By September 30, 2008

Remembering Ghost Rider, 2008

My friend Ghost Rider passed away on July 4th, 2007. The following fall his mother and family put together a benefit ride to Yorktown, Virginia. We did it again this year, this time heading up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The weather called for rain for most of the day. I was not deterred for a moment — I’ve ridden in the rain plenty of times and have specialized gear that goes on top of my protective clothing — but I was afraid the event would be postponed until the next day. I already had plans for Sunday, and didn’t want to miss out. I put on wicking bottoms and top, my Motoport mesh kevlar pants and my Teknic perforated leather jacket. I stuffed my waterproof gear in the side case and motored off to the rallying point: the Starbucks where Ghost Rider used to work, and where we met for the first time.

It had rained all day before, and for some of the morning. It was very overcast and humid. I was the third bike to arrive. Slowly, in pairs or one by one, more cyclists showed up. We stayed in the parking lot a little bit later for some stragglers and then headed out on highway 288. We met up with some other folks at a gas station, and numbered fifteen bikes in all. Last year we had at least twice that number; it was obvious the weather persuaded many to remain home. We headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Ghost Rider’s favorite place.

I rode Raider, my 2004 BMW R1150R. It rumbled confidently down the highway, although by the time we stopped an hour later I was ready to stretch my lower back. The angle of the seat pushes me towards the tank too much, and my natural swayback has to engage too much to keep my balls from winding up in the gas cap.

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There was some discussion if we would continue up the mountain, or turn around. The road was wet from rain, and the mountain was thick with fog. The clouds were gray, bulging with water. I told the ride leader’s wife that I had the right gear and experience, but I wouldn’t want to trap a bunch of unprepared riders up in a mountain with rain. We went anyway.

Another rider and I put on our rain gear. There were some giggles as we put our stuff on. I knew the other guy from Starbucks, and he’s a good dude. One of the sport bike riders, wearing sneakers, jeans, a cheap textile jacket and racing gloves shouted to him, “you look like a space man!”

It made me happy to know us astronauts got the last laugh when five minutes later the sky opened up and dumped a shitload of rain on our group.

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We kept going up the mountain, through thick fog, tight turns, downed branches, and torrential rain. When we got to the top, I unzipped my Frogg Toggs jacket and was completely dry underneath. My Motoport pants were mostly dry about ten minutes later. We ate food at the top of the mountain and took pictures. We probably spent well over an hour out of the rain, and most people were still totally drenched. People were wringing out their sweatshirts and taking turns drying their textile jackets on the hot grill.

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We turned back down the mountain and were treated to another shower. Our return route was going to take us down the interstate, and I was ready to get home. I slipped into the left-hand lane and zoomed towards the ride leader. He was wearing an open-face helmet and was being pelted readily by rain. He had goggles on, and a bandanna tied around his mouth. He glanced over, and I gave him a military-style salute with my left hand. I twisted the throttle with my right and pulled away from the pack.

The R1150R and my gear made a potentially ugly ride into something I am very proud of. I got to remember my friend in the way he loved life the most — on a motorcycle — and felt secure and comfortable at the same time. I was very pleased with how my gear performed, and the R1150R was absolutely solid at highway cruising speeds, despite heavy rain. My friend from Starbucks (the Astronaut guy) said the LED lights from my Gmax GM68S helmet were bright, even in the rain. My Sidi OnRoad boots didn’t let a single drop through.

I still miss you, Ghost Rider. You would have been proud of everyone, especially your family. Your mom said she’d been riding a few times in the rain, but never on purpose before. About half of the group had never ridden in the rain; some of them had been riding for years. I am glad that they braved the elements to pay honor to you.

As one of the riders said, “when it rained, it stopped being a ride. It became a pilgrimage.”

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Posted in: motorcycling

1 Comment on "Remembering Ghost Rider, 2008"

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  1. Starbuck says:

    I wish I could have gone, sad 🙁