4 years later and I still have a book 1/3 written 1% finished. Here is a snippet.
May 2011. New York State.
New York….it’s a state of mind.
Setting the satnav once again I had changed my route slightly. The plan taken from my large US map included what looked like an interesting route that started in Kingston NY on the 23 to Norwich, then the 13 to Ithaca and finally the 95 that would end up in Manchester NY. Due to my lack of miles I chose the Freeway 90. Flatter, faster and a bit boring, but catching up is important today.
Just before the next exit from Highway 90, it was obvious that a change in the weather back to what I had encountered for the past four days, loomed ahead, like riding into the night time.
Black skies, with the low slung fog like rainfall underneath was a few miles ahead towards today’s target of Manchester number six. The next available exit signs indicated that this route to another small town New York was an off ramp only. From my limited experience of the USA, this meant no motels, no dry shelter, no fast food outlets and probably no way to get back on the freeway once I had added my one piece rain suit and entertained those passing by with my Charley Chaplin wrestling an octopus impressions.
Today started with rain but as I subtracted another few hundred miles off the nine thousand target to visit 33 towns called Manchester across the USA and Canada, the warm humid state of New York promised a change. It is the third week in May 2011, and spring has sprung late.
My thoughts were to abandon today’s ‘ a Manchester per day’ unwritten rule, but it was too late to change the course, the next opportunity to get off this twin lane road was at the opposite side of what was to become one of the worst rain storms I had ever seen, never mind ridden in.
As if by magic, the only bridge spanning the highway for miles was the gateway to hell. The rain hit as the temperature dropped instantly and what seemed like a solid wall of water filled with a million needles reduced my forward speed like falling headlong into a lake.
Within seconds visibility was down to a true zero and the cold rain was finding its way through to my neck, up my sleeve and somehow into my right boot. Nowhere to stop, the hard shoulder was about four feet wide and the fact I couldn’t actually see it or any resemblance of a white line, didn’t help. Just crossing from my lane to the shoulder meant battling with a rumble strip with bumps the size of oil cans jutting up every two feet. As the only bike on the road, I was between a rock and a hard place. Another 120ft long, 70 ton Peterbilt truck, just behind me in the outside lane, was not affected by the rain or the driver even slightly concerned about my predicament. It seemed he had not bothered to switch off his cruise control and carried on at 75-80 MPH creating an even bigger wall of fog and a back-draft that reduced my visibility to the edge of the screen a foot and a half away, and no further. The jumbled air hits first as these gargantuan terrace houses on wheels cut through the rain and send you and your bike towards the oil can rumble strip to my right. Then without warning the sides suck you back as you change to trying to miss the six sets of wheels that want to squish you. Once past the back draft makes you think you are actually running off raod as the battering of water and wind is like the Baja 500 on a moped. All of this is happening with no real view in front and no idea where the next vehicle on my lane starts or finishes.
Choices, speed up into the void, or slow down to 25mph and hope that next car or truck sees me in front before it’s too late. Hazards on , all the lights I have on and just hope for the best.
The wide screen on the Honda Goldwing, famed for its protection from wind, rain and flying sheep, worked to a degree, but the area behind the screen has a strange vacuum effect that collects globules of water like a scene from Apollo 13. The water floats in a slow motion dance just in front of your chest (or head if you are shorter stature than I), then without warning gets too heavy to glide and hits me square in the face. Add this to the inability to close the visor as it steams up in a micro-second if I close off the airflow, and the needles that pierce my eyes and sting my nose if I glance ahead for more than a second, and the thought passed my mind.
“Which stupid arse thought this trip was a good idea”???