I like curves. I like big, sweeping curves, and I like little tight S curves. I like hills too. I like the ups and the downs almost as much as I like swooping left and right through the curves. And I really like it when you put the curves on the hills. I even like those scary curves that they put on top of hills, where you can’t see around the corner when you enter them. I guess what I’m saying is, I really enjoy G forces. And sure, I like smooth, well-tended pavement as much as anyone, but I also like the half forgotten, slightly chewed roads. Sometimes a little rough stuff can be fun, you know?
And I’m a lucky man. The area where I live is full of roads like that. My earliest road riding experiences were on Knox County Route P, called Rabbit Ridge by the locals, and Knox County Route T, known as Bee Ridge. You can’t beat the ridge roads for combining hills and curves. I don’t get to ride Rabbit Ridge much anymore, as I just don’t find myself that far over very often, but I frequently have occasion to work in Edina, giving me the opportunity to ride Bee Ridge in one direction or the other, or if I am really lucky, both ways. There’s at least one other very nice ridge road in Knox County, Route TT. If it has a name, I don’t know it, but it’s a very cool road, curvy and hilly and generally well-tended.
I live in Lewis County, Missouri now, and I have discovered a number of nice roads here. My house is just five miles away from the west end of Lewis County Route Y, called Deer Ridge Road. It’s easy enough to verify the name, as the road passes through the town of Deer Ridge and by the entrance to Deer Ridge State Park. Evidence suggests that the east end of Route Y, past the tiny town of Midway, is actually Irish Ridge. I don’t know that definitively, but I like how it sounds so I’m going with it.
It’s not been a great year for riding motorcycles in this area, though. For much of the early part of the warm weather this year, there has been a significant risk of rain every day. This week was the first opportunity I really had, and wouldn’t you know it, all three of my motorcycles were laid up. My vintage 1980 Yamaha XS650 has a charging issue. It probably just needs brushes, so I ordered a set. My 1980 Honda CB650, on the other hand, has an entirely unacceptable oil leak and won’t be on the road until I can do something about that, or pay someone to do something about that. But my trusty 2008 Yamaha TW200 just needed a battery, and I picked one up yesterday.
So of course, yesterday I had to take a ride. It was a hot evening, but not too hot. As soon as I got the bike running, I ran up north and picked up the end of Deer Ridge Road and followed it all the way through Irish Ridge almost to Route 16. But I didn’t want to ride Route 16 back towards home, as it just wasn’t as interesting, so did a U turn and went back. (Around here we say we did a “U-ee” but I’m not sure how to write that properly.) At Midway I branched off on Route H and ran the five miles to Lewistown, and then home. The whole ride was almost exactly 40 miles, so it cost me under $2 at the current price of gas. Well worth it… the ride was glorious, and I couldn’t have needed it more. Riding is therapy for me, the very best kind.
Tonight I got home and discovered my brushes had come for the XS. I considered fixing it, but the lure of the road was too much. Since I was on my own for supper anyway, I took the main roads over to Canton, Missouri and had supper there. I filled up with gas and headed out on Missouri 81, a lovely twisty road, especially at the end nearest Canton. But I branched off on Lewis County Route E, which I call the Derrahs Road since it passes through the tiny town of Derrahs. It’s a half-forgotten, slightly chewed road, and the eastern half is twisty and hilly with corners on top of hills and tightly coupled S curves. Like I said, a little rough stuff is fun sometimes. You do have to watch out for the Amish vehicle emissions… they’re slippery when fresh. Fortunately in this area, the Amish vehicles are almost all one horsepower models, so if you just stay in the wheel tracks you miss most of the emissions.
Swooping through the hills and curves, I felt alive. Riding has always felt that way to me… exciting, not in the sense of getting all worked up, but just feeling real and present. Experiencing the world directly, feeling the wind, seeing all around without roof or pillars or even a floor to block the view. I’ve said it before, but the only word that seems to fit is glorious. And it was.
I ran E out to Williamstown, then turned on Lewis County Route A towards Monticello. The first leg in that direction, sadly, is very straight and very flat and pretty boring. But the end nearest Monticello does have few nice curves and hills, and unlike last night, this was one of those evenings where every time you drop down into a draw between hills you pass through cool air which has settled there.
I stopped at the convenience store at Monticello half an hour before closing time for a restroom break and a quick snack. Since I could hardly eat on my motorcycle, I sat down at one of their tables, careful not to make any messes since it had already been cleaned. The only other person in the store was the young lady cleaning, and as I was finishing up she walked past me with a broom and said, “I can put you to work.”
I said, “I’m on a motorcycle. I’ve never been able to eat very well while wearing a full-face helmet while going down the road at fifty-five miles an hour.”
She laughed, and then replied, “I’ve never been on a motorcycle. My mom always said they were dangerous.” We chatted about that for a little bit, and then I said goodbye and rolled back out onto the highway.
It’s just a couple of miles from Monticello to the western end of Route Y, that is, Irish Ridge. So of course I had to go that way. I considered turning at Midway as I had the night before and going down to Lewistown, but the evening was just too beautiful and the riding just too good. I stayed on Y, running out the full length of Deer Ridge, and when I reached Route K and turned my front wheel towards home at last, the only complaint I could think of was it was just too short.