Great Blue

People keep telling me it will be summer before you know it.

So, unsurprisingly, while I was out for a short lunchtime ride yesterday, summer began at 12:39 p.m. exactly with no advance notice whatsoever.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though.


My daughter Wallis — 21 and just out of college — just opted out of the ‘living-in-Mom’s-basement-millenial-brigade’ by puchasing a condo.

Wallis looks to be a real go-getter.

What this means to motorcycling people, though, is that for the last two months or so she’s been going all ‘American Pickers’ and adopting any piece of furniture out of barns and off curbsides that looked like it could be rendered functional and/or attractive through liberal application of power sanders and pigment.

These bits of potential-furniture have — of necessity — been parked in my garage.

This is a garage — in the way of restatement — where in normal times two airhead BMWs, one full dress K-bike, a Buell Blast and a home- built teardrop camper all cohabitate in a tighly choreographed storage ballet.

The system is designed to all allow all vehicles to exit the garage with a minimum — if any — rearrangement.

Throw a couple of kitchen tables, benches, chairs and sawhorses used for refinishing in there, though, and that system goes straight to hell.

Net/net is that my Slash 5 — which normally occupies the rearmost position in the garage, has been trapped in place by said extended furniture refinishing project for more than several weeks.


Last Thursday, right in front of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, was Condo Settlement day.

Sometime over Memorial Day weekend — in the midst of an extended frenzy of condo cleaning, painting, rewiring and rebuilding — the various bits of refinished furniture began migrating between my garage and the offspring’s new abode.

So I stand there in the garage door on Tuesday morning, with the sun coming in over my shoulder, and I see a flash off the chrome at the rear of the garage. There, under some dust — there’d been a fair amount of sanding — was the Toaster, the original alloy girlfriend, looking like a woman that really needed some attention.

A aluminum woman with a newfound route out the door, son.


Fast forward through a morning of meetings.

I donned my armored, ventilated Vanson jacket,got my Shoei on and cinched the straps on my favorite elkskin gauntlets.

With two strides I rolled the Toaster forward and back out into the light.

I threw a leg over and settled into the saddle.

Two Petcocks Open Set Choke.

Ignition Pin Down Lights On.

The Slash 5’s starter — a component not characterized by any kind of lightness at all — slammed to action with all the subtlety of a bank vault lock. Heavy pieces of metal moving and hitting each other hard.

I’ve been very happy with the Deka AGV battery that I put in this motorcycle last season — there’s always lots of starting amperage and lots of reserve.

This motorcycle — with it’s early, tall geared starter, and hot rod 900 cc top end — is not an easy motorcycle to start.

After 6 or 7 deep, audible gasps from the R90S style ventilated airbox, the Toaster fired, stumbled a few times, cleared its throat and revved.

I am less than impressed with modern motor fuel.

At least with modern motor fuels in less than modern motor vehicles, anyway.

I rolled the bike down the driveway, swung the chokes off, toed down into first while rolling, and gassed it toward the dirt.


People say that the Inuit have 50 different words for snow.

It seems like motorcyclists should have at least that many for dirt.

I know the track maintenance teams at the flat track races I attend  devote a great deal of thought and a very great deal of work to making sure that their dirt contains just the right amount of moisture and has just the correct texture to provide the perfect combination of traction and slide.

As good as those guys are, heading down Poffenberger Road this morning, Mother Nature was better.

We’d had some pretty extensive rainfall over the last dozen days, followed by a cold front, dropping temperatures, strong breezes and low humidity. The ruts and mud puddles I’d half expected to see were gone, and the normal, dry, dusty crushed limestone surface — normally grey — was a greyish brown – clearly indicating a higher moisture content.

If you’re a linguist that would like to take a shot at extending the ‘Biker’ language to propose a new word for ‘crushed stone which is moist but not too moist’, this is your chance.

The Slash 5 loves this road, and today that love was on full display. The front tire had just the right amount of bite — the usual hunting behavior on throttle was nowhere in evidence — and the rear could be kept hooked up or slid depending on my attitude and level of excess enthusiasm.

Catcoctin Creek – which runs alongside the road – is really more of a river than a creek, but I wasn’t there when somebody pulled the naming trigger, so we’ll just have to let that one ride. The Creek is about 60 feet wide, and maybe 18 inches deep. Today — given the rains — it was running fast and absolutely clean. I could see individual river rocks on the bottom, along with the occasional silver darting fish.

Its moments like this that completely encapsulate everthing that keeps me riding. Fresh air. Solitude. The sonic and tactile symphony of the Toaster’s Zeppelin mufflered exhaust note echoing back from the vertical cliff on the other side of the creek — the forks and swingarm working hard and as designed to track the dirt’s irregular surface as I carried about 3700 rpms worth of third gear and just under 50 mph down toward the creek crossing at the iron truss bridge.

It was then that I saw it.

Lately I’ve been enjoying DVR technology’s capability to let me sleep late on Sundays and enjoy the MotoGP broadcasts later when I’m in a more appropriate — awake! — state of mind.

The MotoGP team makes use of the most extraordinary high speed cameras I’ve ever seen. When the broadcast cuts to the high speed, its like the hand of God himself come down and turned off time — it produces this weird reverse time telescoping feeling — wheels that you know are going 205 miles an hour take seven full seconds to rotate. You can see individual spokes — chain links flying — optical illusion makes the brake rotors appear to contra-rotate.

Everything in the frame gets psychedelically vivid.

Time just damn stops.

This was kinda like that.

Standing in the stream — frozen, unmoving, refusing to have its hunt interupted by some scooting putting thing — was a Great Blue Heron.

The heron’s freeze seemed to take me over as well and it was if my motorcycle had abrubtly stopped — somebody had slapped the big red slo-mo button, and time just telescoped to a halt.

I’ve seen plenty of herons before.

This one was different.

Wikipedia or Audubon will tell you this bird doesn’t get bigger than four and half feet tall.

Since time had stopped I could visualize stepping off my stopped motorcycle, wading down into the stream, and having The Blue — seemingly haloed — at least looking five foot eight inch me right in the eye, if not looking down at me.

This bird was variegated blue – bright blue across its substantial chest and wings, and and nearly inky blue-black at its shoulders and the trailing edges of its long, wide wings. Our Blue here was showing — white plumed chest inflated to the full, neck extended to its maximum, its black stripe across its head and orange beak indicating its view towards the horizon and what’s coming.

Whether this warrior bird was of this world, or of another is something I’ll need to think upon some more before I’m able to decide.

You’re free to decide for yourself.

Then somebody slapped that big red button a second time and my motorcycle and I reappeared, moving, where the Blue had been looking, crossed the creek on the truss bridge, and motored on up the hill.

It is now the time of year when we migrate, riding sisters and brothers — the time of year when we spread great wide wings and we fly.


One thought on “Great Blue

  1. I’ve known the feeling and Great Blues, Greg. Perhaps an ancestor of your Blue?
    Many years ago, westbound on Mt. Auburn Street, not far from the Hospital that big gawky thing was standing in the middle of the road. On your many trips to the Boston area you likely had no reason to be in such a place. . . . a quiet, densely populated, upscale residential neighborhood, where you see many grand English Tudor homes on well maintained properties, a colonial era cemetery, plus the Perkins School for the Blind campus. It (he), was like a traffic cop, – – HUGE and properly uniformed. I turned right. He was pointing that way. B~

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