Tag Archives: riding

Day 24: Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel – Screaming in the Wind

There I was, coiled up like a compressed spring, crouched down over the tank trying to hide behind my windshield which was vibrating a little more wildly than I liked. I was headed directly into the wind mostly. If I were sailing, my course would be a tight close haul, heading just slightly northwest into heavy winds directly out if the north. In a sail boat, this would feel like screaming across the water.

I actually WAS screaming across the water.

No, seriously, you can hear that banshee in my helmet screaming her head off in this video.

I was 14 miles and 19 minutes into crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I was somewhere around 75-feet above the Atlantic Ocean riding into 45 mile per hour head winds. Head winds created by air being sucked into the backside of Hurricane Maria from its north and west as she headed out to sea. I was literally screaming – out loud, vocal, trembling, fierce screams- across the water (on a bridge).

I was screaming at the frothy waves below and all around while simultaneously trying to ignore them. If I were to acknowledge them, look at them and hear them their siren song would beckon me to join them in their bone crushing and motorcycle crushing churn. In the interest of the all important video documentation for occasions like this, I did dare to look (edited so you can actually see those waves within the grey in gray on grey day).

Earlier in the morning, I contemplated heading around the Bay for a 4+ hour detour toward DC. I wanted to catch the ferry to Cape May which the detour would eliminate. I wanted to avoid DC traffic which the detour would make me face. However, I also didn’t want to get blown off a bridge and into the Atlantic.

I signed up for Twitter notifications from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (@FollowtheGulls if you are curious). At a Level 1 winds of 40mph, they restrict campers, RVs, vehicles towing trailers and vehicles with external racks for luggage, bicycles and such. At Level 2 of 47mph, they add a few other things to that list including motorcycles. The previous afternoon they hit Level 1 and stronger winds were this morning.

When a couple at the BnB was asking if it was safe to ride a motorcycle across the bridge today, the ex-marine, tough guy stepped in to add “Yeah, I’ve ridden across the bridge in good weather and bad weather. It wasn’t this windy and I have a much bigger and more powerful bike. It sucks in bad weather.” Thanks, tough guy, that didn’t help. Had I not already been anxious, I probably would have called his comment what is was – a tough guy flexing his manliness for an audience. Perhaps he realized he unnerved me when he softened his tone and offered a “don’t worry, you’ll be fine” at me as I was loading up.

At 9:24am, one mile from the bridge toll booth, Twitter sent me an alert. “The CBBT is currently operating under Level 1 wind restrictions. Winds are in excess of 40 mph.”

I did not want to go to DC. I did not want to skip the ferry. I did not want to bail out of this amazing opportunity to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. So, with a sigh and my stubborn determination – I sent my husband a message, “They are at Level 1, I am going anyway. Gimme 45 minutes before you panic.” And off I went. Weeee.

I can’t say I like long open crossing on bridges in the first place. I’ve caught myself leaning away from the void when traveling down the Florida Keys or over Bay Area Bridges or when on a mount pass with a shear drop. There is something about the pull of gravity and the abyss that unsettles me. I don’t really call it a phobia. Nor is it some stray morbid suicidal thought, so don’t worry. But there’s a tiny hot spot in my brain that realizes a tiny “oops”, a muscle spasm, a momentary disconnect from reality, a crazed twitch and poof, gravity and the abyss win. Is it just me? Really?

Anyway, I knew I wasn’t going to like this in good weather.

So, at 19 minutes into the crossing, I found myself coiled up like a spring, white knuckling the grips, fighting not only the wind, but also that crazed and facinating draw of gravity and the abyss off the edge of the bridge. So, drowning out the wind, I screamed. I screamed a crazy, fierce and ugly into my helmet and rode on.

The wind didn’t win. Gravity and the abyss didn’t win. This day, I won. It took me 25 minutes to cross. Yeah, I might have sounded like I nearly lost my mind 19 minutes and 14 miles into the crossing, but I didn’t.

Wow, that was a lot of drama. It really was pretty terrifying. No embellishment, I was scared. After nearly 4000 miles alone on two wheels, this was some freaky shit.

At the other end, I relished in a little parking lot celebration. As I passed cars trying to lock down loose loads and find the shuttle van that will take their bicycles and roof racks across, they watched, confused as a crazy woman rolled into the lot hooting and clapping. I am okay with the embarassment.

Amazingly, Day 24 had only just begun. I’d only covered on 25miles of the planned nearly 300mile so far. Many other things happened on Day 24, so, I think it might get two or even three posts.

How’s that for drawing out the ending?

Happy cooking and screaming at your demons.

