Adventure junkies are always seeking bigger and riskier adventures. Adventure for most of us comes with reading, planning or visiting a new place or trying new things.
I write a lot about adventure, and I do seem to have my share of them as I crisscross the country chasing the cure for multiple sclerosis (MS). I have experienced adventure in places like the solitude of the Arctic Circle, the scorching Nevada deserts and the lush mountains of North Carolina. Sometimes, however, adventure finds me even when I am not looking for it. In December I was presenting at a patient program in Maine. Now, riding a motorcycle in Maine in December might seem unusual to most, but, by now, you know two wheels is the only way I travel. The event was only 150 miles from my house, and I certainly did not entertain the thought it would be anything more than routine.
On this particular trip, the roads were clear and despite a stiff easterly breeze, it was a toasty 39 degrees when I left my house. It was just after a snowstorm, and all the vehicles looked related, covered in a fine powdery salt. I was driving at the speed of traffic, only accelerating to get by trucks that were shedding bits of trailer ice and slush. At one point, a chunk of ice frisbee’d off the top of the tractor trailer ahead of me, and I caught it miraculously across my face shield. Oh, the joy. Startled and after recently watching a movie about avalanches, I throttled up and passed the truck cab and then again to clear a few additional big rigs ahead of him. The ice that hit me was not fatal, but a bigger glob could certainly ruin a motorcyclist’s afternoon. I slowed back down and even ventured over to lane one, and continued at the posted speed limit. I was not in a hurry, and I was a bit chilled by the wind.
I saw the Maine State Trooper sitting on the off-ramp peninsula and nodded my helmet as I drove by. This time of year I often get a wave or tip of the hat, as I’m possibly the only rider they see on the road in weeks. Oddly enough, he threw on his lights and pulled out behind me. I moved over to let him pass, but he got right behind me and closed in on me. It took half a mile to realize he was pulling me over. I thought maybe he saw something wrong with my bike or he’d made a mistake. When I asked him why he pulled me over he said, “I’ll let you know after you provide me with your license and registration.”
“Ok,” I said. It took me a minute to get at my wallet as I was all bundled up and my fingers were cold. After looking them over he said, “Aircraft spotted you back a ways and estimated you were traveling 85 mph in a 70 mph zone.
I decided not to say anything else, as it would not have helped anyway. This officer was not even a witness to my alleged infraction. After 20 minutes of dangerously standing on the side of the highway with trucks whizzing by and freezing my butt off, he delivered my speeding ticket. As I rode off, I spotted a second vehicle, a bright red unsalted car, pulled over by a second trooper. It then occurred to me we were signaled out, not because we were going faster than everyone else, but we were the only vehicles the plane could identify from the air because of all the salt! I also realized if I had indeed been doing 85 mph, it could have only been as I was passing the trucks. I would have done the same thing if the officer were behind me, as it was a safety measure to avoid the flying objects. As an experienced rider who puts safety first on a daily basis, speed traps like these do not make the roads safer in my opinion, but the $185 fine will fill the state coffers. Not feeling very happy about the first hour of my ride, I decided to put the incident out of my mind.
The patient event went well. It was the regular crowd and entertainment was provided by Dr. Mitchell Ross, one of the more enthusiastic MS specialists. He and I have a great rapport, and he was excited to tell me he’d bought another Harley. “Did you ride it here?” I joked.
The next day I waited for the black ice in the parking lot to melt before leaving the hotel to head home. I decided I was going to boycott the Maine Turnpike and ride west through New Hampshire before heading south. I stopped to visit the staff at a motorcycle supply store called Whitehorse Gear. I asked them about the conditions on the famous Kancamagus Highway. The 35-mile route is one of America’s Scenic Byways and leads through a path in the White Mountain National Forest with breathtaking views and an elevation of about 3000 feet. There are no comforts of the modern day world: no gas stations, no restaurants, hotels or other businesses, and no cell service. It remains open through the winter, but is often closed for days because of treacherous mountain weather conditions. I was told there had not been snow for a few days and that the road should be passable.
It was 22 degrees, cloudy and windy when I turned onto infamous Route 112, but I did not expect the adventure ahead. It took me almost three hours to go 35 miles, and I should have known something was up after I passed the first two snowplows! Maybe I should have turned around when the snow and ice covered the road, when the temperature dipped below 11 degrees or when I crapped my pants sliding around the hairpin turn at the speed of molasses, but, well, I didn’t. I was able to get some hairy video from my helmet camera, and it’s been uploaded to my new YouTube channel called Jerky Diaries, where I share the lighter side of my adventures.
I eventually made it to the other end of the road, exhilarated and exhausted. I changed my underwear in a gas station and headed home. I’ll admit it was a bit risky, but the payoff was huge!
MS is a progressive disease that can strike at any moment, so when adventure finds its way into my portfolio, I invest in every share I can get my hands on!