Rebel Index



Freeway Riding



* * * * * * *

Main Index

Safety Courses








My Motorcycle Blog: Memorable Rides
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

* November, 2006 blog * * October, 2006 blog * * September, 2006 blog * * August, 2006 blog * * July, 2006 blog * * June, 2006 blog * * May, 2006 blog * * April, 2006 blog * * March, 2006 blog * * February, 2006 blog * * January, 2006 blog * * December, 2005 blog * * November, 2005 blog * * October, 2005 blog * * September, 2005 blog * * August, 2005 blog * * July, 2005 blog * * June, 2005 blog * * May, 2005 blog *

The First "Hard Rain" Ride on My Harley

December 15, 2007:
For a variety of reasons, I am trying to reach mile 7500 by Thursday, December 20th. That date was not chosen at random. It will mark the fifth month I have owned my Harley. And my current schedule allows me to take the bike in for the 7500 mile service on that date. Plus, after that, the holiday happenings will make it very difficult to squeeze in a service call. Under the service plan I purchased when I bought the bike, I get service every 2500 miles for the first 10,000 miles.

After Friday's run, I had logged 7160 miles. The goal was still within reach, if nothing went wrong. And rain and cold were predicted for the next few days. Ugh.

Anyway, my plan as I hit the pillow Friday night was to get up early and be on the road by 6:30 a.m., weather permitting. A last minute check of did not reassure me that weather would permit. They showed a 90% chance of rain by 5:00 a.m. Nonetheless, I slept soundly.

Before I knew it, it was 5:45 in the morning. No rain had awakened me during the night. I jumped out of bed (well, maybe "jumped" isn't exactly the right word), and looked out the window. The street was dry. No rain clouds were visible. Of course, it was totally dark outside, so it was hard to be sure of cloud conditions.

Sarah was happy to be up and moving. We got the paper, and I fed her her breakfast. Each Saturday, the Chronicle has a map of road closures on page two of the "State" section. Nothing I couldn't live with this weekend.

After I let Sarah out the back door, I turned on the computer to see what the radar showed. It was not good. Rain was everywhere. But the area of Houston enclosed by Loop 610 was still dry. However, the rain was on the move, and the clouds' aim seemed to be straight at the heart of my planned route. Time to leave.

I let Sarah in the back door, and headed upstairs. I let Maria know the weather conditions. I told her I was riding until it started raining, and that I didn't know if that would be thirty minutes or two hours. It was not yet 6:30.

After donning all my riding gear, I headed for the garage. The rear tire was fine. I added one pound of air to the front. I then headed out.

When I started the bike, the low fuel light came on. I completed the warm up portion of my ride, then headed to the gas station. Ten dollars later, I was on my way. It was just first light. The sky was mostly gray. There wasn't enough light to distinguish individual clouds. Still, it was obvious that weather was coming in from the west.

Initially, I got on I-10 and headed toward the storm. When I started north on the Loop, it became clear that the further east I stayed, the drier I would be. I decided to make a quick twenty mile loop along my standard work-morning route. My idea was that, with this route, I never would be far from the house, if a deluge hit.

The first loop went fine. I started on the second loop. The streets were still dry, but the lightning was getting closer. The western sky was clearly visible now, and the signs were not good. Storm clouds were everywhere. I decided to stay on the North Loop instead of going south on Highway 59. My thinking was that going east would steer me clear of impending doom.

The freeway was totally dry all the way to the East Loop. I turned south, and turned mile 7200 right at the Ship Channel Bridge. The sky to the south looked okay, but the western sky was much more threatening. As I turned from the East Loop to the South Loop, I decided I would continue west until I hit the rain. So far, I had been very lucky. I was totally dry, as was the road.

That condition did not last long. I had considered taking Highway 288 north onto I-45, but the rain hit hard before I reached the exit. I passed one exit, then took Scott Street, and u-turned to get back on the South Loop. I headed east, and quickly drove out of the rain.

This time, however, the East Loop was not the dry refuge it had been earlier. I could see rain straight ahead, but I couldn't figure out how bad it was. As I took my northern passage across the Ship Channel Bridge, a light rain began to fall. I considered whether to take I-10 west on home, or to continue on up 610, and go west on the Loop. I opted for the 610 route.

Almost instantly, the clouds opened up. A heavy rain began to fall. An eighteen wheeler passed me by, and kicked up an sticky spray. At least it seemed odd, because I had trouble clearing my visor. I took that as a hint, and carefully switched lanes for the I-10 exit toward downtown. The rain came harder.

By the time I was on I-10, I realized it was not "sticky" rain that had caused the trouble with my visor. It was the sheer force of the rain drops. I was glad we had practiced riding with one hand during the Advanced Riders Course at Stubbs, because I was almost constantly trying to clear my visor with my gloved left index finger. This is no fun at all while traveling nearly 60 mph down I-10.

