Saturday, November 15, 2008

1st Patch Ride - Mondo's Burger Run

For those of you who may not know, a “Patch Ride” is an organized ride where you have to ride to certain points, collect “evidence” that you were there, then at the end, you are given a patch which can be sewn on your riding vest. Being pretty much “patch-less” other than the requisite H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) and North Texas Chapter Rocker patches, I am eager to adorn my boring little vest with something other than a Texas and U.S. Flag (no disrespect to the flags mind you!).

This patch obsession goes back to my childhood, where at an early age, I would scour my brother Randy’s (he now goes by Randall) Boy Scout Handbook, lust over the colorful merit badges and imagine a sash full of them. Archery, Horsemanship, Camping, the possibilities were endless! My guess is I looked at this book more than my brother did. Some years later, when I was old enough to join the Girl Scouts, I was thrilled to receive my very own Girl Scout Handbook. I had little more than a passing interest in learning about first aid, memorizing the Girl Scout Pledge or how to make a campfire. For me, it was pretty much all about the merit badges. The handbook had pictures of all the pretty and colorful little badges. I suspect if this Handbook had survived my childhood (of which no evidence remains other than my annual school pictures), it would automatically open to the badge section. Anyway, Handbook in hand, I immediately committed myself to the task of accumulating as many badges as I possibly could in the shortest amount of time. Badge selection had nothing to do with my passion for the badge subject matter and everything to do with ease of acquisition. My “technique” for badge procurement was straightforward. I’d read the requirements and determine which were the easiest and simplest to perform. Brilliant! I “earned” several - Sewing (this came in handy for attaching the patches), Art, Reading, Swimming. Oh, the joy of having a merit badge laden sash! I Wish I still had it.

Here I am 35 years later and apparently I haven’t grown out of this childhood obsession because as soon as I heard about the “hamburger patch”, I was consumed with the idea of having one. Not to mention, as far as I’m concerned, I can’t imagine a better inaugural patch ride than one to acquire a “hamburger patch”! It doesn’t get much better than that! (Well, maybe a “Pizza Ride” patch could topple the almighty hamburger from it’s #1 spot) I was so intent on acquiring this symbol of my love for this not-so-heart-healthy food, I’d decided that even if the route included getting on an Interstate Highway, something I had yet to do as a new biker, I would face my fear and bite the bullet.

Unfortunately, Kim was going to be out of town and wouldn't be able to ride. Bummer! Since she is ever so diligent in taking good care of me, she called her Rider’s Edge Instructor and friend, Mitch Bina, and he was nice enough to agree accompany me. Since we hadn’t met, he came over a couple of nights beforehand and the 3 of us went out for dinner. I liked him immediately. As icing on the cake, Murphy (the dog) loved him. Murphy’s reaction to people is a great barometer of their “energy”. If he love’s you, you’re in like flint. If he growls at’s gonna be a tough sell. BTW, Mitch has a gorgeous Red ‘08 Street Glide. AND, he’s into gadgets, such as myself. Kim was right, I like him.

I watched the weather all week. Heaven forbid the ride get rained out. Thankfully, rain wasn’t forecast, but you know how the weather report changes from one forecast to the next. With each successive forecast, the temperature kept getting lower and lower and the wind speed kept getting higher and higher. No problem. I would just bundle up. (The fact I would even contemplate riding when the chill factor would be well below freezing is a testament to how badly I wanted to do this ride. Guess I have a strong "prey drive" when it comes to patches!) Off I went to a ski shop to pick up some hand and feet warmers since the last thing I wanted was frozen fingers and toes.

Friday night, I filled up the bike and then gave it a once over with the microfiber cloth. Then, I organized my stuff...sunglasses, chapstick, camera, etc. I had just gotten my Bluetooth Communication Headset (HEAVENLY gadget, but more on that later) so I charged it up and installed in on my helmet. Then, I decided what I was going to wear and then put it all on to make sure I was going to be comfortable. I wanted to hit the ground running on Saturday morning. I even made sure I got in bed at a reasonable hour Friday night. Since I’m NOT a morning person and Mitch was meeting me at the house at 8:00 am, I set 3 alarms so I wouldn’t oversleep. Not unlike the first day of school supplies, new clothes and then laying out the outfit the night before. The difference being I’m not 10 years old and I have been out of school more years than I care to admit!

Mitch arrived about 10 minutes early, but I wasn’t quite ready. Thankfully, I’d already eaten breakfast, fed the animals, etc. and was down to the finishing touches. While he was waiting, he paired our headsets so we could communicate with each other while riding. We pulled out of the driveway around 8:30. The wind was gusting at around 30 mph and the temperature was in the 40’s. Nippy! Other than feeling like the Michelin Woman, I was very pleasantly surprised with how comfortable I was in all the gear. Thankfully, Mitch had suggested a neck gaiter to tuck up into the helmet. This was great in keeping the wind out, a key factor in staying warm. The only issue with all this clothing was that it was bulky so it interfered with my movement and how far I could turn my head. In light of the fact we were heading due north - right into a stiff headwind - with a pretty low chill factor, I figured that was a great trade-off.

