Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gearing up for riding in the rain

The rain stopped Monday afternoon ... well, mostly.

Brother Chris and I went to Sylvia's for lunch -- homemade beef stew for me and fish "chowdah" and a sandwich for him. Afterwards, we checked out a sporting goods store and I looked for replacements for my waterproof hiking boots -- the ones that hold water. In practice, the gaiters I bought in New Hampshire kept the water out but the toes were baggy and snagged on the gear shift. I figured that can be dangerous.

We found some waterproof, Wellington-style pull-ons, about three inches taller than my hikers, but Chris suggested checking the Harley Davidson store in Bangor for "real" motorcycle boots, which would probably be about the same price.

He was right. I found the HD shop and a pair of black, high-top, pull-on boots -- what we used to call "engineer boots" -- for less than the Wellingtons. I chose the unadorned ones over the silver skulls and embroidered eagles.

My rain suit was beginning to unravel after more than a thousand miles of highway riding. The HD shop had some nylon suits -- all with giant, glow-in-the-dark Harley logos. I asked the clerk if they breathed, like my Frogg Toggs. She said, "Nope. They're like wearing a trash bag."

She suggested I visit Bangor Motorsports, three exits south off I-95 on the road to Hermon. Appreciating her honesty, I arrived there just ahead of three guys from Florida on their way south on big Kawasakis. They'd ridden to Nova Scotia from Bar Harbor, got soaked for three days and turned back. One of bike had blown an oil seal and the Motorsports folks promised a repair by Tuesday morning.

I'd considered riding to Canada instead of practice-camping in Acadia National Park. Talking to these guys, I'm glad I didn't. Of course, they'll be swapping stories about their epic escape from Canada in a cross-wind gale and pouring rain for the next 20 years. As they say, the adventure doesn't really start until something goes seriously wrong.

When they arrived, I'd just bought the last XL nylon rainsuit in the shop. "We had a run on them this weekend," the clerk said. I believed her.

Ready to go in the new gear, rain or no rain

The Florida guys were looking for new suits, too -- one had duct tape hanging from the rip in his pants and they all looked soaked. I gave them directions to Bangor Harley Davidson.

Heading back to Ellsworth, I stopped at Maine Military, a surplus store in Brewer, figuring I might find some useful camping item. Instead, I found a trove of leather motorcycle jackets at discount prices. An hour later I was dressed to ride in style, safety, warmth and comfort. When I showed up at my sisters in the new jacket sister Jane said, "Wow, you look so slim."

"Yeah, you look like you've got AIDS or something," Chris said.

Next morning, I waterproofed my gloves and new boots and got ready to ride down to Manchester, Maine, to visit cousin David. The sun actually came out for about 30 seconds, but by the time I'd packed the bike and got out of the woods and on the paved road, the rain was back with a vengeance.

Well, this'll be a good test of the new gear.

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