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Finding Terra Firma in The Mud

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Everyone has seen the pile of leaves on the side of the road. It rises from the edge of pavement to the top of the shoulder, sometimes a few feet above the tarmac. This area seems solid. Its logical, if a space appears even or to rise then it should be firm especially when there is no low shoulder sign… LISTEN: in an area swamped with well swamps, this is NOT the case.

A few days ago seemed like a great day to ride the Harley down the Washington Rochambeau Route. It was not just for pleasure but to accomplish my DS106 finial project… ok it was mainly for fun, but I think that’s what the class is really about-how to have fun and tell the digital world about it. So I’m riding down the pavement, nearly 100 degrees, sun is warm, wind is cool, and the bugs don’t seem that bad. There was an amazing swamp on my right so I pulled off to take a picture.

Got the .jpeg, a little .WMV and moved on. Later I was halted by a train passing the road (I really enjoy when that happens.)  I hastily went to detach the camera since my handle bars didn’t face the tracks that well – they were slightly elevated. Strangely, despite the gate closing and lights flashing no train ever passed. Snap a picture and roll on…

So no train, but no problem (ma fii mushkila as my Arab friends say), it is still nice to ride. Unfortunately, on the next large bump my camera fell off the tripod. I found the Elph but noticed when I went remount the camera that the mechanism designed to keep my camera attached to the tripod had gone missing. I turned around to try to find the piece (which is the size of a large eraser, this wasn’t going to be easy.

So I can’t find the piece after roaming around the tracks for a few mins and begin to wonder if it had fallen off back at the swamp. I decided to ride back there and look around for a bit, after all you can’t just buy the attachment. I would have to fabricate a new one if I couldn’t find it.

As I role up on the spot where I stopped at the swamp I start looking for a place to pull over. Last time I pulled over on the side of the swamp and settled the kickstand in some gravel off the shoulder. This time I didn’t want to park on that side because I’d have to cross over to the wrong side of the road. With all the curves on the Washington Rochambeau Route, driving even for a second on the wrong side could end up with you hating the fact that a redneck’s desired elevation for the bumper on his Silverado 2500 is exactly head height. So I figure no problem I’ll ride over to the rightside shoulder which appeared to be firm and slightly elevated toward the bank.

I ride into the leaves never noticing that my bike is getting lower. I probably liked the aspect of lowering my bike – it would save me hundreds on a new suspension. As I go to kick the well kickstand down to stabilize the bike I realize that my foot is already touching terrafirma. My kickstand should be half a foot from the ground… something is wrong.

The rear tire had sunk threw the leaves and into a ditch of mud. I tried driving it out, being careful not to bury it more. That wasn’t going to work. So I walked around collecting gravel and medium sized pieces of pavement to wedge under the tire hoping it would provide some traction.

This worked a little; at least it lifted the bike out of the mud enough that the tire wasn’t stuck in the suction that happens in mud. I could life the bike, but barely. This thing weights almost 600lbs and while I often think I can lift a quarter of a ton, the fact is I can’t. Cars were passing by I was hoping someone would stop and help, but most of them stared at my bike (not me) and stared with distain. Don’t get me wrong I’d never “expect” someone to help me, all that I know is that I would have stopped. By this time I had kept tring to pick up the bike and set it on the tarmac, but with that much weight all I had accomplished is laying the bike down and getting tired and hot – not mad, this is an adventure.

Finally, after maybe 30 minutes, a mail truck came to a stop. The driver asked if I had laid the bike down (a minor wreak) I replied that I had not, but had only gotten stuck. He offered help and began to climb out of the truck as if the question was rhetoric… it was. When he opened the door I noticed his shirt… and belt buckle. There is a symbol which every biker knows. It is a shield with a bar in the front, this is the registered logo of Harley Davidson®, and this man was wearing it proudly. A few seconds later the sporty was back on the road.

I didn’t get the man’s name to praise his deeds, his address to send him thanks, or his bar to buy him a beer; he would have seen all these things as unnecessary if I know this kind of man. This kind of person means something more than a biker though, more than a man, he stands for what is good in humankind. He is the terra firma that holds all this craziness together. We all need to strive to be men (and women) like this.

Anyway, I never found the tripod part, my bike is covered in mud and I lost close to an hour of recording time. All in all it was a great day. It is adventures like this that keep me interested in motorcycling. Additionally, I would like to thank my girlfriend who was with me. She got muddy, picked up rock and scoped the ground for my plastic gizmo, still though I think she had a good time too.

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