As I proceeded west, the rain increased in intensity. I was relieved I had not tried to extend the ride by taking the North Loop. My last glance at the odometer before the bad weather hit showed that I had gotten in sixty miles of dry riding. I still needed about ten miles to make it home.

Fortunately, the traffic at eight in the morning was pretty light. I have logged over 34,000 miles on two wheels, and this was the worst rain I have ever driven in. It was raining so hard that it was difficult to see the lane markers. And I was concentrating so intensely that I was afraid to look up at sign markers for more than an instance. When I realized that I was nearing the intersection with Highway 59, I was much relieved. I knew I only had five or six miles to go. Still, this is a complicated stretch of freeway, with various lanes becoming "exit only" lanes, and it is easy to take a wrong passage.

By this time, the rain was coming down so hard that I was afraid to look at the overhead signs at all. And I was riding with one hand, because I had to constantly use my left hand to brush my visor clear. And that was not working all that well.

At one point, I could not even tell where I was. I was riding by memory. I could not see lane markers and I was trying to keep away from the other vehicles. I didn't want to go too slow for fear of being hit from the rear. I was riding as fast as I could, balancing the lack of vision with the danger of being hit by a faster moving vehicle. And every time I took a one-handed look in my mirrors, I risked losing control of the bike.

Did I mention that it was raining hard? All of a sudden, the vehicle ahead of me (not much more than a set of tail lights), kicked up a wave of water, and I realized that there was ponding on the freeway. Not much I could do about it. I plowed on through the riverlet, and felt the water slow the bike. It felt like the water was a foot deep, although I am sure it was only a couple of inches.

I was almost home, but I faced a difficult mile or so of road as I-45 merges onto I-10. On regular rides, I am always careful at this point because cars tend to make sweeping lane changes as they jockey for position. Once again, I counted it as a major blessing that it was so early in the day. I lucked out, and no car "merged" into me.

I was still having trouble seeing the lane markers, and my finger wipes were doing almost no good in clearing my visor. And I was still forced to speed along with only one hand on the handle bars. It was not a fun time.

It seemed like forever, but I finally spied the Heights exit sign. I made my last lane change into the exit only lane. There was a medium-sized truck ahead of me. All of a sudden, the truck slowed down to about thirty. I could not tell why. I lightly feathered the brakes, and eased over to the far-right hand side of my lane, ready to steer onto the emergency lane if a car tried to run me over, or if the truck came to a complete stop. Which it almost did.

I made it onto the feeder road without wrecking. I could never tell why the truck slowed down so rapidly. There was no major water on the service road, nor was there a wreck. At least I was glad about the wreck part.

I quickly made my way to the far right-hand service lane, and took the first street north that I could. It was raining so hard, I don't know which one it was. One with speed bumps, it turned out. I was glad to reduce my speed, but I still had to ride with one hand. That is especially fun when going over a speed bump. Only a few more blocks.

Of course, I was totally soaked long ago. I can feel the water in my boots, and I have been experiencing that unforgettable sensation of rainwater as it pooled on my saddle. My gloves are heavy with water, and I am ready for this ride to be over. I can't even see the tripometer to figure out how many miles I have come.

As I pull up to the stop sign at Fourth Street, a large truck is headed toward me. It also stops, but does not go forward. Surely the driver can see me. Right? As I inch forward, the truck starts to angle toward me, to its driver's left. No blinker, of course. Fortunately, even in the hard rain, we are both going so slowly that I am able to avoid this left-turner.

I make the next four turns without problems. There is no let-up in the force of the rain. I still have to ride with one hand, although I don't have to constantly wipe my visor because of the extra slow speed. As I pull up to the driveway, I see Bill, my neighbor, pulling out in his SUV. I'm sure he thinks I am a total idiot to be out in such weather. I'm just glad to be home.

After I get the bike in the garage, I wipe the raindrops off the tripometer glass, and discover that I now have 7229 miles on the bike. That last nine miles will not soon be forgotten. And, although there is ponding in my backyard, (and 1.3 inches in the rain gauge), I head inside, confident that, if I can just get in 120 miles or so tomorrow, I will still be on schedule for my Thursday service call. Weather permitting.

See you on the road. And don't forget to think.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For the November, 2006, blog entries, click here.

For the October, 2006, blog entries, click here.

For the September, 2006, blog entries, click here.

For the August, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the July, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the June, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

* * * * *

For the May, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the April, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the March, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the February, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the January, 2006, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the December, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the November, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the October, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the September, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the August, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the July, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the June, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

For the May, 2005, blog entries, click here.

* * * * *

*Note to Law Enforcement:

All statements of speeds on various streets are simple estimates, and solely for novelity purposes. Actual speeds vary, but are always lower. I'm sure that legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.

mail comments to

[Go Back to My Motorcycle Page]

[Go Back to My Home Page]