Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rest Stop Vigil

I wake to pea soup fog outside my window and my hopes for all day riding are dashed. “What happened to the bright sunshine that was predicted!” I exclaim to a squirrel just outside the door. He scampers away and his gray coat becomes one with the fog. This is not what I had in mind. The phone rings, it’s the friends I plan to ride with. We agree to a meeting spot despite the gray day with the hopes that the fog will lift.

I leave early because I have to get fuel. I can never tell if there will be lines or if the roads will be busy. It turns out there are no lines at the pumps and the traffic on the roadways moves right along. The spot we have chosen to meet is the rest area just north of the Hooksett tolls.

I pull up at the toll to hand the attendant my change. I pull each quarter out of my coin holder, one at a time. It’s tricky with gloves. I don’t want to drop any coins, or stall the bike. That would be an embarrassment. The toll attendant is a woman. I judge her to be older than I am. She looks wistfully at Jade as I pull each coin one by one and proclaims that I’m sitting on her dream. I take it as not Jade specifically, but that she hopes to get out of the toll booth one day and ride for herself. I smile politely, but my thought is “dreams are what you make them. Just do it.”

I get to the meeting spot thirty minutes ahead of schedule as a result of leaving home early. My windshield is covered with mist, and the temperatures are not that warm. My leather pants are in one saddle bag and the rain gear in the other. I also have an extra long sleeve shirt and a fleece dickey for my neck. I don’t really want to use any of them today.

I settle in for the wait, and sit side-saddle against Jade. I’ve chosen my spot carefully, at the curb near the facility. The location is perfect for people watching and it’s not long before the show begins.

It is quite busy at the rest stop this morning and I wonder what could be going on when I spot a kilt clad young man walk toward the restrooms. The tartan is one that resembles the Cunningham Green, but I’m no expert. “Oh yes! It’s the Scottish Highland Games this weekend.” I fondly remember a few highland games I’ve attended and think maybe I should make a suggestion of my own when the friends arrive.

There are plenty of motorcycles coming and going. Some arrive solo, some are two up, and there are small groups of threes and fours. One group of older men is taking photos of each other. They throw their leather sheathed arms over each other and snap away. Those that have hair are sporting locks that are nearly white. All except one appear to enjoy the diners along the routes their motorcycles take them.

The dog breed of the day is a Golden Retriever. Good thing dogs have a keen sense of smell, as I can’t keep track of which dog came from which car. The dogs however, know just were they belong. One of these dogs has odd behavioral body language compared to the other Goldies. As I watch the interaction from this vehicle, it soon becomes apparent that of the three occupants, the woman passenger and the dog are ill at ease. The man struts around with a stogie clenched between his teeth. The woman stands at a distance from the car, holding her sweater tightly around her. She is extremely thin and her clothes are ill fitting. The man marches around to the back, opens the hatch, looks at the dog and points to the back of the car. The dog, on trembling legs makes two attempts before she makes it into the back. At each attempt she keeps a safe distance from the man, and one eye on him at all times. The man gets into the vehicle and startes it up. The woman makes a few tentative advances toward the car, but doesn't actually get in. When the car begins to roll away, she grabbes the door handle and jumpes in. Off they go and the whole scene that has just played out left me very uncomfortable.

A fifteen passenger van pulls into a handicap spot and a passel of teens spill out onto the pavement. At first I think it might be a church related outing. I soon realize by their interaction that it is one very large family. The kids all head off to the restrooms and the man I presume to be Dad, helps a woman out of the van. She is one large woman! I estimate her weight to be at least four hundred pounds. She is wearing shorts and a top. I watch the fabric flutter in the breeze. She steps aside and there is a duplicate of her inside the van. I am reminded of my mother’s humor. Having put on a few pounds in her later years, she would often proclaim that she was off to see “Omar the Tent Maker” when she went dress shopping. As I looked at these women, I chuckle to myself thinking that Omar is keeping busy these days.

The parking spot beside me has vacated, and soon three bikers come rolling in. Two Road Kings and a Softail pull up beside me. The man on the Softail is closest to me, and as he removes his helmet I can see that he must be in his late sixty’s. He looks over to me, points to the sky and in good humor, asks “What the heck is that?” All three examine the mist on their windshield trying to determine if it’s a result of fog, or if it is indeed beginning to rain. We each discuss what we know about the weather forecast. I tell them that there is a 30% chance of rain and it doesn’t seem to get any better going north. They don’t like the sound of that, but I remind them that it also means there is a 70% chance of staying dry. They chuckle and admit they never thought of twisting the percentage to suit them. I have just made three new friends.

Despite their admiration of the 70% prediction of staying dry, the youngest rider on the silver Road King pulls a small black zippered pouch from his saddle bad. The price tag is still attached and fluttering in the breeze. He holds it up for the buddies to inspect and says that when he bought the rain gear enclosed in the pouch, he told the sales girl he would be back after he used it so she could get it back in the tiny pouch. “I hope you got that in writing” I say. “After I opened my rain gear, it has never fit into anything smaller than that.” I inform him as I point to my left saddlebag. They are all silent for a moment and silver Road King shoves the packet back into his gear. Red Road King looks on and pronounces that if it should start to rain, not to expect that he will stop. The other two grunt acknowledgment, knock back the kickstands and start their engines. “Keep the shine side up!” I yell as they wave me goodbye.

The friends pull up. We decided to have a big breakfast in Concord and see how things look out the window while we eat. The pea soup thins, the temperatures begin to rise, and we decide to head north. At the next agreed-to stop, we can see that things are improving and the day unfolds as planned. Canopied scenic roads, sun dappled lakes, and enough open road to satisfy any wanderlust.

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