Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ice Out!

There is a lovely tradition in the North Country; the monitoring of ice out on Lake Winnipesaukee. There are whole websites and webcams dedicated to watching for this sure sign of spring. And you thought the return of the robins signaled warmer weather is imminent. If you think that watching for the ice out on Winnipesaukee is like watching grass grow, you’d be terribly mistaken. Those who live on the shores of the lake know that spring in near when like the sound of the robin’s call for us “flatlanders” signals spring, the crack of ice as you awake in the morning is an unmistakable sign of spring for those in the Mount Washington Valley. I once attended a conference during ice out season and will never forget the gun shot like report that echoed through the Valley as the ice snapped and broke apart when the warmer currents met the cold and snapped the ice apart like brittle crystal glassware. The hair still stands up along my neck and arms at the memory.

When I began motorcycling, it was this memory that had me watching my driveway each spring in the same manner. Living on a gravel road, and having a gravel drive means that the ice builds up over the winter months in a way it never does on pavement. There have been years when I tried to hurry this process along by parking the hot engine of my van over selected spots in the driveway to melt the ice more quickly. I was that impatient for my first spring ride. While I’m happy to say that we have “ice out” this weekend in the drive, the temperature this morning is a bone chilling 16 degrees. This winter has been a particularly cold and long one. It may be that for the first time in my motorcycling life, the bike does not get out for at least one March ride.

Getting out for a March Ride in New England is a tricky thing. There are a number of circumstance that all need to come together for this to occur. You see, in New England we don’t have four seasons, we have five; the fifth being “mud season.” If a March ride is to happen, you need the ice out in the drive, the mid-day temperatures to warm enough for enjoyment, and the early and later hours of the day to be close to 32 degrees. Why? This will cause the mud to stiffen just enough for those of us on gravel roads to make it in and out to solid pavement. Otherwise, the bike will slip and slide on all that slick as you- know-what mud, or sink you to the pegs.

Yesterday, I was privileged to enjoy (to my mind anyway) the best two signs of spring; ice out and the sound of a motorcycle engine roaring to life. As I looked out the window, Andy had his Vulcan in the iced out drive installing new to him saddle bag replacements on the rear fender. The folks in the North Country can have their web cams pointed to the lake and listen each morning for the riffle like report of cracking ice echoing off the mountains. I’ll enjoy the view from my own window of ice out in the drive, and the heartwarming rumbling of a V twin engine!

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