Day 23 (+12 Day Intermission): Swansboro to Virginia Beach- Hurricane Maria

Real life with all its ‘To do’ lists and responsibilities and messes to tidy up and people to talk to and calendars and stuff is a fickle character. I’ve been back in Medford for 25 days and real life is trying to drown me.  Way back at the start of this year, I had a way of characterizing this feeling. It is like treading water in rough seas. Your hands and legs work furiously, but you keep gulping salt water all the while the waves bounce you up and down and up and down offering only glimpses of the steady land in the distance. That safe place where you can breath and take survey of your situation.

My first week back, a wave of responsibility crushed me. Who the hell schedules themselves to invent 5 new classes in one week after being checked out for 15-1/2 weeks? Apparently, the me I was 16 weeks early is who does that. I got crushed and anxious and a bit crazed. . .then I got sick. The flu. After that, I got ruthless. I looked at my calendar and asked myself “What is not serving me?” then I ejected, rejects and bailed out my boat and told myself “No treading water today.”

But, real life is a fickle, rentless, sociopathic, stalking, obsessive character. And many of my last 25 days are marked by throwing that character overboard, over and over again.

So, what is serving me today? Sitting in a coffee shop and telling you guys about my first day back on the road after spending my nephew’s first 12 days on earth with him (an the other characters in the household). How long does it take for ducklings to imprint? Fun fact, in those 12 days, I never once changed a dirty diaper. Yay, me!

I was not nearly as meticulous at planning my ride from Swansboro to Medford. I figured I would dedicate some portion of the 12 days I stayed in Swansboro to that, but, I didn’t. So, a few days before I set out, I started making reservations. A ride up the Outerbanks seemed not just awesome, but necessary. I reserved a spot on the 10:30am September 26th  ferry to Ocracoke Island. I would take an inner island ferry in the afternoon and stay in Nags Head.

Calm on Emerald Isle before Maria arrives.


Unfortunately, Hurricane Maria. . . yes, THAT Hurricane Maria of Puerto Rico devastation. . . also thought a visit to the Outerbanks on September 26th would be fun. While the storm surge sent surfers to the ocean, it sent me inland. Maria canceled my ferry on the morning of the 25th and offered up island winds in excess of 35mph for the 26th. She also put my crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel into questions. Nothing like an 18 mile open ocean bridge crossing in high winds. It is closed to motorcycles when winds reach 45mph. 45 mph winds on a motorcycle- that is fucking nuts, but the alternative route to see a friend in NJ would add 4 hours to my ride on the 27th.

Real life is not the only fickle character aiming to drown my sensibility, traffic and weather of the Northeast Corridor is too.

After a quick rejiggering of my route and minus a $25 hotel cancellation fee for  cancelling within 2 weeks of the reservation for a reservation I made just 48 hours earlier, I took a deep breath, realized I Hurricane Maria flattened Puerto Rico, call my inconvenience silly compared to that of the thousands on the island and donated the remainder of what my hotel cost to Unicef.

On the morning of the 26th, I headed inland and straight for Virginia Beach.  The air was thick with high pressure to the west of the Hurricane Maria – which is what was driving her northwardly along the coast then pushing her back out to sea in the Northeast. Unfortunately, that means unlike the heat of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, I was riding through the relentless, humid, sticky heat of the South.  Intermittent sprinkles along the way just meant I was constantly damp and uncomfortable.

After 12 days of driving my sister’s big ol’, four wheeled SUV, my moto conditioning was a bit less than ideal for 7 hours on the road, in the heat. I can’t remember much of this ride other than the humidity, the sprinkles and trying to settle my back-on-the-road jitters. I treated myself to a a night at the Beach Spa Bead and Breakfast and a long massage on arrival. Even though my massage therapist chatted way more than I prefer, in the end, our connection around both of us one day heading off across the country to find some sanity made it all okay.

My motorcycle safely nuzzled down for the night while the rain poured down and the winds whipped around Virginia Beach; I looked at the conditions on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. It was closed to motorcycles for part of the day due to winds. I looked at the Cape May Ferry to New Jersey. Maria seemed to have spared it. I looked at the journey through New Jersey to Connecticut through what is the most heavily trafficed leg of my ride at the confluence of several major urban areas with driver known for their unpleasantness. I looked at my last day of riding home to Medford. The journey would be ending but at least I now knew I had a home to return to. And I looked to the days and weeks and months and years beyond that with a hesitation. Can’t I just stay on the road?

Finally, I settled in for the night and decided to I resist nagging voice of real life. I would face the bridge tomorrow. I would tackle New Jersey and those pesky drivers in their time. I would ride through reds, oranges, yellows and greens of New England. I would arrive at home. I would figure it out. Just not tonight.

Happy cooking and happy slaying real life!