T1D Biker Gang

This Memorial Day weekend in the age of coronavirus was anything but typical. Usually, I’m off on the motorcycle somewhere in the Sierras chasing the ebbing snow. With the continuing sheltering in place order except for essential services and exercise activity life here is anything but typical. On Saturday, my friend Sarah texted me and said, “Hey, let’s go for a ride sometime!” Of course, temperatures this weekend were nearing 100°, and a 3 PM start didn’t sound like what I was looking for.  Sarah wasn’t sure if she could make today either. I was okay with that as riding a motorcycle through a hairdryer is only so much fun.

I pinged Ryan to see if he would be available for a morning start on Memorial day. Ryan was in. Sarah was in. I was in. I met Sarah during my first year at Camp DJ Sequoia Lake up near Kings Canyon. We were both counselors at a team camp for kids with type I diabetes. I’ve known Sarah for almost 20 years – one camp week at a time.  Somewhere about six years in, Ryan showed up as a first-year camper in my cabin. Many camp week-years later, Ryan too joined the staff. Camp is a happy place for me!

There’s something to be said for being known. Type 1 diabetes is a challenging condition to manage with its touch on just about every aspect of your life. When you say “I’m low” at camp everybody knows what you mean. Outside of camp, the same phrase often garners strange looks at best. We at camp understand why 42 is not the meaning of life and the frustration that comes being 190. Over the years, I’ve come to know camp people as my people.

I miscalculated the distance to get down to Saratoga 76 from home. To make matters worse, I miscalculated how much gas I had in the tank. I was running late. I was low on gas. I didn’t want to stop to get gas to be even later. I remember the salesman at San Jose BMW said the remaining mileage indicator was pretty spot on. Google Maps reported 57 miles to the Saratoga 76. I had 65 miles of range on my dashboard. If I was going to take the salesman’s advice that the range indicator was spot on. Today was it.

I sweated all the way down the freeway looking back and forth between the range indicator and the miles remaining in Google maps. Surprisingly it was always within 3-6 miles the entire way down. The problem was I mapped accidentally to the Diamond Gas Mart, not to the Saratoga 76. That was an additional 2.4 miles. I still didn’t want to stop, yet I had 4 miles of range left.

I pushed it. By the time I rolled into the Saratoga 76, I had 1 mile remaining on the indicator that quickly flipped to zero!

Sarah and Ryan are relatively new riders, so it was going to be a mellow day. With the shelter in place, I didn’t know how many motorcycle riders were going to be out or for that matter just traffic in general. Ryan had about 10,000 miles under his belt and almost all of it was city streets. Highway 9 is an entirely different animal with its windy temperament up and over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Starting out we took it slow. My clutch arm is continuing to heal after a more complicated surgery than I would like. I appreciated the mellow pace and the frequent breaks to stretch out my left hand.

Highway 9 was ahhhhmaaazing. With its new pavement and its legendary turns the climb up to Saratoga was nothing short of epic. I’d forgotten that this little beauty used to be in my backyard and was the destination of many 5 o’clock rides. We stopped briefly over at Saratoga gap to check in and see how everybody was doing. A CHP officer was trolling the parking lot and we weren’t sure if we were going to get busted. He was talking to some motorcycle riders on the other side of the lot and just gave them a wave and went on his way.

We continued north on Highway 35 of towards Alice’s. We enjoyed the cool of the morning and all agreed that turning west down highway 84 was the right thing to do. I was surprised how few cars there were out on the road over Memorial Day weekend. It was the perfect day for Ryan to get some experience in the twisties and for me to have some mellow motorcycling stepping back into the saddle. By the time we got to Pescadero Road all of us wanted more.

Pescadero Road is another wonderful set of squiggles I discovered late in my motorcycling career. By the time we got to the ocean we were enjoying our physically distanced jaunt through the hills. We stopped just north of Pescadero Beach at an overlook I’ve come to love for its sweeping views over the Pacific Ocean.

It’s been many months since I’ve seen the ocean and it’s a place I’ve missed. My father used to lament once you have the ocean in your blood it never leaves. Growing up in a landlocked city I never understood the wisdom in his words. A few years in San Francisco taught me the value of living by the water and was one of the reasons I turned down an opportunity to move to Colorado even though my love of the mountains is deeper than my love of the water and waves.

Ryan asked me “do you want to ride my bike?” I responded, “I mean, yeah, um, would it be okay? um, cool!” He rode the modern version of the Honda Rebel. It was a far cry from the first actual motorcycle I rode which was the 1986 version of the same bike. Thirty-five years of engineering is a beautiful thing, yet it was fun to ride a small motorcycle again. Every motorcycle big and small certainly has its charm in this one didn’t disappoint. I was surprised how much power that 500 cc motor had climbing the hill on Highway 1 up from Pescadero Road!

It was starting to get late in the day and I knew the East Bay was starting to get crazy hot. We wound our way back up to see Alice’s Restaurant. While the parking lot wasn’t overflowing with motorcycles there was a good showing from the community as well as a spirit of physical distancing.

Sarah noted we’re the T1D Biker Gang! We all laughed because that’s what we were. We shared that bond and language that only those with type 1 really understand. I deeply appreciated that context today as I came back to my motorcycle. There wasn’t pressure to ride a certain way. We enjoyed each other’s company on two wheels much like we did at camp. Ryan remarked as we were winding down, “I never knew turns could be so much fun!”

Thank you Sarah and Ryan for a great day and a great beginning of the #t1dBikerGang! And yes the east bay was her hairdryer-y self at 96 degrees.  I didn’t care, the ride was fun!

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