Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Heisenberg moment

Friday came early last week. Spring may have finally displaced winter*, though it's hard to trust that after such a long and tumultuous struggle. But the afternoon sun shone bright and warm; the recent rains have flushed the remnants of sand and salt from the roadways. Except for the wind, it was the perfect time to ride; but the wind, brutal, gusty and sideways, wasn't to be trifled with.

Despite the uncertainty of the weather, there were still a few of us on the road, and as I approached Gainesville, I noted a rider on a 'baby Ninja' in the distance before me. Something about their demeanor caught my eye, and I began to work on closing the gap between us. I approached and took up a staggered following position several car-lengths behind.

We continued west towards my usual exit at Haymarket, but I was enjoying having some simpatico riding company, so I decided that despite the harsh and buffeting winds, I'd make an exception and extend my trip as far as The Plains, then cut back south to Warrenton.

The narrow pass at Thoroughfare Gap made the winds confused and angry; the jersey walls formed a chute to channel dusty, gritty turbulence eastward through the gap. Both bikes, despite the difference in bulk between Beast and the ninja, were toyed with and tossed around in passing. It was somewhat reassuring to have two-wheeled company as we rolled westward past the gap and into the more wide-open hillscape of Fauquier county.

I accelerated past a long stream of tractor-trailers towards the sweeping curve of the exit, and was surprised to see the ninja change lanes and follow. I rolled off the throttle and sat up, letting engine braking and wind resistance slow me down as I approached the stop sign at the bottom of the exit.

I waited to turn left, and the ninja slowed to a stop in the right lane beside me, moving to turn right. I nodded in acknowledgement as the bike stopped, the rider put their left foot on the ground. And missed.

Just as the ninja came to a complete stop, a gust of wind hit it full-on sideways. That left foot never quite made it to the ground, and the bike and biker toppled over to the right. Checking traffic behind me, I pulled awkwardly to the shoulder, carefully put the sidestand down and made sure the bike was in gear. Then I trotted over to lend a hand.

The rider--a young woman, it turns out--was still extricating herself from under the ninja. Uninjured except for her pride, bike a little worse for wear (typical topple-damage--bent lever, scraped mirror and fairing) we quickly got the bike upright again. A little bit of confusion when trying to get it running again (sidestand switch, natch) but in a minute or two she had collected herself and was ready to continue on her way. She was heading out from Fairfax to Marshall to see a friend, and would spend the rest of the trip--just a few more miles--on smaller, slower, more sheltered roads. When she arrived in Marshall, she would have a slightly silly story to tell and a few bike scars to show off.

Was it a Heisenberg moment? Would she have still fallen over if I hadn't been there to watch? Did the presence of another motorcyclist somehow alter the circumstances? It kind of felt that way to me, but I hope it didn't feel that way to her. That would be a real shame...motorcyclists should always be able to enjoy each other's company in those rare instances.

*I started this many months ago

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