Long Cold Winter

Sometimes, you just have to get out

January and February conspire against people like me. That would be motorcycle people, primarily. I know that there are other people with other outdoor hobbies and outdoor desires, but for this exercise, they don’t count. Except maybe for bicycle people, we share a similar passion that involves wheels and roads, both of which don’t get along when the road part is white and slippery.

I don’t hate winter, I don’t like it much, but I don’t hate it. I’ve been in places where it is summer all the time. Many years ago I when I was a Navy man, I spent two years stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at the US Naval Air Station there. Back when it was an actual military base and not the media thorn it has now become. Two years I spent watching summer give way to another summer until finally settling into another summer before turning to summer once again. Not that I’m complaining, but I didn’t really ride a motorcycle then or a bicycle. Well, let me rephrase that. I owned a motorcycle while I was there, it didn’t run very well, I didn’t really know how to ride and most of the time I simply tinkered with it to figure out why it didn’t run well and eventually I sold it for what I paid for it. But I digress, with the exception of the moments it would rain, it was gorgeously hot there all the time. And I never complained about it.

I have in-laws on the west coast of Florida and from what they tell me, you don’t go outside in the summer months because it is too hot. My response is “Yeah, and?”. I’m not one to complain about heat, never was, never will. You can always cool off in water or in the shade or in a breeze. Granted if it’s 110° in the shade, there may be no cooling off, but the point is it can always be cooler somewhere if you need it. If it’s cold, well, you’re cold and you can’t always warm up. You can but it usually requires layers upon layers of fabric and that hot stuff called “Fire”. I have a small farm and a cabin in upstate New York. January and February bring the continuous coldest temperatures I have ever seen. This time of year, temperatures in the low teens for days, weeks on end is the normal. In my little cabin, I only have heat in the utility room where the water system is, the rest of the house will see temperatures in the 30’s. You can warm the air up to 70°, but you’re not heating up the furniture, cabinets, countertops and everything else up to that temperature for hours or even days.

Here in New Jersey, when the slightest indication that the temperatures are going to sneak into the 40’s and dare I say, the 50’s, the Harley is coming out. Salt on the road? Too freaking bad, I’m riding. And, I will do my damndest to not have to wear all that freaking winter riding gear. Just to get out, even if for only a few miles, a few minutes, just to shake off the dust and the cobwebs. Just to clear the head and feel the sun on my face, the wind, the air, the smells. It is refreshing.

On this day, I had post winter chores to take care of and as quickly as I moved I couldn’t get them complete until nearly 4:30 p.m. and I knew that the sun was setting at 5:45. I had to move. I’m getting out for a ride if it’s the last thing I do today. Also on this day, the temperatures scooted up near 60° and although it didn’t quite hit that mark, it was well into the 50’s and prime riding weather. I stripped myself of the dusty dirty work clothes and put on my riding gear, grabbed my helmet and keys.

“Going for a ride, I’ll be back whenever.” I announced to who ever would hear my voice.

Crap, gotta move the wife’s car. Back inside, got the keys, moved the Honda Pilot into the street, brought the keys back inside. Back to the Ted Shed, put on my helmet, disconnected the battery tender and block heater, backed the bike out of the shed, got off the bike, closed the shed doors, got back on the bike and backed it down the driveway, pressed the start button and she roared to life. I smiled. Off I went.

I opted for a ride along the beach/shoreline. Heading south, to my left was the Atlantic Ocean, to my right, Barnegat Bay. This little strip of land has been a go-to for me for years on the bicycle and on the motorcycle for the moments when I need a little get-out me time. It’s a sedate ride with little traffic and few traffic lights and when I saw the opportunity, I pulled over into this bayside park to take the photo above. Moments later I was back on the bike headed west across a mile-long causeway bridge on Route 37. Halfway across the bridge, mixed with the salty air was this distinct, unmistakable smell. I was baffled and I sniffed more intently, drawing in deep breaths of air and I smiled.

A half mile from land, 30 feet above the bay waters, going 50 mph and I smell….

Pancakes and warm maple syrup.

So there is one thing I do like about winter. The clean, fresh air that allows those smells we love to find their way to our noses.

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