Travel with God in all adventuresPublished 10:50am Friday, October 11, 2013
My wife Janet and I have toyed around with motorcycles since the 1970s. We worked our way through a couple of two-wheelers and now we enjoy the stability and convenience of a three-wheeler “trike.”
Gone are the concerns of worrying about stopping at a red light with an unnoticed oil spot beneath my boot.
Gone are the concerns of site seeing along a smooth asphalt country road that may suddenly turn into a treacherous gravel road in the middle of a KYB turn. Gone are the concerns of holding the bike and your passenger upright while sitting at an unusually long traffic light; on a steep incline, in heavy traffic.
I understand, most 20 or even 40-something he-men (or even women) riders will not share a lot of empathy regarding the above “elder-concerns” with riding two-wheelers.
However, at least a few of the more experienced (not necessarily elder) riders may understand. And most likely, more than a few will recall similarly challenging situations; if not ‘close calls’ when riding a two-wheeler; whether a motorcycle or a bicycle. Situations, that after the fact, we look back on with a genuine sigh of relief. Or even a “Thank You Lord.”
Just last week, I had such an experience.
I was in Sevierville, Tenn., for a few days of yard work, rest and relaxation at our recently purchased “retirement hideaway.” While cutting some heavy brush, I sprained my left wrist, leaving me with moderate discomfort. I knew I would be uncomfortable on the way home to Ironton the next day with gripping the handle bars at highway speeds for a little less than 300 miles.
What next? Well, the next morning, I found my front tire had mysteriously deflated. I checked it for any signs of punctures and found nothing. I aired the tire up to specs and looked again for any signs of leaking around the tire and/or the tube stem.
Again, I found nothing and the tire was maintaining pressure. I was planning to depart to Ohio the next morning, so I decided to ride to the local Honda Shop, Volunteer Motorcycles, Sevierville, before setting out to home, for a professional opinion.
The owner checked the front tire thoroughly in a soapy-water tub and found a leaky valve stem, which he replaced, and a couple minor (non-threatening) gravel cuts in the tread.
I was relieved. Only $40 for switching out a valve stem rather than $200 for a new tire.
Normally, I do not hold a death-grip while riding; however, with the recent flat tire scenario, I was now keenly aware that with the nonthreatening stone cuts,
I could possibly have a front-tire blow out. In which case, one needs superhuman strength to keep the front tire from thrashing the handlebars from one side to another and sending both motorcycle and rider into an uncontrollable tailspin or a tumble. A critical situation at any speed, much less at interstate speeds of 70 mph or more. Not an inviting scenario.
However, with refreshed confidence, and a prayer, the next afternoon, I set out to Ironton. Cruising along on I-81 northbound (at or near the speed limit), I found myself gaining on several big-rig, 18-wheelers. As we started up a gentle, but very long grade, the semi in front of me began slowing down in response to his cargo and the increasing grade.
As I continued to gain on the trailer’s behind, I was focusing my view between the rear wheels of the trailer in order to spot any road debris that might appear suddenly having been hidden from my view by the trailer.
As we slowed from the 70 mph that we had been pacing, to somewhere around 60 mph, I started looking for an opportunity to pass the big (slowing) rig.
As a former Ohio State Trooper, I spent hours and hours (days, months and years) on the highway, I am very familiar with where all the tire treads that one notices along highway berms (and sometimes in the middle of the road), come from.
It’s not at all unusual to witness a blow out on the rear wheels of said tractor-trailers. I suppose it happens hundreds of times each day considering all U.S. highways. Only by happenstance (should the driver be looking at his driver-side rear-view mirror), will the driver even notice the event.
They will not hear, feel or see the debris exploding in their wake. However, every vehicle following behind, will indeed find themselves in the midst of high-speed, flying debris, with few if any, options of getting out of the way.
To experience an event like this while driving a car is one thing. To experience the event while riding a motorcycle? Well, that is a whole other scenario.
One piece of high-speed, flying tire tread in the face, head, neck or arm will indeed, be catastrophic.
As I drew closer to the slowing tractor-trailer, I felt the urgent desire to whisper a little prayer. And, so I did.
“Lord, All-Mighty God, protect me from harm should anything go wrong.”
That said, I hit the turn signal, advanced to the passing lane and quickly gathered speed. I did not want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary alongside the big-rigs’ spinning tires.
As I came along side the rear dual tires on the trailer, there was a deafening explosion. Immediately I began praying. Tire tread was flying everywhere. Coming at me from the front and from my right. And yes, I was still praying.
Tire tread, from 6 inches in length to considerably larger pieces passed between my face and my windscreen; tire tread passed under my tires causing a rough ride for a few seconds that felt like several minutes. Oh, did I mention I was still praying?
Then it was over. The quiet after the storm. I pulled along side the tractor-trailer cab and signaled to the driver that he had experienced a blowout. As he began to slow down, I continued on my way until I could get to the berm to inspect for any damage to the bike. And yes, to send up a sincere, genuine, heart-felt prayer. A prayer of thanksgiving. A wet-eyed prayer like I had not prayed for some time.
After collecting myself, and my wits, I forged ahead. After a couple of hours on the road, I stopped for fuel and a break (and another genuinely, heart-felt prayer of thanksgiving and praise). The weather was turning from sunny to overcast and rain clouds were ahead of my path. I dawned my rain-gear, gave thanks to God and set out again.
By this time, the sun was setting. As the miles rolled by darkness and rain rolled in. This, along U.S. 23 where coal trucks abound and many animals, including deer, are randomly crossing the highway just to get to the other side. What an adventure. What a time to pray; what a time to praise God!
And, after another couple of hours, God delivered me safely home. And, with a very clear, profoundly refreshed, sense of who is indeed in control “when the rubber meets the road.”
No, it is not I. No, it is not you, but our Lord, our God, our Creator, the Almighty God of heaven and earth. Amen.
Never, ever, go it alone. Why should we? Always, and in all ways, invite God into your everyday adventures. Amen.
Dan Hieronimus is an Ironton resident and former Lawrence County Sheriff.