Once or twice a year, my “Geek Squad” buddies head from the Dallas area up to some cabins in northern Arkansas for our “mancation”. There’s fishing. There’s drinking. There’s poker. There are cigars. And there are board games. Strategy games. Really geeky games. I’m not particularly skilled at strategy games, or poker, but I really like the opportunity to hang out, away from the hustle and bustle of family, work and commuting.
This will be my first opportunity to ride the motorcycle up there, through some of the beautiful Arkansas scenery.
Now, I’m not ashamed to say that I will generally avoid a ride (or commute) if I know it’s going to rain. I’m not afraid of getting wet, but my thinking is that there is additional risk involved with wet roads, poor visibility, and idiot drivers. It’s also far less comfortable to ride while wearing rain gear, and a half helmet gets replaced with a visor helmet.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather at home, halfway there, and ultimately at the destination for a couple of weeks now. Relying on a 10-day forecast is spotty, at best, and prone to last-minute forecast changes.
The other factors in deciding between the SUV and the motorcycle for a trip like this is … “who is going to be my pack mule?”. We all have games, poker chips, additional food, certainly our own beer/wine/liquor that we have to carry. Planning in advance for a possibility of riding the bike, I handed off all my game contributions to our group’s game master, arranged for another member to bring his poker chips and cards and I generally avoid any of the food planning. That leaves me with just my clothes, cigars, and booze to carry. This I can do. Without having the wife with me for two-up, that leaves my saddlebags for storage, and the front and rear side of the sissy bar available for bags of snacks and booze.
Also to consider, you won’t be carpool. I think of past drives up there and the comedy that ensues when putting three or four of us in the same car. This is even more true when the guys enjoy my reaction to snarled small-town traffic during the fall trips taking place during some off-the-grid Homecoming parade. While we get quality time at the cabins, there’s also the entertainment value during the drive to and from. I’ll miss out on that. In this case, it’s much like the risk / reward balance, except it’s a entertainment / awesome-ride-opportunity balance.
A further consideration is the road quality. The last stretch of the route to the cabins is a 7-mile dirt road. I can do a risky 35-40 on this road in the SUV…on the bike it’s going to be much slower, and a much more cautious ride. Google says it’s 20 minutes in the car, which is about right. How much longer on the bike? It’s a good dirt road, but a dirt road still.
As of today, Monday, looking at the weather for a Thursday morning departure, it looks like only Friday will there be a thunderstorm, by which time I’ll be parked at the cabins and won’t care that much. Thursday itself will have strong winds. With two sunny days to follow, hopefully, that dirt road dries out. I can always stop at a car wash in town on my way home and give the bike a quick rinse of dust that I’m bound to pick up.
A final consideration is ride duration. In the car, it takes right at 5 hours, excluding stops. On the bike, however, I like to avoid the highways. I don’t do this to avoid traffic, but rather to enjoy the ride more. Many have said it, and it remains true: “Highways are boring.” No question about that. Taking the back roads, however, increases the duration to about 6 hours. This assumes I take the Google Maps planned route, which I might modify somewhat to something more closer to 6.5 hours. I can certainly avoid much of that forecasted wind by staying on the backroads, among the wonderful pine trees of East Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. This, however, also adds increased risk of wildlife such as deer, possums and the ever-present roadkill that you find less frequently on the highways.
As of this moment, I’m still having a difficult time deciding what I want to do.
I will say, though, that it’s great that I get to decide; I’m not bound to one vehicle or the other.
For those who are wondering — I’m definitely leaning towards the bike ride.