Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is it Airconditioned?

When your tired bones are accustomed to ninety degree heat, two hundred forty miles of gusty, rainy fifty degree air feels like a long, long ride.

I had planned to ride US97 north then beautiful WA20 from Winthrop across the Cascades to Sedro-Wooley. From there WA9 wanders up to the border, a perfect finish to a great ride. But it was forty degrees and raining with criminal intent on Washington Pass. No thanks.

So I took I90 from Ellensburg, struggling to stay out of the way of legions of semis and distracted Seattleites heading home from the long weekend, everyone weather-grumpy and jonesing for a cup of Starbucks adjectives.

Grace and I were a rolling speed bump again, even through the rough, rutted road construction just below Snoqualmie Pass, where the game seemed to be "let's tailgate the pilot car, maybe he'll go faster."

The Marysville McDonald's was a chance to warm up with a coffee but their airconditioning was malfunctioning so I drank my cup standing outside under the dripping eave, where it was warmer.

The northbound border lineup was over an hour and I had to cut across two lanes of traffic to park at US Customs to export the bike. One driver gave me the finger as I crept past his front bumper. Welcome home. The Export Office closes at 3:30. I got there at 3:20.

With Grace's title stamped, I edged my way to the front of the hour-long lineup. I tried puppy eyes on the closest driver but he was unmoved, probably a cat person. Two damp customs officers were directing traffic and the closest one stopped traffic and waved me right up to an open booth. As I passed him he called out "Nice bike!" Clearly, a rider.

I stood at the counter shivering and rubbing my cold, aching hands together (I'm spoiled by heated grips!) as the young CBSA officer processed my inbound paperwork. He looked irritated by the little puddle of runoff that had dripped onto the counter from my jacket.

He was young and muscly, with some dark, menacing tattoos running down his forearms, very, very serious. And he was serious when he asked me "Is it airconditioned?".

Right there in mid-shiver, mid-drip, I did the one thing you should never do when an armed customs officer asks you a question - I burst out laughing.

The essence of humor is surprise, the unexpected. He didn't expect me to laugh, he was definitely surprised but what ensued was a very un-funny, strained second or two with both of us just looking at each other. Awkward. Very awkward.

Before he had a chance to press the hidden button under the counter I got appropriately serious and explained "It's a motorcycle," adding "and today, it's very airconditioned." He laughed a relieved laugh, stamped the yellow import form and I was officially home.

It has taken me six days covering 2235 miles to wander half way across the country on a motorcycle older than most of the people I met along the way. It's been a wonderful journey, a mile a minute wander on narrow roads across a broad land and back through time. Thanks for keeping me company!

Don't be fooled by the "chilled road kill" look - it was an amazing odyssey!

Special thanks to: Christiana Czarnowski at Courage Center in Minneapolis (http://couragecenter.org/) for letting her husband Aric know about this bike, and to Aric for telling the rest of us. Thanks also to all the members of the Airhead Beemers Club and mailing list members who offered their expertise, time, tools, garages and couches along the road. To Oak, thanks for generously sharing your encyclopedic knowledge of /5 drivelines - without your help, I'd still be in a hot motel parking lot beating Grace with a fence post.

And my most heartfelt thanks to Tom Dickinson for taking such good care of Grace for the last thirty seven years. Tom, I promise I'll take good care of your "baby"!