Clouds and Bikers

When one thinks about women riding motorcycles, they don’t often consider her riding alone in desolate country. That is exactly one of the best places to ride.

Saturday morning found an overcast sky and rain. I pursued other interests until the sky cleared in the late morning. I put on my biker clothes. I NEVER ride without all the gear. I have a wonderful Harley mesh jacket that offers slide protection and allows access to the cooling wind. I wear jeans lined with kevlar, Harley biker boots, gloves and a modular helmet. Being dressed for a slide will hopefully prevent one from happening.

Today, I would ride about 20 miles west on 2-lane Highway 6, then slide over to Interstate 80. I-80 is a major east/west traffic corridor and is loaded with tourists this time of year. They have a destination in mind and they drive like it. There is little obstruction on this day. I set my cruise on 75 mph, the exact speed limit.

In a fairly short time, I’m exiting the road at the Grand Island exit, about 100 miles down the road. I stop for gas, clean the windshield and get on Nebraska Highway 2, the Sandhills scenic byway. I’m now a little warm and ready to stop for an iced tea. I select one of my favorite places, the aptly named Watering Hole in Cairo, Nebraska. Cairo was established in 1886 as a railroad stop for the Burlington Railroad.

I cool off and am shortly back underway. Today, I notice a wide variety of clouds. Once in the Sandhills, there is virtually no traffic and the land is as pristine as it has been for thousands of years. Riding a motorcycle excites all the senses and allows a full enjoyment of the outdoors.

On this trip, I take advantage of totally unobstructed vision to notice the clouds. Normally, there are clouds in the sky and I’ve generally regarded clouds as a 2 dimensional sight, much as a photo might present them. Since there’s no traffic, I’m able to study the clouds in detail. There are a few cirrus clouds, which are very high up and lightly streak the sky, like they might be portrayed by the gentle sweep of a painter’s brush. Below them are more puffy clouds and then I notice some that are closer to the ground. I can begin to see the full depth of this sight as I pass below them. At 65 mph, the fact that they are readily discernible really stands out. The speed of the bike highlights the different levels of clouds as I’ve not often noticed before.

These are things that never get seen from a moving car. I’m having a ball just watching clouds on this trip. Light traffic in the Sandhills means you only see oncoming vehicles over a mile apart. Overtaking and passing someone happens maybe every 15 miles or more. Riding in this environment allows all the senses to work and the scenery is soothing and relaxing.

75 miles passes too quickly and I’ve arrived in Broken Bow, Nebraska. This will be my turnaround point, so I cruise around town. This small town has been completely resurrected. Most Nebraska towns are built around a town square, which is a full city block with a government building in the center. This means there are 4 blocks of shops all around. Every shop features a business and the buildings are painted and in good repair. This is a contrast to many other small towns, who are losing population and the empty storefronts with cracked and broken glass highlight this occurrence.

There is a very nice old hotel here with a corner restaurant and grill featuring outdoor seating. I see a Harley parked in front, so I decide to stop and take a break. A very large biker man and his lady are sitting outside and invite me to join them. Bikers are a very special breed. They look scary with their leathers and head covers and you don’t know if they’ll take hostages or ask you to sit a spell.

In this case, I met John and Amy. John has been riding for decades and Amy loves riding on the back. They were both highly intrigued to see a woman ride up on a big bike. They’d watched me cruise the town square and were surprised to see a female. Amy asked me how I managed to handle such a large bike. She said she never imagined that she could do such a thing and I reassured her she could if she wanted.

We visited easily for quite some time. They go to the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally (Sturgis) every year and we talked about that and found we had a lot in common. They lived about 70 miles straight south.

When it came time for us to leave, they invited me to ride with them and I eagerly accepted. Our route would take us on a road that was even far less traveled than Highway 2. It was even more remote and primitive. John was an expert rider. He never slowed for a curve and he held a nice, even line on curves. Our ride together was well synchronized and coordinated, even though we’d never met before. We each knew how to ride with others. Just like when musicians get together and jam, we were dancing together like Fred and Ginger using bikes.

We split up and said our goodbyes at the Interstate. They are wonderful people, whom I hope to see again. Motorcycles have enabled me to enjoy the ride and meet great people. Many single women might experience some discomfort at being alone and vulnerable out in the country. I have to say that when I’m on my bike, dressed like a biker, no one has ever caused me to feel insecure at all. When I see other bikers, I have every confidence that they will have my back should the need ever arise. I see other bikers as friends and never an adversary.

I had a 180 miles to ride to get home and the time seemed to fly by. I bumped my speed up to 79 mph, as it seemed that was the general speed of traffic. That worked nicely as I was moving with everyone else. The big Harley touring bike seemed comfortable and smooth at that speed and had plenty of additional throttle should it be needed.

I watched clouds and took in all the sights and sounds of Nebraska. Before I knew it, I was back home before dark with 400 miles under my belt. Another great day on a bike.