By: Chris Loynd
You know how sometimes in winter you are driving along in a clean car, surrounded by clean cars and then you see a car so crudded up with salt and junk you know it must be from up north and sure enough the license plate reads, "Maine" or "Vermont"?
We were those guys Sunday.
What is it about the Cape May Polar Bear ride and Nor'Easters?
A doozy came through Saturday. And while along the coast we only got a few inches, our friends in northern Connecticut got up to 18 inches.
New Jersey got a dusting to mostly just rain.
When we got to Cape May we were surrounded by shiny, clean bikes. We held our heads a little higher as we parked our crudbikes.
I felt like a true Polar Bear. In late August, just before Hurricane Irene, I put my bike in for an engine remanufacturing.
It had 137,000 miles and I figured I didn't want any troubles during Polar Bear season.
When I called Marcel, the service manager at Brothers Harley-Davidson he asked, "Are you sure you don't want to keep it a little longer to enjoy the riding weather?"
"No! I got to get it ready for Polar Bear season. So I need it by the end of September to get my break-in miles done," I replied.
"You have this riding season thing upside down," Marcel laughed.
I didn't even need to shovel my driveway Sunday. Fonz did a bit. Grumpy has a ski slope and had to clear it. Then he dropped the bike in an icy Ansonia intersection on his way to meet us at Dunkin' Donuts. He, and his ride, were fine and he made it to Cape May and back.
Grumpy said in his e-mail the week after the ride that he was a bit sore.
Our northern pals Token and Bart were completely snow bound. They may also still be without electricity. Because the snow was wet and heavy and trees still had all their leaves, the damage to power lines here was worse than with hurricane Irene.
Some areas of Connecticut are without power still. The utility is promising 99 percent restoration by end of day Sunday, more than a week after the storm.
Fortunately, even with our early start the temperature was above freezing. Unfortunately, they had been spraying salt on the roads all Saturday and into Sunday morning.
Still, our morning ride was not so great. In fact there was a time there when I was entertaining thoughts of turning around.
I mean, I am out here to have fun. And with the spray and wet roads, with strong and gusty winds, with the slabs of snow blowing off roofs of lazy car drivers, with a few sphincter moments of less than optimal traction, it was becoming a chore.
We figured to keep within the warm embrace of Long Island Sound. So I opted to follow I-95 all the way to the George Washington Bridge.
Only the New York State City Police had other ideas.
The Cross Bronx Expressway was closed, shut down. Fortunately one of NYC's Finest was standing outside his car and gave us easy directions to the bridge.
Traffic remained heavy until we got well south on the Garden State Parkway.
Polar Bear Grand Poohbah Bob Hartpence sent out an e-mail on Saturday to ensure all Bears that Sunday's ride was a go. He said the roads were dry.
We did not find those dry roads until we were about halfway down to Cape May.
Fortunately, roads were dry for the whole ride home. And the sun was shining. It even warmed up a bit.
But the long ride meant a sunrise start and a finish in the dark.
I led the ride because I wanted to vary my speed a bit. I had 'pert near a thousand miles on the new motor. Still, I didn't want to crank it the whole way to Cape May.
It worked out just fine. The ride down was so crappy, I kept speeds below the posted limits.
For the first time I can remember, Cape May sign-in was a breeze. No waiting.
We bought our "this season" shirts, made our acquaintances, I teased Bob about his "dry roads" e-mail and we were off.
Over brunch, some had breakfast, some chose lunch, we caught up with riding buddies. It hardly seems seven months have passed.
With a very demanding workload this year, I will definitely do more riding in winter than I did all summer.
Hopefully the weather will be kind. But it is winter. And we start from New England. There are no guarantees.