First word, sounds like Cheese….
It was a nice sunny day as I was traveling from Winnemucca, NV to Idaho Falls, ID. As I got close to Twin Falls on I-84 my GPS beeped and displayed the message that there may be rain in the area. I changed to the weather radar screen and, sure enough, it showed some rain to the north and east of me with portions of the system racing down off Big Southern Butte beside Craters of the Moon National Monument and crossing over the interstate near Pocatello. I pulled into a rest area and put the rain covers on my tank bag and my seat (custom Russell seat can take some water but the acrylic canvas material I preferred gets saturated in heavy rain) and kept on going. I didn’t bother with the rain liners in my riding gear as it was 32 degrees Celsius and I was looking forward to some cooling off. The rain didn’t go as far as Idaho Falls and my Kevlar gear dries out quickly once the rain ends.
Idaho has an 80 mph speed limit on their interstates.
So, I’ve got the cruise set at about 85 and keep watching the shifting patterns of the rain on the GPS. There are some red blotches off to the north but they aren’t getting closer. There are, however, two light green areas over the interstate. One appears to be about 8 miles long and the other, 20 miles further along, looks like it is about 15 miles long. Shifting all the time of course.
As I got close to the first patch of heavier rain the wind started coming in blasts from my left. Bam. Bam. Bam. Getting pushed around and fighting to stay in your lane is a battle that you know if you ride. I was two days from home after 25 days on the road and I just didn’t relish getting beat up by the wind again and, for the first time in all my riding years, a thought entered my mind (well, I have thoughts all the time, but this was a particular thought). I pulled up beside the only other vehicle in sight – a young couple driving a mini-van in the right lane.
Imagine you are driving said mini-van.
It is raining and blowing and you have slowed to 75 mph on the interstate and a motorcycle pulls up beside you. Imagine you know how to play Charades. How long will it take you to decipher the following communication?
First word, sounds like Cheese….
“Please change to the left lane so I can ride beside you in the right lane and use you as a wind break.”
Between the two of them it didn’t take long for my message to get across, we swapped lanes, and I tucked in nicely just aft of their right quarter panel and had a pleasantly calm albeit damp ride for the next seven miles.
When that first batch of rain and wind cleared up, we separated until we got to the next area of wind and heavy rain and we just re-grouped in a nice tandem formation that I think would have made the Snowbirds proud.
Once my GPS radar said we were clear of the bad weather my next communication was a heartfelt “Thank You” along with an expression of my appreciation of her driving skills. I kicked in the cruise control again and enjoyed the rest of my ride as the temperature rose from 15 to 25 and I dried off before arriving at my hotel.
Now, I would never have ridden in formation the way I did if I hadn’t been able to communicate the idea with the people in the mini-van first and get their willing participation in the little endeavor. It is just too risky to be in such close proximity to other vehicles unbeknownst to them, especially at that speed and in those kinds of conditions. But, I had observed the behaviour of the vehicle before engaging them and felt they were driving steadily for the conditions and that my plan would be safe. After all, I was still in control of my own vehicle.
About a year later I was headed east across Kansas on I-70 when the wind shifted to a brutal blast from the north and it was beating the hell out of me. Along came a nice, sturdy, BMW X5 and after a quick round of charades I was riding in comfort on their leeward side. This guy was a steady driver and we held formation for about an hour, only dropping out to pass other vehicles as necessary. It was during one of these maneuvers I noticed his California licence plate and realized he is used to bikes being in close proximity. The protection was very much appreciated and I again expressed my gratitude once the wind situation had subsided.
If you find yourself in a similar situation some day with bad weather and you feel comfortable doing some formation riding there is a way to beat the weather other than just pulling over. For car drivers, it may help if they understand when a motorcyclist wants to play charades at 75 mph that they play along and do what they can to provide some protection from the elements. It will be appreciated.
Now, repeat after me,
First word, sounds like Hide…..
Ride responsibly and help each other weather the storms.
- From R. Bruce Thomas