At our Dinner on Thursday night, Mitch and I talked about the "Highway thing" and my hesitancy to get on one up to that point. I felt no pressure from Mitch to do something I was uncomfortable with for his sake, but he did make the point that it’s a road like any other and that if I did get on the highway, I should just pick a lane and ride the speed I’m comfortable with and not worry about the cars. If a car wants to go faster, they can get in another lane. Very logical. He also said he’d be behind me to “protect” me from cars. Since the ride started at American Eagle H-D in Corinth, TX...on the access road to I-35 about 30-35 miles from my house, I’d already been psyching myself up thinking this might be the day for my Maiden Highway Run. After we got going, I’d decided that today was, in fact the day. Just where we entered the Freeway exactly was the next question. Since the section of I-35 leading up to and around the I-35/I-635 interchange is chaotic and nerve-racking enough in a car, not to mention, undergoing construction, I decided to avoid that area and get on I-35 just north of there. We entered the Highway around 9:00 a.m., and being a Saturday, the traffic wasn’t too bad. The surface was pretty smooth and the cars were very orderly and cooperative. Once I was on it, I was able to relax a little. It was not near as “scary” as I’d built it up to be. It was actually a little exciting since this was a major stepping stone in my “riding career”. Not that it was all fun and games. At 65 - 70 mph, wind is bad enough. Add to that a major head-wind and my body was getting getting whipped around like crazy. At times, the gusts were so severe, I found myself tensing up and hanging on the the grips way too tightly. Knowing tense muscles decrease coordination and would not serve me well in the event I needed to react quickly, I had to make a concerted effort to try and relax (and breathe). Thankfully, the Road King is a heavy bike, and it wasn’t moving so much as my body was. Can’t imagine riding in that kind of wind on a lighter bike...such as the Honda Shadow. Once we exited the Freeway though, I was able to breathe more normally. Not to mention my heart rate most certainly went down by half. It was a piece of cake from there! The good news was I’d ridden on I-35. Major hurdle cleared. When we got back on it later in the ride, with the wind was at our backs this time, it was downright pleasant!

We pulled into the H-D Dealership and there were a bunch of bikes there already. After seeing this “sea of bikes”, I became concerned we wouldn’t be among the first 100 riders to finish. This would put the hamburger patch I so coveted in jeopardy. It didn’t take long to realize there were no where near 100 bikers there. No worries.

After parking our bikes, we went inside, checked in and were briefed on the protocol. At each stop (mostly hamburger joints) we’d be given instructions to the next stop and a piece of paper with the components of a burger - bun, meat, lettuce, etc.. The first 100 riders to arrive at North Texas H-D by 2 p.m. with all these burger “parts” would get the patch. Come hell or high water I was getting a patch! Off we went...before the crowd a Starbucks for a little chilling out until the actual clock started. Since we’d hung out at Starbucks so long, we were the “last” to arrive at the 2nd stop. Oh well, Mitch took us to our next destination on a quicker route so at our 3rd stop, we were told we were riders #12 and #13. Hmmm....where were all the throngs of riders I’d been told would be joining this ride to seek the “coveted burger patch”? Had we gained that much time on Mitch’s shortcut? Off we went to our 4th stop. Hard Eight BBQ in Coppell, TX. The smell of the place was heavenly so we decided to have lunch. We ate and made made sure we got out of there in time to arrive at our final stop, North TX H-D, before the 2 p.m. deadline. We pulled into the Dealership at 1:45 and learned that we were among the 14 riders to finish the Illustrious Mondo’s Hamburger Ride. 14. You heard it. 1-4. Turns out, all those bikers at the Harley store where the ride originated were H.O.G. Chapter members, assembling for their annual picture! My big patch quest was a very poorly attended ride at best. Kinda sad when you think about it. And kinda funny.

Patch or not, I had a great time riding & logged another 100 miles. I never got cold as the gear was perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed Mitch - new friend/riding buddy. Got to use the Scala Rider Q2 headset for the first time with someone who had experience with it and was was able to learn about this new “toy”. For anyone wondering about them, they are sheer heaven. It’s wonderful to be able to talk about what you’re going to do, where you’re going to turn, etc w/o having to stop the bike, rely on hand signals or yell at each other at a stop sign. Also, since Mitch is a Rider’s Edge Instructor (competent and patient), I was at ease riding with him. Unless he's a great actor, I didn't get the impression he was miserable riding with someone with as little riding experience as myself. Plus, I was able to ask questions about riding. On top of all that goodness, I am increasingly more comfortable on the bike. That means I’m actually able to look at and enjoy the scenery. I still have a long way to go, but it sure is fun getting there. I can definitely see why so many people are crazy about riding.

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