A friend of mine is involved with the group, and invited me to attend, so I asked one of my riding buddies to join me. It was perfect weather that day, and there were easily over 70 bikes on the ride.

We met at the Harley dealer in Wausau, registered, got our wristbands, and enjoyed a donut and coffee before heading out with the group. These rides are set up similarly to the ride I went on in June. There are ride leaders, ride captains, and dozens of riders who may or may not know what they’re doing on a motorcycle.

The ride was very organized, which made it easy to enjoy, and it wandered through Wisconsin backroads generally north and west of Wausau. The views on the ride were great and I found some places to ride I hadn’t been before.

My friend hadn’t been on an organized ride in years, and she did great. I changed my spot on the ride after the first stop, since the cyclist in front of me was having trouble focusing on the ride and was making me nervous. We all have to learn sometime, as I did once, so I gave this rider a lot of room, so I could react in case he did something unexpected.

My friend overheard him chatting with someone on the ride, and indeed, he had basically bought a bike and just jumped on it and went. Lots of enthusiasm, not so much preparation. I didn’t hold it against him, but was amused at my newfound ability to recognize, simply by riding style, how much experience another rider has. Not that I am an expert by any means. It is something that stands out to me now, though, and I laugh at the fact that that’s probably how I looked to the other ladies when I joined the Women’s Freedom Ride.

DSCN5196A large turnout and a beautiful day for the Souls of Honor ride last month.

During the stops, I walked around and admired the other bikes and chatted with the other participants. There were lots of interesting styles to check out, although I noticed riders were clique-ish and not always the most friendly. Riding a Yamaha, it’s something I’m used to and don’t think too hard about. Sometimes riders are playing a role and want to exude that untouchable persona, and I’m just not the cool girl. So I get it, fine, go be cool, I just don’t have the energy.

We ended up at a sportsbar where there were many items available for raffle prizes. My friend and I bought some tickets and dumped them in the buckets of items we wanted to win. Unfortunately I couldn’t stick around for the drawing, because I had to get home to my dog, who’d been alone all day. My friend hung back for the raffle results and later I got a text while on a dog walk that I had won a helmet that I had wanted. So it was a great day for me, as helmets are not cheap.

Another weekend I decided to go somewhere I hadn’t yet, and mapped out a route around Hartman’s Creek State Park. Thanks to Google Maps, I can look at the route not only from above but also from street view, which shows you what it looks like while driving down the road. I usually use this view to make sure I know which intersection to turn at, and what it will look like when I get there.

I headed out with my camera strapped around my neck with a shoestring, like my friend Jazz had shown me on the big ride. I took a lot of shots while riding down the road this way, and it was a gorgeous, scenic route. I wanted to ride on a few Rustic Roads in that area, and they did not disappoint.

Well, except for one, that is.

I stopped at the intersection of two of the Rustic Roads to snap a photo of myself and the bike with the Rustic Road sign in the background. Then I headed off down the second of the two. It was just as pretty as the first one, very wooded, with the sun sparkling through the tree branches as I rolled along.

Then I noticed a sign that read, “Rustic Road Ends” and wondered what that meant, since I hadn’t yet reached the next crossroad, which was Highway A. As I continued on anyway, it became very clear. When a Rustic Road ends, it becomes VERY RUSTIC. That’s right, no more pavement. Now I was tooling along on soft, loose, gravelly stuff, and after a bit, pulled over to the side and stopped to reconsider the situation.

DSCN5154 ALT.jpg

This is what it looks like when a Rustic Road “ends.”

I had no idea just how far I was from the next road exactly, even when I pulled out my phone and found where I was on my navigator app. I got off the bike to snap a few photos of the rustic-ness I’d found, when I noticed a sign going in the opposite direction. It was one of those “S” shaped signs to indicate a curvy road ahead, but it was shot up pretty badly, and that’s when I started to worry.

DSCN5153

Do I hear banjoes?

“Am I going to hear banjoes?” I wondered to myself. I decided not to turn around in the soft, loose, gravel, eliminating the chance of dropping the bike and then really being in trouble. I got back on the bike and just made my way carefully and slowly, keeping my weight directly over the bike and not making any fast moves with accelerating or braking.

It worked, and within a half mile or so, I found the highway and all was well. I patted myself on the back for not panicking and making things worse by letting my fear get the best of me. I did decide to be a little more careful when planning future rides, though. Best to stick to roads with letters and not names, as those roads tend to get a bit narrow, twisty and gravelly on the corners, making a ride on a bike the size of mine not as relaxing as one would like.

 

Originally published September 8, 2017.

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