Thursday, April 20, 2006

Today's sky report - in deep

Salvation in the form of a dry spot to turn around was just a few yards away.  Between me and salvation were yards of mudded ruts and a puddle of indeterminate depth.  There was no choice but to keep going forward….

Yesterday was a beautiful spring NH day.  I was riding my BMW R1100GS home from work and after leaving the highway, I decided to take a trail through the woods.  For those of you unfamiliar with a BMW GS, think of them as the SUV's of motorcycles.  They are excellent road machines and can chew up the highway miles as well as swiftly cut a line through a snake-like rural road.  Additionally, with their upswept pipes, skid guards and high fenders, they can serve as off road bikes.  And like an SUV, your off road capabilities depend more upon your tires and your driving (riding) abilities than the car (bike) itself.  Unfortunately, I'm not a highly experienced off road rider and I had street tires on the bike. 

Across from my exit on Route 101 (Exit 8 heading east) is a road that starts with about 50 feet of pavement and a couple hundred yards of a nicely built dirt road.  At the end of the dirt road, there's a turnaround.  Off the turnaround is a double track dirt trail through the woods.  As I came to the turnaround, I looked down the trail.  It looked fairly dry down the middle, although some sections of the tire tracks looked a bit muddy.  I decided to give it a try.  The bike started off fine, rolling well down the middle.  A few hundred yards in, I began to notice that there was standing water to the sides of the road and the middle of the trail began to get muddy.  Basically, I was in a swamp.  The bike started to slide a bit, generally going forward but not real well.  I came upon a branch across the road, and I was forced into the tire track to get by it.  I rolled over it and stopped.  Ahead of me was the puddle.  I made a brief attempt at turning around where I was, but I was too deep into the muddy rut and there wasn't enough shoulder between the rut and the standing water to make a successful turn.  There was only one choice - to keep moving forward. 

The thing about puddles is that you never know how deep they are.  I couldn't imagine this one would be real deep because it wasn't more than 10 feet wide.  The road rose up on the other side and actually flattened out to a dry spot, so I knew if I could get through the puddle, I had a spot to turn.  Going beyond the dry spot wasn't an option; the road after the dry spot was submerged because the water in the swamp on either side converged into a lake.  So, I clicked it into gear and went forward.  When the bike began to bog down a bit, I added power and pulled through the mud and water.  I made it to the other side with only one thought…I had to go back through it get out of there.

Fortunately the dry spot was truly dry.  I was able to k-turn the bike with relative ease to face the puddle one more time.  Once again, I added power and began to blast.  Unfortunately, after pulling through the puddle, I ended up in one of the muddy ruts.  Once you're in a rut, it's tough to get out unless the rut begins to level with the center point of the road.  So, keeping with the theory of adding power, I kept the bike rolling until I was out of the woods.  Some slipping, some sliding, but never down and never stopped.  When I got out, I looked down at the bike.  Mud caked the wheels, engine and fenders.  The messenger bag I had strapped to the back seat was coated.  My boots and riding suit were caked up from the ground to just below the knees.  It took me an hour to clean the bike, my boots and the riding suit off with the high pressure from my hose.  It took another hour to clean up the messenger bag and the rest of the suit.

I suppose there's a lesson in here somewhere.  Like, "use the right tool (bike) for the job."  Or "don't go into blind alleys".  Or "more power solves all problems".  I probably won't actually learn the lessons - I did get out and I have done similar things before.  What I did learn is that even though the bike isn't made for the situation I put it in, it refused to let me down.  I should probably change its oil as a thank you.

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